Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Hate Your Work: An Open Discussion at the Alliance of Resident Communities Conference

by Shawn René Graham, Deputy Director, Programs and Services
In early October I moderated a panel discussion at the Alliance of Artists Communities in Portland, Oregon.  The discussion centered around the unconscious and conscious biases we all bring to judging artists' work. Helen Daltoso (Grants Officer, Regional Arts + Culture Council), Daniel Jaquez (Freelance Stage Director, Theatre-maker and Translator), Eleanor Savage (Senior Program Officer, Jerome Foundation) and James Scruggs (Artist + Facilitator, The Field) shared their experiences in addressing bias whether they are adjudicating work, trying to get work produced or educating others about how bias may permeate other aspects of our work in the arts sector. 

Rather than reflect on our talk and recount it all to you, I wanted to share a partial video of the discussion in hopes that what you hear will encourage you to think about unconscious and conscious bias wherever you are in the arts sector.  While the video covers the first forty minutes during which our panelists responded to and reflected on their own encounters with bias, those in attendance also discussed their experiences and some possible solutions they can employ.  As you watch, think about how bias has affected you or how you may have perpetuated bias in your own work.  The honesty of Eleanor’s own definition of bias, Helen’s transparency about funding artists and persistent community participation and James’ stark reminder of how assumptions are made based on what we think we see is important to hear. What are some of your solutions?

I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below. 

 I Hate Your Work in Portland was just the beginning of The Field’s work on the topic of bias and we will continue our exploration vigorously.  Look for us at The Fire This Time Festival in January 2017.  The program will consist of a panel discussion and the next phase, I Hate Your Work in Action.
From left, Daniel Jaquez, Eleanor Savage, 
Shawn René Graham and James Scruggs

This follow-up workshop puts the topics and strategies discussed during the panel into actionParticipants will be invited to observe a condensed session of Fieldwork, The Field’s core program that offers artists a unique forum to share works in development and exchange critical, non-directorial, peer-to-peer feedback. Incisive and stimulating critiques are guided by experienced facilitators while you – our guests – are invited to watch and deeply reflect on how this model disrupts biased thinking or assumptions that are made during the course of critiquing artistic work and its potential for showcase or further development. Stay Tuned!

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