Essential viewing for arts leaders: Diane Ragsdale's "On Artistic Leadership & Aesthetic Value(s) in a Changed World"

This week as part of our ongoing series on equity, diversity and inclusion in the arts sector (#CulturalEquity) I’m very excited to share a thought-provoking keynote I saw at the Canadian Arts Summit this past Spring. Entitled “On Artistic Leadership and Aesthetic Value(s) in a Changed World: How do the aesthetic values of cultural institutions shape the values of a nation?” Diane Ragsdale raises important questions about the invisibility of whiteness in the aesthetic values that underpin our major cultural institutions and the broader impact this has. Diane frames this as an issue of leadership and expertly explores the question of what responsible artistic leadership looks like in our changed social context. The audience at this talk consisted of board chairs, CEOs and artistic directors of Canadian non-profit cultural institutions with budgets over $5 million. These organizations gather annually at this event organized by Business for the Arts and I attended as a Leadership Fellow. Given the issues of equity that we see playing out at the leadership level of cultural institutions (see Maranda’s research on this issue in this previous post), it was great to see these topics being addressed with the very people who are in the position to make the institutional changes needed.

Another important concept introduced in this keynote is cultural equity defined as the right to see your own story told and the right to see other peoples’ stories told.

Diane’s parting words to the arts leaders in the audience was a call to action to Canada’s artistic leadership: “You determine which art forms are attributed with status and respect. You have both the agency and the accountability to respond to the changed social context.”

Watch the keynote for yourself here.
Read Diane’s blog here.
Follow her on twitter @deragsdale

Diane Ragsdale is an Assistant Professor in the College of Performing Arts at The New School, where she also serves as Program Director for the MA in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship. Alongside her post at the New School Diane teaches on the Cultural Leadership Program at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada and teaches a workshop on Cultural Policy at Yale University for its Theater Management MA.

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Just adding the keynote video here:


In Diane’s keynote, she recommends a tool created by Animating Democracy that advances both the understanding and evaluation of creative work at the intersection of arts & civic engagement, community development, and justice. Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change describes 11 attributes of excellence defined by artists that can be observed in socially engaged work in all artistic disciplines. These attributes address the potency of creative expression to embody and motivate change.
It just so happens that we hosted a webinar with Animating Democracy’s Pam Korza on this very framework! Check it out here:

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