The notion that art spaces are neutral – a claim by arts institutions that they represent universal cultural values and are therefore above the sociopolitical fray – has become a contested issue in the US arts sector. From critics testing the “universality” of widely held Western European cultural norms, raising issues of colonial appropriation, and questioning the motivations of an elite that ensure these traditions continue, the so-called “myth of neutrality” has been put to the test. As calls for greater inclusion and equity increase – particularly in terms of programming, audience, and hiring – how do arts managers guide staff, board members, and organizational strategy?
The UB Arts Management Program organized a 7-day excursion to New York City and Washington, DC to meet arts managers, artists, activists and visit arts organizations. We discussed their views, programs, and positions pertaining to art institutions’ implicit cultural and social biases and the ways they negotiate the ongoing pressures to be equitable, inclusive, and accessible. As educators training future arts managers that will inevitably face these issues, we were - and remain - interested in hearing divergent views concerning the “myth of neutrality” and to learn about programs, strategies, and rationales that arts managers have employed to address these concerns.