In June 2020, George Floyd’s brutal death at the hands of the police intensified our thinking about social justice issues and compelled us to take action. In response, the Division of the Arts formed the Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee to turn our commitment to embrace and serve all members of our diverse arts community into meaningful action. This committee is made up of seven Division staff members and two students, former residents of The Studio Creative Arts Learning Community.
In this time of reckoning with institutionalized racial injustice, violence, and oppression, the Division of the Arts embraces the potential of the arts to express and process anger, outrage, and sorrow by engaging all dimensions of our being. We call on the unique power of the arts to challenge, illuminate, and transform the status quo in order to bring awareness, healing, empathy, hope, and joy to the interconnected world in which we live.
The Division of the Arts, like the UW–Madison, believes that diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation. We join our campus colleagues in valuing the contributions of each person and respecting the profound ways their identity, culture, religion, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinions enrich the university community.
We are proud to be the home of The Studio, one of the most diverse residential student learning communities on campus, which houses the incoming cohort of First Wave Scholars. Through the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program, the Division has long brought world class, innovative, and diverse artists to campus to engage with students, staff, faculty, and local communities.
However, we recognize that we are a primarily white staff in a predominantly white institution (PWI) with a complex history. We need to engage in self-education, come to terms with the harm we may have caused, and make our unit and our programming more inclusive and diverse. We must leverage our position of power to listen to, uplift, and amplify BIPOC voices.
Statements of support are meaningless without actions to make real change in the world. We are committed to embracing and serving all members of our diverse community while building on our existing efforts through new initiatives identified by the IDEA Committee. We are concentrating on five areas to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the Division, including: communications, outreach, staffing, programming, and student support. Some of our initiatives include:
- Instituting an IDEA professional development requirement for all Division staff
- Connecting and establishing relationships with identified student multicultural or advocacy organizations or initiatives in the arts to learn how we can support them
- Continuing to center and highlight BIPOC artists in our social media
- Providing award and funding opportunities for creative work that advances IDEA vision and priorities
To learn more about our action plan, please visit artsdivision.wisc.edu/committees/idea. This webpage will be updated regularly as we continue this important work.
Susan Zaeske, Interim Director of the Division of the Arts
and the members of the IDEA Committee