Knowledge and Wisdom

Blogger Tram Nguyen offers some of her initial takeaways following the 2018 GIA Conference in Oakland, California:

Overwhelmingly, what I’ve taken away is a sense of optimism and excitement at the new discovery (for me) of such a vibrant and dynamic world of arts and culture strategists, funders, creators, workers, wonks, and change agents committed to social justice. I’ve been poring over Oakland’s Cultural Development Plan in my spare time since the conference, and found its guiding vision to be so profound: Equity is the driving force. Culture is the frame. Belonging is the goal.

I’m someone who comes from the school of leading with racial justice—explicit, centered, in the forefront. It was fascinating to listen to the thoughtful discussion between panelists Randy Engstrom and Vanessa Whang, and the audience, during the Cultural Equity session about the interaction between racial equity and cultural equity. No one dismissed the importance of leading with race, and it was clear that people understood from experience doing this work, that race without fail drops off the table unless it is explicit and centered. Yet, there was also acknowledgement that the racial frame doesn’t get to everything we are either. And that culture can encompass race, as well as who we are as women, transgender people, how we parent, how we live and love. I can’t put it better than this quote from the Oakland Cultural Plan: “Reaching well beyond the confines of the arts and artmaking, culture is the embodiment of forms of knowledge and wisdom people have gained through their different lived experiences of how to survive and thrive.”

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