Solving Diversity Issues in the Creative Economy

On April 11, 2018, ACE had a creative economy event with the subject “Open Forum: Diversity in the Creative Economy”.  The purpose of this meeting was to engage members of the community and have a conversation about diversity in the Upstate NY creative economy. Although this is the third-largest economic industry locally, providing jobs to those in the Capital Region, there is an issue with diversity. The 2010 census data shows a community not as diverse in cities like Albany, NY, but as a lifelong resident of Troy and Albany NY, I can tell you those numbers are not accurate.

Although there are many groups and organizations in the capital region that cater to diversity issues of the creative economy creative, they are quite separate culturally. Organizations like ACE and Power Breakfast Club have been instrumental in providing ways to bridge the gap and truly work towards a greater, more inclusive creative economy. However, nationally recognized organizations, like AIGA, of which I was personally a member, did not make me feel welcome as a woman of color.

The Open Forum, moderated by Ada Harper of 518blk.com, had 5 panelists.

DJ Trumaster, founder of Beat Shot Productions,  

Dale Davidson, Owner of Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar,

Bhawin Suchar, executive director of Youth FX,  

Hana van der Kolk, Troy-based touring choreographer and performance artist,

and myself, Ashleigh K Lindsay, of Digitally Grounded.

Panelists shared their experiences in the creative economy, and the successes and struggles they have overcome to get where they are today.  Many of the stories shared were successes that have come out of the need to create something for others like themselves, as many times they were the ones being left without a seat at the table. The conversation went on. How do we create a truly inclusive environment for creatives of any race, culture, gender, etc to come together and share their gifts and voices in a way that benefits the entire community?

After a formal discussion, the audience asked their questions to the panel, and many were of the same common thread. What do we need to do? How do we do it? What would the next step be? Many of the answers also had common threads. Organizations need to be more inclusive and not just plan a diverse event, but make diversity a part of the planning for every event.

One of my suggestions was to create a community within ACE that would provide a digital Rolodex of sorts, and include the freelancers and professionals involved with ACE between event times. A network where these creatives could share their ideas and collaborate with one another. ACE networking events have been a wonderful resource for me as a creative to meet other creative folks, and have lit a fire in me when it comes to creating change in my community. I appreciate the event, and the opportunity to share my thought on it. I certainly hope this conversation does not die as mere words and ideas, but lives and thrives on the energy it has been given to make the Capital Region one of the most diverse, and creative regions in the country. If any part of this article has stirred you, I encourage you to take action and get involved with ACE and your creative economy.

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