Creative Mornings: Photo Courtesy of Steve Weinik
Scaling Equality: Reflections from Philadelphia
By Rashanda E. Freeman


CreativeMornings PHL

If you haven’t attended CreativeMornings, you’re missing out. For those of you not familiar with CreativeMornings, it’s a nationwide breakfast lecture series for the creative community that features monthly speakers on a range of topics and ideas.

Luckily for me, this month’s focus was Equality – and featured the wisdom of Sara Zia Ebrahimi, who just happens to be a pretty amazing media maker, cultural producer, and Program Director at the Leeway Foundation. A friend and colleague of mine, Sara Zia brought nothing but empathy and honesty to the conversation as she shared her origin story and how her Iranian parents taught her how to question people in power. More so, she systematically broke down how equality does not, due to popular belief, equal equity.

Below, you’ll find a few gems from her lecture. I encourage you to read through and examine your own commitment to equity both within and beyond the creative sector.

  • “No gain is worth it if you’re not bringing everyone from the bottom up with you.”
  • “If we’re talking about equity – not equality – in terms of diversity, are you ready to leave the table, not just add another chair?”
  • “Ask yourself: Where do you hold power or privilege right now and where can you let go of it to make the world more equitable?”

In/Out: Summer Symposium on Scales, Impact, and Inclusion in Socially-Engaged Art

“Although there’s often an authoritarian tone associated with scaling up, I’m not opposed to it. Yet, my experiences in the arena of community cultural development has produced an understanding of scaling OUT, as opposed to scaling UP, as it’s based in relationship building and collaboration.”

These words are from Roberto Bedoya, artist and recently appointed Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Oakland. From the first time I stumbled onto Bedoya’s work, I was enamored by his direct, yet poetic writing – and how he theorized “placekeeping” as a strategy to combat gentrification, which is often guised as placemaking.

Bedoya’s keynote at the In/Out Symposium was no different. Fiercely direct and empathetically poetic, he spoke about the concept of scaling out as a non-authoritarian form of growth, a way of embracing relationships, similar to the horizontal growth of a cactus.

In/Out Symposium, presented by Moore College of Art and Mural Arts Philadelphia, encourages folks to think about the local and national landscape of socially-engaged art. Through a combination of panel discussion and site visits, In/Out allows participants to explore social art practice from multiple vantage points and hear from artists, organizations, and grantmakers.

Below, I want to share some of those folks with you and highlight some of the their work. Check out their incredible work in our city and beyond.

Jess Krimes: This formerly incarcerated, interdisciplinary artist creates work that “investigates the human condition in an attempt to disentangle complex value systems and hierarchies.” In addition, he founded the Right of Return USA Fellowship, supporting formerly incarcerated artists. Fun fact: Krimes was just named a distinguished 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellow.

Taller Puertorriqueño: Known as El Corazón Cultural del Barrio (The Cultural Heart of Latino Philadelphia), this community center, “uses art to promote development within the community and the Latino Diaspora to build bridges throughout the Greater Philadelphia region.” Fun fact: Taller has been in operation since 1974, serving the community for over 42 years!

Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation: A grantmaker that celebrates the arts in local communities which “includes offering many grants each year to small arts organizations who are making a big impact, and presenting regular professional training events to help teaching artists better share their gifts and support their careers”. Fun fact: Bartol’s most recent batch up grantees featured 22 arts and cultural organizations, receiving over $115,000.