'Talking Art' with Gaye Shannon Burnett & Jonathan Burnett about Racial Inequity in the Arts

Jul 20, 2020

Racial inequity in the arts is well documented across all genres, from theatre, to film, literature, and the visual arts. The public outcry and protests that have occurred this year following the death of George Floyd and countless other people of color have resulted in a strong public reckoning regarding our own implicit biases regarding race. Those biases, in combination with existing economic disparities and entrenched institutional hierarchies affect what we see and view on screen, on stage, in museums, and read in books.

Listen to the conversation here with Gaye Shannon Burnett, co-founder of the Azubuike African American Center for the Arts in Davenport, IA and with Jonathan Burnett, Executive Director of Azubuike and an independent filmmaker, about their thoughts and experiences regarding racial inequality in the arts, and how they are working to counter that by giving a voice to underrepresented youth through Azubuikeā€™s Urban Exposure Independent Film Project.

Want to learn more? The multicultural book publisher Lee & Low Books is a good resource regarding inequality in literature, and their 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey is enlightening. Read this recent story told by eight Black publishing professionals about their careers in the literary world. A plethora of statistics exist on diversity (or lack thereof) in the permanent collections of major art museums, and a landmark study in 2019 by Dr. Chad Topaz from Williams College revealed that 85% of artists represented in the institutions studied were white, while 87% were men. And in film, #OscarsSoWhite, a social justice campaign, started in 2016 after every nominee for the major acting awards was white. But beyond the awards itself, racial bias affects which stories are even told. Not having your story told is perhaps the greatest injustice of all.