It isn’t always easy

It’s not always easy.

As many of you know, Arts Corps is experiencing some unrest and change, and the pain has been palpable. 

In the past several months, we’ve had to navigate the dismissals and resignations of key staff. Some of these changes surprised and disappointed members of our team, who shared that disappointment with the community. Heartbreak was felt all around.

While ensuring first and foremost that our student instruction wasn’t impacted in the short-term, we immediately doubled down on the hard long work of mending hearts and mapping steps to help us come out the other side stronger and more whole.

We held a gathering for our staff and teachers designed as an opportunity for healing and mediation within our organization. We then worked with our board to hire a respected, independent, and professional facilitator. Dr. Taylor was brought in to lead our mediations because she is a highly-regarded expert mediator specializing in equity and inclusion. She is here to guide us and to help ensure staff and faculty are respected and heard around the issues Arts Corps is grappling with. Dr. Taylor has not previously worked with James, or Arts Corps, which was one of many considerations by our board to ensure this facilitator would be unbiased. While some staff declined to participate in our first mediation, we are holding our second mediation tomorrow and remain hopeful staff and teaching artists will work together with us to continue evolving this organization to better serve everyone. At the request of staff, I’ll also, as Board President, be present at the mediation. 

We are looking at everything from organizational hierarchies to how we can increase pay and support for teachers and staff-members at a faster pace than previously thought possible. Our decisions will be made with great care, incorporating the guidance of a representative group of experts, our community, our supporters, and our board.

Since our inception nearly 20 years ago, Arts Corps has strived to be a light for young people in our city, providing music, poetry, theater, visual arts and more to those who couldn’t access it otherwise. We aimed to ensure the teaching artists providing instruction were highly valued in word and deed to reflect the deep respect we have for them and their work.

We are a man of color and a woman of color. Many of our teachers and staff members are people of color coming from multiple intersectional identities, as are the students we serve. But our demographic statistics don’t, on their own, change the imbalance of power felt by many within our own organization or organizations like ours.

Throughout all of this, one thing is clear, and has always been clear: we believe in the importance of empowering and changing the lives of young people through arts education. And we are committed to doing everything we can to listen, learn, facilitate and support this work in the best ways possible for students, teachers, staff and our community. 

It’s not always easy. But it is unquestionably worth it. 

– James Miles and Tanisha Felder