Challenging St. Louis nonprofits to diversify both internally and through community engagement
ST. LOUIS, MO – Gitana Productions, Inc. and the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) are presenting “Cross-Cultural Engagement: Building a Diverse and Dynamic Community,” a conference for arts and nonprofit organizations, at Webster University on October 11 and 12. Cost for the two-day conference is just $45 and scholarships are available. Registration is available online at www.stlcross-culturalengagement.org.
The conference will help non-profit arts, social services, education and community organizations develop strategies and tools to effectively engage new and underserved communities, develop lasting cross-cultural relationships and improve their own internal diversity.
“RAC considers diversity and cross-cultural engagement very important to the cultural vitality of our region,” said Jill McGuire, executive director of RAC, which provides financial, technical and other support for St. Louis arts organizations.
Howard J. Ross, one of the nation’s leading diversity training consultants, will deliver the keynote address. Ross is an expert on diversity, leadership, and organizational change, the author of ReInventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to
Strengthen People, Purpose, and Performance and a regular guest on National Public Radio. Visit www.reinventingdiversity.com/ for more information.
The performance ensemble Urban Bush Women Leadership Institute of New York, which uses cultural expression as a catalyst for social change, will lead their exciting experiential workshop “Entering, Building and Exiting Community.” Modeled after a successful three-month engagement in New Orleans, the workshop uses theater games, writing and movement exercises as experiential learning tools. Participants learn how to become aware of the values, leadership and history of a community; put those values into action in community building; and ensure that everyone involved in community building feels recognized and can identify what they learned from the experience. Visit www.urbanbushwomen.org for more information.
“Organizations will get the tools they need to go beyond simply meeting diversity goals and learn how to develop true relationships with diverse groups, for long-term results,” said Cecilia Nadal, executive director of Gitana Productions, a nonprofit arts organization that has used music, dance and drama to engage and collaborate with diverse ethnic groups since 1997.
Cross-Cultural Engagement Conference sessions include:
- How Immigration is Changing the Face of St. Louis and America
- Interpersonal Skills in Cross-Cultural Engagement
- “Cultural Paella: A Taste of Hispanic Diversity – wonderful & satisfying!”
- Local Models of Cross Cultural Engagement
- Accessing Possibilities, Expanding Horizons: Identifying Pathways for Engagement with Communities of People with Disabilities
- More than One-Dimensional: Explore Asian Diversity in St. Louis
- Race, Class and Racism: The Dinosaurs We Choose Not to See in St. Louis
- Changing the Complexion: Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts
- Finding Common Ground in Our Diversity to Enrich St. Louis
A poverty simulation will help participants understand the day-to-day reality of poverty in the lives of low-income families, single parents, people with disabilities, senior citizens on Social Security and others. Each “family” in the workshop will provide for food, shelter and other necessities during four 15-minute “weeks.” The exercise is not a game but a simulation that allows participants to view poverty from different angles and to discuss the potential for change within local communities.
“Gitana has learned over the past 15 years that we need to go beyond traditional diversity goals, beyond counting faces at events, and toward truly engaging with others. Cross-cultural engagement means that we take the time to learn about people who are very different from us, invite their input and feedback, and build long-term, authentic relationships,” said Nadal. “When you have that kind of two-way agenda setting and communications, the benefits accrue to all groups in an equitable way. Projects tend to be more creative, and those involved develop true ownership.”
Gitana and RAC are collaborating with the leaders of more than 75 organizations, representing a wide array of ethnic groups and cultures. Steering committee members include the Diversity Awareness Partnership, the International Institute, Webster University, Monsanto, Grand Center Inc., St. Louis University, Harris-Stowe University, Focus St. Louis and many others (see list at http://www.synergy-pr.com/press/GitanaProductions/24/1207/0).
About the Conference (www.stlcross-culturalengagement.org)
“Cross-Cultural Engagement: Building a Diverse and Dynamic Community” will be held October 11 and 12 at Webster University in Webster Groves. Registration is $45 and includes lunch; scholarships are available. The conference will give members of non-profit arts, social services, education and community organizations the strategies and tools they need to effectively engage new and underserved communities, develop lasting cross-cultural relationships and improve their own internal diversity. Videos on the conference are available at http://stlcross-culturalengagement.org/conference-videos/.
About Gitana Productions (www.gitana-inc.org)
Gitana Productions, Inc. is a not-for-profit arts and education organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural awareness and collaboration by bringing international music, dance and drama to the St. Louis community. Gitana events present a rarely seen diversity of international and local artists exhibiting an array of traditional and innovative artistic expressions. Gitana also developed Global Education through the Arts, a community project that uses the arts to promote intercultural competence among economically challenged youth living in South and North St. Louis city. For more information, visit http://www.gitana-inc.org or call Gitana Productions at (314) 721-6556.
About the Regional Arts Commission (www.art-stl.com)
The Regional Arts Commission (RAC) is at the forefront of efforts to transform St. Louis into a more vibrant, creative and economically thriving community through elevating the vitality, value and visibility of the arts. Formed in 1985, the commission is the largest annual funder of the arts in the region and has awarded over 5800 grants totaling more than$76 million. Directed by a board of 15 commissioners appointed by the chief executives of St. Louis City and County, RAC advocates respect, inclusion and appreciation of the diverse cultures of all individuals. In 2012 it awarded 186 grants totaling more than $2.9 million to the area’s arts organizations, consortiums and cultural programs. RAC is located at 6128 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, Mo., 63112 (314) 863-5811 www.art-stl.com. RAC produces the most comprehensive cultural calendar in the region, www.artszipper.com, Facebook: Regional Arts Commission and Twitter: RACStLouis.
Conference – www.stlcross-culturalengagement.org
Regional Arts Council – www.art-stl.com
Gitana – www.gitana-inc.org
Howard Ross – www.reinventingdiversity.com
Urban Bush Women – www.urbanbushwomen.org