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One Rouge Community Check -In - Week 155


The first slave ships from Africa arrived in Louisiana in 1719 mostly from Senegambia, the Bight of Benin, the Bight of Biafra, and West-Central Africa. They were pressed into servitude and their skill as artisans was extracted for the next 144 years, arguably longer. Ceramicists, iron workers, carpenters, brick masons, painters, unparalleled artists belonged to the African diaspora and were responsible for the beauty that is associated with young Louisiana. Now 160 years post Emancipation and Louisiana is currently comprised of 32.8% folks belonging to the African diaspora. And a notable number of them are still artists and artisans. But what does it mean for these artists to represent their culture through the arts? How do racial dynamics impact their ability to express themselves in both public spaces and in service of social change? And are there adequate and equitable funding streams for them to make a living as a creative? Join us as we hear from our featured speakers on local public art programming support; coalition building around arts preservation; equitable pay and industry access for the native artist/culture bearers; industry constraints; and capacity building.

  • Morgan Udoh - Artist, Creative Entrepreneur, Decolonized Parent

  • Mariana Sheppard - Documentary and conceptual photographer

  • Gerri Hobdy – Director of External Relations for Baton Rouge Community College, Office of Institutional Advancement

  • Scott Finch- Director, Percent for Art Program

  • Luke St. John McKnight – Chief Operations Officer Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge

And a special announcement from Angela Machen, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), City of Baker - Commissioner, Port of Greater Baton Rouge - CEO, Baton Rouge African American Museum


Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!


 

Notes

Morgan Udoh: I am Morgan Udoh. I am the program coordinator for Public art and Placemaking with the Walls Project. I am also a practicing artist, visual artist myself and lover of little ones who are just now entering the art field. How to be involved, pay artists equitably for their work often and on time, every time. That's the way you can do with that. Are we gonna get straight into the functions or?

Pepper Roussel: If you want, if you wanna jump in the announcement that went out is really about letting folks know that we've got artists who sit on the diaspora who may have a different experience than those who don't.

Morgan Udoh: So we have a wonderful group of artists artists folks who work with artists, those that are practicing themselves, those who advocate this morning. And as we get into the conversation, I would like you to first and foremost introduce yourselves and who you represent, what you represent. And then we'll get into the title questions. I guess we'll round table this for introductions, and then I'll ask the first question. To get us started in this wrap arousing I'm gonna start off with the absolutely gorgeous, amazing Jerry Hopi, can you please introduce yourself?

Gerri Hobdy: I have a boutique consulting firm. I just did that because some of the things I do, it's like I do it for free, but yeah, you gotta pay me. And my day job is working in external affairs with the B R C foundation, Baton Rouge Community College Foundation. I do quite a bit of civic work. My passions are in the arts. My history has been primarily working in the arts and serving as a mental health advocate as well. My work in New Orleans, Baton Rouge has and nationally. Started in the eighties working as community development coordinator at the local arts council, then to the state arts council, and then to the office of cultural development. I've worked in relative to where I served as interim director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts during 10 years. And during the period where we got zeroed out and had to get the money back also early equity efforts because at that time, rural communities and black and brown communities just weren't getting their proportionate share of public funds. Relative to this conversation because we did want to discuss Black and brown people. We talked about some of the ways that we can ensure that there is equity, especially in the arts across the state and in communities. And I was fortunate, very fortunate to have an opportunity to work with the state recently to do a statewide assessment D E I a assessment on what were the barriers, what were the opportunities to ensure that the state, public, state funding and services were inclusive in doing that work. What I discovered was a lot of the work that was done many years ago in this state were undone and maybe not intentionally. But certainly because of gaps of information, changes in leadership reduction of funding, all of those things. But it did impact black and brown communities as significantly, and for a number of reasons, we saw that the connective tissue that used to be in place, especially those that were supported in some ways by arts councils, but in mostly by communities themselves the communication, the sharing, the skill building was diminished, not lost because certainly we have lots of artists out there doing the work, but we do not have the same kind of access to each other. And the other thing was finding safe space where we black and brown communities and indigenous communities felt that their voices were truly being heard, wanted to determine within communities what the value of their work what the value of our work was so that we could be compensated for that work. So creating spaces where we had skills, business skills being developed. Where we had safe space for artists to share was something that the Power Coalition supported through cultural crossroads. In a conference that we did in park, in Baton Rouge, we invited artists from all over the state to come in for two days at our cost to have discussions, participate with experts. We brought in from all over the country and developing a skillset to skill sets to first of all vision, their own futures. And we also brought in inter Entertainment attorneys brought business experts, marketing experts to do sessions so that this could share and ask questions that, and in a a safe space as well as share what their learnings were and in some cases, share their frustrations and be supportive of one another out of that.

Scott Finch: I direct the present for art program for the state of Louisiana. So we we work on public art projects in state buildings. Everywhere across the state anywhere where there's a state building, where there's a project budget for renovation or new construction, over 2000001% of that budget is set aside for art and public spaces. That can be work acquiring existing work from artists for the interiors of the buildings, or it could be commissioning brand new sculpts to go outside of a building. It can be a variety of things can be, it doesn't necessarily have to be traditional media. It can be whatever is appropriate for that site. We have cool new things that really are. Interactive and kinetic. We have the variety of things that we are working on is it is, it's starting to get really interesting. My partner in this April Bayham is on the call as well. The two of us over the last five years have been really trying to ramp up the number of calls and make sure that we do calls in every corner of the state. So if you haven't seen our calls for artists I urge you to join our mail list. Follow us on Instagram, just keep up because we are trying to offer as many opportunities as we can. In addition to putting out those calls for artists We've been doing trainings. We did a series of in-person trainings, the pandemic going around state. And we brought who could train artists on how they could get started for artists. How do you get into, what are the things you need to consider how do you approach public art just professional development stuff. Then post pandemic we did another series of trainings for both arts administrators for nonprofits and municipalities, arts organizations so that they would know how to actually work with public art projects if that was something that they were unfamiliar with or wanted to get better at or know more about. We invited them to a training and we sponsored projects I think it was eight projects in total to tune about $10,000 each around the state just to set up. A process and let them know how this could be accomplished at the local level. And then at the same time, we did a second track of training for artists around the state so that so they could get again, those professional development tools and also community to all be together in the Zoom, have these not just a passive receptive training, but also get to, to meet each other, get to discuss what's happening it within the state and their successes and the things that, that have worked for them and their approaches to to getting involved in public art as well. Those are some of the things we've been doing over the last couple years. The, these trainings and these grant opportunities that we're starting to do more and more of. Come about as a result of of us. For each project we do, each of these larger projects, we do a call for artists for, we get a little bit of a administrative fee, so we spend 1% of the budget on that state project. They give us a little bit of of a, of an administrative fee. We turn all of that into opportunities for artists, more at the local level. And the more of this work that we're able to do, the more of those opportunities we're able to bring online. And that's really something that we've been trying to put the pedal to the medal on for the last couple of years. Anytime we're in any kind of meeting folks what we try to say is the first thing I'd like to say is I'm Scott. There's April. Wanna give a wave? This is it. This is present for art for the state of Louisiana. Now you've met us. My phone number, my email are listed on the website. I would say any, anything you, you wanna know about, if you see a call and you think, I don't know if I'm right for this. I don't know if this is something that I'm ready to handle. I don't I'm just, I'm not sure how what's the best way for me to to go into this You can call us and we'll talk to you because we don't, we're not we're not sitting in judgment about this. We're not the deciders on this. We work with the committees who who select work. But it's in our interest to have more and more Louisiana artists and to have we need to have, we need to have everybody in on this project. And the way that we do that is we'll help you sit down and talk through what do you need in your application. What if you're thinking I I have some experience, but I'm not sure if I have these tools. We can talk to you about who might have those. If you don't have everything you need we might know somebody you can collaborate with, or we might be able to say you're thinking, do I want to take this approach or that? We're happy to sit down and talk with you about that.

Luke St. John McKnight: I serve as your Chief Operating Officer for the Arts Council, greater Baton Rouge. The heart of our work is to foster creative capacity for our entire capital region. That's about le parishes not about, but that is 11 parishes. I work every day to make that statement real. Not only real to myself, but real to every person living in those 11 parishes. So that's the charge that I give to myself, and that's a charge that we have for our team. We are responsible for a wide array of programs and services and projects that, that help us realize this mission. And I'd be happy to discuss further if anyone else, if anyone is interested. But for the purposes of our time together, I'd like to explore and focus on what this idea of quality of places and what quality of life is, and what arts and culture's contribution could be and what it should be. Yeah, my is spent getting artists paid, getting artists respected, changing the perception of the role the art serves, and connecting a lot of dots. And I'll stop there.

Mariana Sheppard: I am born and raised in New Orleans a photographer. I also have been in the arts space for over 15 years as an arts administrator. I currently serve as the interim executive artistic director of June Buck Productions based in New Orleans. We are a black performing arts nonprofit. We work to create equitable conditioners for guards of color to both present their work, produce their work, and also toward their work. I also have the pleasure of serving on the present for art committee in New Orleans. So it's good to see Jerry on the call. And yeah, so my work Photography and traffics between portraiture, conceptual photography and commercial photography. I'm also an exhibiting artist. I have worked currently on view at two lanes Newcomb gallery. So yeah, I'm happy to be here and really excited about this discussion.

Morgan Udoh: So we will get right into the nitty gritty of it all. So speaking of equity, we're all talking about it, we're all mentioning it. It's a lovely word. Sometimes it's treated as a buzzword within your sphere of influence, how would you define equitable cultural stewardship and preservation? And why is it important in modern society? I'll start off as someone at who manages an artist guild ensuring that those Rs are paid equitably. For the labor that they're providing that cultural stewardship and preservation is in itself. I define it as ensuring that the people who are being talked about are a part of the work. So whatever we do that is about us is by us ensuring that in setting up an a call for art and RFP and RFQ that I am creating in a way that is equitable in a decolonized way. So I am not centering very specific colonial ways of engaging. I am not centering colonial ways of linguistically communicating. So not being really rigid in those sort of standards to be more specific. I'm not going to take points off for the way in which you communicate. If you are communicating from your mother tongue, which is a v e. I am not going to dock conceptual points on the way in which you communicate if it's from a cultural basis rather than the accepted norm of professionalism, which is very colonial. And ensuring that I am meeting artists where they are rather than just putting the call outs and saying, okay, they will come find me. No, I go find them. That is where we really have to meet them. So that's my little bit, I'll leave space for others to speak towards the equity that they bring into their work.

Luke St. John McKnight: If I may. And I really appreciate that framing Morgan, but to each their own. Not, essentially the same amount for everyone, but being able to provide what each individual needs based on their unique circumstances. When I think about supporting creatives in the creative sector I think about where we are geographically. We're in the deep south and there has been an institutional effort for decades, if not centuries, to exclude some creative minds in our communities. And so the same energy that was used to dehumanize and devalue the work and the people who made the work that same energy that same amount of effort needs to be included to serve as a counterbalance. And administrators should be considered of that.

Gerri Hobdy: I would add to that when we're talking about equity, one of the challenges is being sure that we have equity of access to information. And what I found with many of the and I'll speak to the arts councils many of the arts councils have some wonderful services and even spaces. And thankfully Luke, you are there doing the groundwork in many communities. However, the logarithm for getting information out sometimes is limited because like Morgan said the channels of communications are limited to Those who may have traditionally used them a certain way. I find that in looking for artists across the state to participate in the assessment, a lot of it is word of mouth and word of mouth only works when people trust one another and they know each other. So using some non-traditional means to access communities to get information out to different publics is very interesting. And Luke said, a lot of communities just weren't considered in developing those communication plans. And those communication plans may be limited because they have to go through a public seal. You have staff that may not have relationships in community, have not have had the opportunity. To go out and meet because they're stuck in the office during the day to day. But then there are organizations and Marianna, I'm sure and lots of them sort of center on New Orleans. But they do reach statewide MPN or Alternate Roots or south Arts who are looking at different ways to get information out to artists. But what we're finding is those artists collectives also as they get information, they sometimes let it sit. But there is a responsibility also to share with others. And sometimes because you are doing the work and you're in your work as an artist, you're in your own work. That may not be on your menu of to-dos for a day to, oh, let me share with some other artists, or do I operate in a collective where there is an opportunity to share? Certainly there are issues relative to equity. I think one of the those big challenges, like I said, was communication and setting up and being sure that there are collectives and there are people not gatekeepers in communities who are willing to share. And then and we're not just talking about funding, we're talking about growing skills being there to support, being there for feedback being there to educate. It's not all just about access to. Financial resources because in a lot of cases that's going to come.

Morgan Udoh: So there was a really great follow up question in the chat about the word of mouth, which those are the African diaspora. We have very strong oral traditions. And one of those is information moving at the speed of our interactions. Can we say more about how artists have and get that access if it's based on our word of mouth moving at the speed of trust? Mariana, I'd like to kick that to you. In your work as an arts administrator what have you noticed about your, the. The linking of trust and word of mouth dissemination of information communities that you work with.

Mariana Sheppard: It is all about trust. Gerri, You hit it so spot on in your analysis of that, looking both on the arts administrative side and then on the artist side. I sit on so many boards and councils where the applica, the applicants that we constantly see are the same people. And so what happens is you just continue to get the same round of people who get the same funding over and over because they're the ones who are aware of that information because they're the ones who are keeping it within their circles. They're not really disseminating that outside of those communities. And so whenever a person of color, let's say, would get funding for something compared to the other number of groups that get all this funding, that person being able to share and spread the word of that is very limited in comparison. And so what we've been trying to do is ensure that we have different ways of accessing groups. So whether that be attending church services, if that means going on social media, if that means finding young people in the community, because those are whole, those are different networks who operate by so many different modes of communication that we may not be tapped into. So really just trying to find so many modes of operation to get the word out has really been our way and I would say has been successful in many aspects. And then I would also add is when these things come out I, like I said, I sit on the percent for art committee in New Orleans, and we find that some people don't have access to certain tools to be able to produce applications, to be able to create cvs or even have the technical support or administrative support to ensure that they qualify, that they're actually checking off the box. To ensure that their work aligns with that particular grant or whatever it may be. And so not only just having funding out, but also providing people with access to be able to actually produce applications. And just also just having someone on the ground, being able to guide people through those processes. Because if you're not accustomed to that work, you're not accustomed to submitting those types of applications, it can be very overwhelming. And so sometimes we find that people, that's a barrier of entry in many respects. That's it. And yeah. So it's just it's a whole, it's a whole bunch of things, not just one element. I

Gerri Hobdy: Marianne, that is exactly what I'm hearing. I, matter of fact, I had a one hour conversation with Folk from Lafayette, artists from Lafayette who said the exact same thing. A matter of fact, down to those methods of sharing communication through the church, through barbershops to meeting people where they are. The challenge is sometimes those organizations don't have capacity to get out and aren't aware of all of those networks or where those entry points are. But the other thing is sometimes we underestimate the angst people have in approaching just the door. Just going through the door. They feel whether real or perceived that those spaces are welcoming to them. And it does take a very special individual to create that bridge to for entry and stay with them and navigate them through some of those systems, which might be technical assistance and some of those others. A lot of times, because we have limited capacities, funders will rely on. Workshops that may be online or that kind of thing. And it may not be the best entry point for some people because even getting on that zoom or on that call is intimidating. And then of itself, they may not be comfortable with getting on a Zoom because they're doing work and they're not using that kind of technology. But the some of the recommendations that we're hearing now harken back to what we did years ago was having the community development coordinators who sole job was out there doing exactly those things that you offered. It does take a special kind of individual. It does take money because people do have to be compensated to do that very specialized kind of work and a certain kind of skillset set. But I find that a lot of those skills also are contained in in communities. They're not necessarily centralized in arts councils. So that is a something else for us to consider what our community assets that we can connect and grow. Finding that when communities and collectives are really intentional about looking at those skills that are needed and bringing those in, that there is capacity that can grow there as, as well,

Morgan Udoh: I've found that we have a lot of emerging artists that do not feel comfortable or do not recognize that they are artists. And we have to be intentional in how we engage with the community. I. I prefer to engage with the community, assuming that everyone is an artist at any point in time. And so any information that I have about a call coming up, I am naturally infusing that into a conversation without knowing what their profession is. Because you never know who's going to be sitting next to you at the lunch counter who has been doing oil painting for the past 30 years, but still isn't comfortable calling themselves an artist and still just, and needs someone to say, Hey, you can do this. Submit. Just show me some pictures. You don't have to have a portfolio. Send me your work and I will help you to start that portfolio. I'm absolutely with you, gerri on that, we need to have folks that are community developers within that space. I wanted to get into a little bit deeper since we're talking a lot about councils and those who deal with the high-end money side of things, what role do fiscal agencies play in this Equitable Pay and cultural stu stewardship initiatives. As those who are dealing with the funding, what ways can they engage with that funding disseminate that funding that is more equitable? Let me jump on that. I participated with the foundation for Louisiana. I've been looking recently at different systems of investment deployment.

Gerri Hobdy: And what we're seeing a lot is number one and different ways to get information out. But the other thing is looking at how they receive information from artists where you used to have to write these paragraphs and of course, only if you could write well would it be considered and all of that. That's changed quite a bit for a number of funding agencies down to. Submit your application via video foundation for Louisiana. Did that about a year ago in awarding their grants. And one of the interesting questions in their application was what communities are you accountable to? Who are you speaking for? Are you representative? And some folk were able to a answer that. Absolutely. And I love that question too. I just think it was exceptional. And so applications for ways to get in sometimes I believe it was alternate roots. Instead of asking some, and I heard this in the field too, instead of saying, okay, come and demonstrate to us, you're an artist. We know you're out there. What do you want to do? Instead of filling out an application and having someone talk to someone, what do you want to do and doing? Trust investments. Matter of fact, when we did our conference recently, we did mic, we had micro commissions available throughout the state. In each of the nine regions. An application was primarily on the theme. Your voice, your vote, your power to inspire voting in especially bipo communities. And folk who were participating with the conference virtually or in person we're able to submit an application with a two to three minute video. That's it. And those people in those regions that they represented were able to vote on what they felt was best. Which, what would best effectively communicate through that particular art genre and out of that, and I'm so glad you mentioned advocating for artists in fair Pay. One of the grants and this'll be announced, I wanna say too much about it, but is an artist union. Another is communication to parents and children about voting and interviews with some early freedom fighters and sharing that information. A mini documentary play is being documentary is being developed out of lake Charles, and there are murals in low voter areas in Shreveport with embedded messages, QR messages in there about voting by an area artist Kavia, and you probably know Casey. Getting out information is, and through the arts is something that's happening all over. And it didn't take a lot of investment, but changing how we allocate monies, like who are, who do we have to report to, to say that we are spending this money? That kind of determines how complex if you work for the state, you got fiscal auditors and all of that, but really how much information do you really have to pull that they actually look at and then if it's coming from a foundation, it depends again on the source. Of and accountability, how much information needs to be collected. But those things are, I think philanthropy is looking at ways to, okay, what is our real goal? What do we really want to happen? And let's focus on that. So it's removing some of those barriers that traditionally have created huge challenges for communities of color.

Morgan Udoh: Speaking of how money is disseminated and the goals that have to be met at the top. What are the ways and this may be a question more so for Scott what are the ways in which our fiscal agents are tracking that the money that they're giving out is equitable? Is it a long. Are, is the funding siloed along census lines? Is the are you looking into how many people are interacting from each demographic with a particular call? What are the metrics that are being used to prove equity is occurring?

Scott Finch: First off, I would say I, I may not be the right person to answer that. You might wanna talk to the folks who manage most of the grants for for the division of the arts and op cultural development. We, the art program has had a few sort of pilot programs for grants for public art. But the majority of that's probably gonna go through when I think about public art or these kind of opportunities for artists. Probably gonna go through project grants or through other grants at the organizational level. And they do track all of that. But that's not Gerri's doing something over there, I dunno. But for us the money that we that we work with is attached to specific buildings. So our funding is tied. It is very project based. It's very, it's tied to specific institutions and physical structures and and the objectives that that they're trying to, that those folks, those stakeholders are trying to communicate through, through this, through public art. I'm I've gotten on track. What, where am I headed? No. And it, and I'm posing that question because it may, that Rob robust system may not exist yet. And maybe that is the hitch in the road where equity is not meeting action. Let me bounce back on that.

Gerri Hobdy: Again, you're talking about collecting data. Collecting data, aggregating data, ensuring that you have leadership in those places who are distributing, that are collecting that information. It's uniform so it can be aggregated up. Because of the gaps in some of the, as far as the state is concerned in leadership. And I could say this cuz I've looked for this information and I have a feel for it too. That even though if people aren't going to those systems to get funds for whatever reason, you're not getting the data. You gotta have people who are there, who are gonna collect the data. In a timely manner and send it up so it can be aggregated. So you can look at and analyze that information. Yeah. If that information doesn't exist, you can't do the or isn't coming up in a timely fashion or at all. You can't or people aren't applying it. That analysis isn't done well. There are other breakdowns in that system other than just creating the metrics itself. The metrics are pretty easy. How many demographics regionally that's always been in place. Yeah. Is getting the information that is, is a challenge? Some places do it well, some places haven't been able to do it as well, but I would say that is largely a capacity issue.

Morgan Udoh: I'm just going to pose that question.

Scott Finch: The other thing I would say is we're talking about, about who applies. Mariana mentioned that you get the same artists applying over and over again for these projects. And I would say that in general we get, we don't get enough applications from Louisiana artists at all. Because of the way this program is structured it's open generally it's open regionally or nationwide, and we get lots of applications from everywhere. But we we never get enough, no matter how much we try to to reach out. And that's something that we're always trying to figure out how to do better at. We, we simply, we don't get enough traction on any of these. On any of these applications on any of these calls for artists from Louisiana artists. And that's something that, that we're always trying to figure out ways to connect with people and get more involved. That's definitely something that needs work.

Gerri Hobdy: Yeah. And I had some real specific ways that sort of came up. Mariana talked about getting information to churches, and we know that could be a strategy. Not that everybody goes to church, but we know that many churches, especially those that are embedded in communities, have programs, have visuals. How about providing packets to churches? You can get a, you may not know. Who in a church, but you can get a list of churches in the communities that you want to impact and send vigils to them to be included in their programs or in their announcements and those kinds of things. And that's one example of a maybe non-traditional way. What are the radio stations? A matter of fact, Scott, I have an invitation coming to you from someone who has an audience of 30,000 in the greater Lafayette area who had no idea. That these opportunities existed and many of our politicians have radio shows where we could share this kind of information that we can utilize the other place that I thought was interesting. When there are mayors that are getting office, they usually have one or two people in their circles who have great knowledge of disenfranchised communities. And maybe the point of entry is not necessarily at your arts councils. Cause in our arts log a rhythm. We get real incestuous about who we talk to. That's why they're gatekeepers and all those other issues. But perhaps we. Initiate our conversations about disseminating information through people who are in governmental positions, whose job or whose focus is to communicate with those publics. I'm interested now in those people because they are also folk who may be aware of those voting publics are non-voting publics so we can get information too as well. But again communication and how we get messaging out is key and being very non-traditional. And you mentioned capacity. A lot of times we do depend on those arts councils because I just introduced you to everybody for the state of Louisiana for center art. That's that's we frequently need these departments. We need to know who out there can help us to get this information out. And traditionally that has been the arts councils as one of the main ways, and then increasingly social media and we, whatever we can find, it's a lot of times it's actually reaching out directly to whoever we think can help us spread a message wherever we're putting out a call. There will be a call going up in Lafayette in the next next few weeks. So if you have somebody who might help us to share that information in the Lafayette area, that's great. We've been working, been trying to get percent for our work going in Lafayette for quite a while, and finally, Got a to hold on something. So we're gonna, we're gonna begin there. That would be great to have any assistance to spread that information. We can speak of

Luke St. John McKnight: And from what I can tell our nine regional arts councils, me mean, the best and they mean well. And the intentions are lovely but there is much more to be done. The from my time here, which is a little over a year. There just have been, not institutional, but just systematic and structural processes as far as communications and outreach. And when you do the same thing over and over again, there's just, you're gonna get similar results and you're gonna be affecting and informing and involving the same types of people. That being said similar to what Morgan said, your day-to-day interactions with people who you're talking to I am intentional about letting folks know that. While you may not feel like you are eligible to apply for said opportunity, I'm going to tell you are and we'll figure out the record. It's on an individual level is where I see church council being a istic in that church. So on an institutional and a structural level what are the processes and procedures to, to realizing our mission and is a reassessment needed to ensure no one is being overlooked, and then on a regional level, that is that is key. I recall in my formative years as an artist myself, trying to walk through the doors of the Baton Rouge Arts Council and feeling like there was an Air ex exclusion, putting my underground art exhibitions in their building. And so it wasn't until someone older than me walked me through the door and allow to speak on my behalf. And I know people today feel that way about, about the councils, and I don't want anyone to have to second guess if it's for them or not. But that is the state of things. And that is the real nature.

Gerri Hobdy: And Luke, you've done such a tremendous job and not only initiating skill building opportunities for folk in our local arts council but also some very non-traditional kinds of activities taking place there in, in many series. That's something that wasn't. Done and being consistent about it, having indigenous artists being able to present. I've had a long history with the Arts Council and there were periods where it was very intentional and we did have people at the door prying it open. But when you don't have those people, they are like yourselves, especially those in senior positions like yourself who are looking at the whole system and policies of access and of use of those spaces. When we start doing that, as you're doing, then it begins to change and understanding that facility alone is only is a face, but we have got to develop other venues. I've been to wonderful programs and barber shops and salons. That have been fabulous and actually really wonderful venue. It takes a lot of money to maintain a performance space or a shared performance space. But there's some that exist. We have the Cleo fields has a performance space in North Baton Rouge. We very rarely hear about opportunities for folk to use that space, and I'm sure he would if asked, but what are some of our non-traditional spaces embedded in, in communities that we can create a regular program of activities so people can attend? Because. And then we do have things going on because black gay men in Baton Rouge have a very strong culture of presenting from opera to drag shows. I've been recently introduced to that over the last year or so. So there are these wonderful and East Indian dance operating in people's living rooms. Some homes that have been created to accommodate performance. So I think we have lots of opportunities. I think that sharing these opportunities is important. Remember the conversation, the first D e i a conversation we had at the Arts Council. I'm thinking that everybody knew each other cuz I'm like, oh these are brilliant people and I know 'em. But we didn't have space for those artists to talk to each other.

Luke St. John McKnight: That's another thing that's happening differently in real time. Like we're making different lists of folks who are formulating in the future as far as community design. That is, that was an immediate turn. And not necessarily to exclude, but to add to and that's what I'm really proud of. That's a, that is a reflection of a larger play.

Morgan Udoh: Yes. Speaking of spaces that may not be traditionally thought of as areas for us to create those silos of apprenticeship. Cuz I'm seeing things in the chat about our students have losing that opportunity to connect to the arts once they lead the K-12 space. Our makers that are in the space and see Thomas Therapeutics is out here and stem having that those barriers, the spaces that we create, can lead to that natural bevy of opportunities. And one of those spaces that we tend to consider to be on the far end of the arts once the art is already created, can actually be a space that is utilized at the very beginning as we are raising up our next generation of artists. And that space is the museum. Our museum spaces are a natural gathering place for the public and can be utilized in a way that will support our our industry and remove those barriers. So I wanted to segue real quick to Angela Matin to talk about the African American Museum and its ability to be one of those spaces for our community.

Angela Machen: I am very grateful to be here and to be in this particular space with like-minded people that are concerned and contributing to our community. So I think that space is a great segue to my contribution here today. Which is to make a couple of announcements. One we are we have a new building, a new location for the Baton Rouge African American Museum. And I wanna say that is the former name was the Odes Williams museum of African American History founded by my mother, Sadie Roberts, Joseph. And just before her death, she actually changed the name to the Baton Rouge African American Museum, maybe about a month or so. Since then we have been partially opened particularly on a couple of specific dates and then also by appointment. But we have been working, although I know from the outside looking in, it probably has not appeared that way. But we have been working to get the museum fully reopened in that time. We have been applying for grants applying for capital Alay trying to get funding, and we haven't been particularly Successful at that, we've gotten a couple of small grants, but what we have been successful with is we have the Baton Rouge Metro Council has named us the official African American Museum for the Greater Baton Rouge area. And in conjunction with that, they have given us a building located at 8 0 5 St. Louis which is in a good space. And the fundraising that we have been, or the grant funding that we've been applying for has been for the purpose of renovating that space to something that is actually more usable as a museum. It's a fine building, but it's chopped up into lots of small offices that don't really lend themselves to use as a museum. But we have decided at this point that we are just going to go ahead on Juneteenth of this year, June 19th. Which is a Monday to start the moving and reopening process. We will have a march that will start from the old location or the original location of the museum on South Boulevard from, we will march from there to the new location on St. Louis, which is only a quarter of a mile. And what we will do is have our family members and stakeholders and board members to physically carry an artifact from the old location to be placed into the new location. That building as I mentioned is. We are gonna work with it as it is and what we've got at this point. But that will start the beginning of our major fundraising to try to reconfigure that museum into a more appropriate space. But it is a large building. The segue that we just made talking about space, that is absolutely our intention to have that as a public space for art and for culture. We will have included there displays that will stay year round. And also we will have areas or presentations that will be short term, but the long term Areas that we will focus on, which is based on what we have at this point in time. We'll have an area devoted to African ancestors legends and Louisiana leaders. We'll have inventions and rural artifacts. We actually have also a bus which is from the original Baton Rouge bus boycott that we will bring over and integrate into the design of the building. It also needs renovation and repair as, as well. And we will have a reading and recording room, which was originally the idea for that was to have books for about and by members of the African diaspora. And also to have a space where people can come in and record their own histories. And the whole purpose is to empower people to become their best selves. Whatever the best versions of themselves are. We want to facilitate that growth. And we also have, will have a a school resource center, which will assist parents with understanding the full range of educational institutions and opportunities available to their children and give them a hand in helping them to one, access those choices, learn about those choices, apply for those programs, and just be a hand will have retired and a couple of active school teachers that will help to assist with that just so they can make the best choices for their individual children. And I also wanna say that I'm just grateful to be here, particularly on this weekend, which is Mother's Day weekend. We, my brother and I, are left without our mother, but we, what we are left with is a clear path to honoring the work that she started, to continuing the work that she started and to continue to make a significant contribution to our community, which is inclusive of everyone because we need to not necessarily agree all the time, but we need everyone's perspective. We need to respect other people's perspectives and we need to at least understand each other and appreciate something so that we can live in peace. So this is our mission and we are grateful for. Others on this same path. And we are grateful for those that are collaborating with us. We need that help. It's a clear path, but it's not an easy path. And my brother and I are the ones who are left to try to run the museum. We both have full-time jobs and we need help. And that's a tough thing. But at the same time, I think it's important for us to realize that we need each other, even if we don't think so, if we think we have it all together and can roll along, it's not true. We need each other. And we are grateful at this point in time for the Walls project that that we are collaborating with and we look forward to a long term collaboration. We are very grateful for that. And the most immediate thing that we have going is We are going to have a mural at the museum here soon. And we have a benefit concert on May 20th at 6:00 PM at Chelsea's live that will be a benefit of four the museum. And we are very excited about that evening of music. I a actually have never been to that place and I look forward to going there personally. But we are inviting the entire community to come with us and to join in with us for this night of music with Joe Scott and Moose Harris and Lady V. And we are just that will be on the 20th of this month at 6:00 PM So thank you so much for all of you, for your efforts and for your time and attention.

Morgan Udoh: See what happens when we create informal spaces for us to gather. Look at that. Healing. Healing happening right in the moment. It does look like we got right to the end of our time, even though we were having such an amazing conversation. This has to continue. I want to thank everyone who joined us in on this call. I know that we did not get through nearly half of what we planned on talking about today, but that is okay because the conversation went exactly where it needed to go. Oh. Say that again. Say that again. Yes, please drop blanks of those in chat. Jerry, please. We are now going to move into, because naturally it fits into community announcements.

Zoom Chat

Community Announcements






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