DEI Agenda for Action

AAAE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Agenda For Action
Spring 2018

The arts, and by extension arts administration, are often rooted in ableism, colonialism, eurocentrism, patriarchy, and unequal distribution of power favoring Whiteness and its derivatives (McIntosh, 1989). Historically, the membership and activities of the Association of Arts Administrators (AAAE) are no exception. AAAE is complicit in contributing to an academic and artistic culture where diverse perspectives of various lived experiences have not been fully valued, or even represented. (For the purposes of this document, “diverse” and its variants refer not only to race, but also to the multiplicity of demographic and social categories that should be represented. For a complete picture of what is considered, please see Loden’s (2010) Diversity Wheel.)

As one of the largest and most prominent networks of higher education arts administration educators, AAAE must recognize its responsibility to cultivate a just, equitable, and holistically diverse environment for teaching and learning. Perhaps more than any other arts stakeholder group, we are in a distinctive position to affect change for the field because of our proximity to students, who are the creative workforce of the future. We are eager to usher in a new paradigm that elevates marginalized voices, removes barriers to participation, and demonstrates the value of arts and learning environments that are not solely informed by one dominant culture.

At the direction of the AAAE board of directors, and informed by members that insist these issues be addressed, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force aspires to empower educators to create truly diverse and equitable arts administration education environments through their teaching. After an examination of AAAE operations, scholarly research, and DEI initiatives in the arts, academia, and beyond, the Task Force has defined four areas of impact for our work moving forward:

1. Benchmarking the Status of DEI in Arts Administration Education

2. Promoting Greater Diversity and a More Inclusive Environment Within AAAE

3. Equipping Member Programs to Deliver Equitable and Inclusive Arts Administration Education to Students and Faculty

4. Connecting the DEI Work of Arts Administration Programs to the Field

In addition to this committee’s explorations, other areas of AAAE have begun to focus on diversity and equity, particularly in the last year. Some of the recommendations of this committee align with work that has already begun, indicated by initiatives under the “Underway and Should Continue” headers. Where applicable, this committee has offered further thoughts and context.

The purpose of this document is to articulate to the board of directors the most meaningful ways AAAE can contribute to a more diverse and equitable environment for our members and students. The committee looks forward to undertaking this work in partnership with the board and staff over the next 3-4 years.

Though cultivating access, diversity, and equity in the arts is an ongoing process that extends far beyond the scope of this document, we believe we have identified AAAE’s first steps toward meaningful change. Following are key initiatives that address each area of impact.

Benchmarking the Status of DEI in Arts Administration Education

Unfortunately, no exhaustive sources of information about the relative status of diversity, equity, and inclusion in arts administration or within arts administration education exist. Therefore, it is upon AAAE to facilitate the collection of this data. This work will not only be a service to arts administration education, but also to arts administration as whole. Findings from the investigations suggested below will provide baseline information that will allow the organization to make data-informed choices about tactics and strategies that will best serve member institutions, the faculty they employ, and the students and arts organizations they serve.

1. Investigate the current demographic makeup of student, faculty, and alumni of arts administration programs.

2. Conduct an assessment of membership’s support for and execution of DEI work.

These two investigations can be part of the same large-scale project that provides foundational information for consideration and use across many functions housed within AAAE. Most important for DEI work is an understanding of who is currently served in arts administration education and who is not. Identifying gaps in the demographic makeup of students, faculty (both full-time and adjunct), and alumni will allow for strategic alignment of initiatives and programs. Finally, layering that information with a baseline knowledge and working assessment of member programs with regard to DEI will help with future agenda setting.

Promoting Greater Diversity and a More Inclusive Environment Within AAAE

Results of a recent member survey indicate that faculty of color are under-represented in AAAE even in relation to the representation of people of color in the universe of arts administrators. Other axes of diversity (for example, physical ability), may likewise be under-represented in the organization. AAAE should take action to both proactively diversify its membership and create a more inclusive environment within the organization:

1. Evaluate AAAE academic standards, bylaws, policies, and processes through a DEI lens: The DEI Task Force, or a subset thereof, in collaboration with the organization staff, should review the bylaws, website, and other published materials for errors, omissions, or inadvertent use of potentially hostile language and unwelcoming visual images. This work can be accomplished incrementally in a six month time period with priority given to (1) public-facing communications, especially the website, and (2), board recruitment and operations, as the board of directors is the power base for the organization. Next, the focus should shift to internal documents such as organization bylaws.

2. Conduct analysis on a subsidized membership structure that would encourage membership among graduate students and faculty from under-represented communities: There is no pipeline specifically designed to motivate under-represented people to join the organization. The DEI Task Force believes that, in general, our students as a whole are more diverse than the membership of AAAE. Thus, by encouraging emerging scholar attendance at and participation in the annual conference, the conference will attract a more diverse community and build the population of future members. The DEI Task Force, or subset thereof, should research successful existing programs as models and develop a proposal for implementation. We note that such a program may require financial investment or subsidy. If a plan is adopted by the board, grant or philanthropic support of the program may need to be secured by the organization.

3. Partner with colleges and universities serving under-represented populations on membership and arts administration advocacy: To achieve greater representation, AAAE will need to actively recruit members from under-represented groups. Engagement messaging will need to be individualized and will need to include multiple contacts. The Task Force recommends a goal of recruiting 20% of those contacted. Additionally, AAAE can seek to help these programs increase awareness of arts administration and arts administration graduate programs among diverse student populations. The committee will take a proactive approach by inviting them to AAAE meetings and asking them to promote arts administration among their students, who may not know this option exists.


4. Promote a more diverse and inclusive annual conference: To recruit and retain more diverse membership, the environment of the conference must be inclusive. Positive steps have already been taken such as programming featured speakers for the 2018 conference that reflect a diversity of artistic forms as well as a diversity of ethnicities. AAAE’s conference team should be tasked with programming for diversity and inclusion. The Task Force, if it continues through 2019, may also review a draft conference schedule through an equity lens. The conference committee may also consider including DEI training or workshops as a pre-conference event. Lastly, care should be given to selecting the conference location: cities and environments that are documented as hostile to certain populations should be avoided.

5. Develop a board and committee diversification plan: Homogeneity in governance boards is endemic throughout the nonprofit sector. The board development committee should review the baseline data collected in 2017 and build a reasonable plan for diversifying board and committee membership. The Task Force acknowledges current efforts and endorses continued action toward the above stated goal. Elements of such a plan may include proposing a curated slate of nominees for board seats, active recruitment of underrepresented members to committees and promotion of the benefits of committee service to the membership writ large.

6. Provide AAAE staff with guiding communications principles: As AAAE helps the field become more visible and understandable to many people, there should be a deliberate attempt to emphasize DEI aspects across all communications. In recent years, AAAE has conducted advocacy and outreach work to promote arts administration as a career path. As the next iteration of this work begins, under-represented communities should be considered and the organization should strive to adhere to a set of guidelines for inclusive and equitable communications. The Task Force will develop these guidelines and make them available to staff within a six month time frame.

Equipping Member Programs to Deliver Equitable and Inclusive Experiences in Arts Administration Education to All Students and Faculty

The most powerful force for change that AAAE can harness is its membership. By empowering members to evaluate and refine their own practices, we can position the field for systemic change. The Task Force recommends the following communications, professional development, and engagement initiatives to begin to equip our members:

1. A Year of Calls to Action: As evidenced by record-setting attendance at this spring’s DEI webinar, members need information on how to approach DEI topics and practices. Beginning in Fall 2018, the Task Force will publish monthly calls to action on DEI topics, including: (1) making research and scholarship available in accessible formats; (2) crafting diverse and inclusive syllabi and reading lists; (3) paid internships and other opportunities as an equity concern; (4) best practices for research; (5) disseminating standard-bearing documents (syllabi, program/department policies, etc.) and more. These published Calls to Action may be accompanied by a conference call component for members, offering the opportunity for dialogue and Q&A.

2. An AAAE Syllabus: The Task Force will publish a reading list, as well as recommendations for resources on DEI topics, with the expressed goal of asking members to include authors from under-represented communities in their class work.


3. Professional Development Opportunities: The Task Force recommends that AAAE create additional opportunities for professional development, either at the annual conference or by virtual means. Information and training should be made available on topics that reach various stakeholder populations, such as: student recruitment, hiring strategies, and identifying implicit bias. 1-3 training opportunities per year should be pursued.

Connecting the DEI Work of Arts Administration Programs to the Field

Collaboration with the arts sector is required in order to impact the future of professional arts administration. Additionally, we must consider ways in which field models can be shared with the arts administration education community. To fulfill this goal, the following objectives are suggested:

1.Identify and Disseminate Standard-Bearing Agendas, Practices, Statements, etc. related to DEI from arts organizations: It is important to keep abreast of ways in which arts organizations serve as potential guides and models to arts administration education and AAAE member institutions. Examples of these types of documents existing in the field could be applied in classroom settings, bringing the field to arts administration programs. The Task Force will collect such items, track what already exists, where gaps exist, what can be improved, and how such work is (or is not) being conceptualized in the field.

2. Establish and maintain a database of organizations that offer paid internships and fellowships to students from diverse backgrounds: Such a database is important for students and their advisors to be able to readily access and find programs that will willingly support their learning and growth trajectories in the field. Additionally, we would like to consider AAAE partnering with job listing sites focused on the arts. Of course, questions remain regarding how listings are curated.

3. Publicize and reward successful DEI initiatives: Rewarding and recognizing strong local partners promoting and supporting DEI efforts in the arts and culture sector could be a valuable component of conference activity. Award nominees could all be invited to participate in and present at a conference session. This would provide a fuller connection to local practitioners in conference locales and shared learning between arts administration educators and those working directly in the field. Nomination/Awardee parameters regarding impact, years of service, or other guidelines would need to be determined.


Current and future students and faculty who come from under-represented or otherwise marginalized groups deserve experiences that are free from bias and inclusive of a vibrant array of arts, artists, scholars, and practitioners. With the implementation of these recommendations and strategies, we believe AAAE members can begin the work of providing such experiences to our students and co-workers. We look forward to enacting these initiatives and countering our historic exclusion and silence with justice and progress. The opportunity to begin this work and provide meaningful leadership on diversity and equity topics is upon us, and we look forward to the board’s partnership and support as we pursue it.