Cultural Policy Action Lab

The Cultural Policy Action Lab is a leadership and professional development community of practice program for public sector workers who seek to advance racial equity through arts and culture and public policy. It consists of an open source 8-part web learning series (public, open to all) and a nationally selected learning cohort of public sector leaders in an intentional community of practice working to strengthen applied policy transformation.

Belief Statement & Background

We believe that rigorous professional development and advancement is necessary for cultural workers in the public sector (e.g. Local and State Arts Agencies, Quasi-Government Cultural Authorities) to advance racial equity and effective cross sector work. We believe that this work is done by training civic leaders to center artists, change-makers and community self-determination in the imagination and implementation of public policy and to build skills in adaptive leadership translating between arts and other sectors.

In 2019, Grantmakers in the Arts commissioned a national level literature review and report to document the opportunities to advance racial equity through arts and culture in the public sector. In the report, Opportunities at the Intersection, the researchers identify three key levers for this work:

  • Supporting current arts + public sector leaders (particularly BIPOC workers) with professional skills, training and opportunities for advancement with focus on policy transformation
  • Facilitate learning networks and communities of practice between arts and non-arts sector leaders who are dually committed to culture based racial equity practice and policy
  • Explicitly commit to strengthening local/regional collaborations so that there is hyper-local space for power building, risk taking and collaborative system transformation

Based on the report, Grantmakers in the Arts initiated a second phase of work, to better understand the professional training and support public sector leaders might need to shape, hold and facilitate racial equity work. As we know, many public sector arts leaders enter public service occupations with lived experience as artists, designers, curators and community organizers, or with experience working in the non-profit or for-profit sector but not as government or public policy experts. Because “arts administration” in the public sector is often learned on the job, rather than through formal professional education, many of these leaders evolve in their careers without academic or training background in some of the key requirements of their jobs such as public policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks, public financing and budgeting, and critical race frameworks within the public sector.

Program Overview

To address this gap, Grantmakers in the Arts convened a group of national co-designers with deep experience leading equitable transformation in the public sector to explicitly bridge this gap between knowledge/practice through a national cohort pilot structure and learning curriculum. The co-design group mapped four primary knowledge and competency areas that are vital to public sector arts leaders focused on equitable policy transformation including:

  • Core Frameworks of Cultural Policy
  • Racial Justice Approaches to Policy
  • Translational Leadership
  • Applied Practice in Other Sectors

Program Design

The Cultural Policy Action Lab provides two parallel learning series held between May and September 2022. The National Cultural Policy Learning Series is an 8-part public learning series open to GIA members and the public. The Cultural Policy Leadership Cohort is an intentional, applied practice cohort of 10 selected national leaders who meet together with experts to build skills in transforming art-centered, equitable public policy.

National Cultural Policy Learning Series

Open to GIA Members and the public

Grantmakers in the Arts, in partnership with a network of field experts, will present an 8-part national series focused on core elements of cultural policy and new approaches to advancing racial equity through policy structures. Each session will include 90-minutes of instruction and 30-minutes of conversation and questions with leaders in the field. Sessions will occur from May-September 2022. These sessions will be open to the general public and then archived in the GIA resource library so that the learning and access to this professional support content is wide and transparent.

For more information about dates and times for the Cultural Policy Learning Series, please watch the GIA website.

Cultural Policy Leadership Cohort

Applications due March 29, 2022

Through an open national process, GIA will select up to 10 public sector leaders who will form a community of learning and practice. Cohort members will attend the Cultural Policy Learning Series and meet more in depth with national leaders between sessions for feedback, coaching, and skill development in translational leadership and application of equitable policy approaches in non-arts sectors. Cohort sessions will be facilitated by Lab designers Randy Engstrom, Estrella Esquilin, and Jen Cole and feature additional national collaborations. Through these sessions Lab Leadership members will build relationships, prototypes, and policy solutions to a real world situation in their work and deepen application of teaching from the learning sessions. At the completion of the Lab sessions, leaders will secure $1,500 to implement their workshopped policy solution.

At this time, the Cultural Policy Leadership Cohort is designed as a fully virtual experience and participants will be able to complete work via Zoom. The Leadership Cohort will occur alongside the Cultural Policy Learning Series from May-September 2022; Cohort members will also be invited to attend the GIA Conference and share their work and peer learning experiences.

Information Session

If you missed the Cultural Policy Action Lab Information Session you can watch this video, which addresses common questions, to learn more about who should apply.