It was June, in the midst of COVID-19, when Montana Major started Grand Rapids Community Arts
(GRCA), with the mission of creating more diversity and inclusion in the city’s arts community.
Major, a photographer and ceramics artist, says that the organization’s focus is bringing visibility to underrepresented artists, such as artists of color, LGBTQ artists, and female artists, many of whom are underrepresented in large arts institutions.
Major first began learning about the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion in arts institutions while enrolled in Michigan State’s Arts and Cultural Management and Museum Studies program. Instead of working at an established institution, she decided to build something of her own.
A 2019 study
of the diversity of artists in 18 major U.S. art museums found that overall, about 85% of artists are white and 87% are men. Only 2.8% are Hispanic and only 1.2% are Black.
Major says that one of the first steps to leveling the playing field in the arts community is for leadership to be aware of the issues. The next step is to engage in conversations with those personally affected, which is a large part of GRCA’s programming.
GRCA hosts monthly roundtables, open discussions allowing community members to provide input on future programming and important issues in the arts community.
“We're trying to focus on underrepresented artists, which although I am a woman, you know, I'm white. And so my voice isn't the only one that needs to be heard right now,” says Major. “And so with these community roundtables, we're hoping that a lot of different community members who want to share their thoughts and opinions will come to these monthly meetings, and just share their thoughts.”
Each month, GRCA also features a Grand Rapids artist and showcases their work. This month, Nicholas Anzivino
, a painter and tattoo artist at Intentional Ink
, was featured.
The goal of GRCA isn’t solely to focus on diversity and inclusion in the arts, but to encompass the diversity of art forms and mediums, from visual arts to music, theater, poetry, and dance.
Looking ahead, Major says she hopes to partner with Element 7
, an artist-run collective empowering the BIPOC (Black-Indigenous-People of Color) art community, and to further engage in conversation with art institutions in the city.
Learn more about the next GRCA roundtable here
Photos courtesy of Nicholas Anzivino.