New ‘Advancing Cultural Equity’ Workshop and Technical Assistance Program! Deadline April 15


Advancing Cultural Equity Workshop and Technical Assistance Program

Jointly-sponsored by Rhode Island State Council for the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Foundation (RIF), this pilot program is designed to build capacity among Rhode Island arts and cultural organizations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Consisting of a three-part workshop series and technical assistance package, organizations will obtain the knowledge, tools, and strategies needed to attract and retain an engaged group of staff, volunteers, and board members through shared learning and individualized consultations with a field expert.

Potential applicants are highly encouraged to speak with Todd Trebour, RISCA’s Organizations Program Director, at 401-222-3882 or prior to application. A PDF version of the program guidelines is available here.

Program goals

  • Provide participating organizations with material that represents best practices in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) designed to assist each organization match their commitment to DEI with that of their stakeholders, audiences and cultural/service offerings.
  • Offer the cohort individualized assistance with creation of a plan for full implementation of equity and diversity practices and action steps.

Program components

  • Cohort: consists of 8-10 organizations selected via application. Organizations must complete a written application.
  • Participants: Up to three representatives from an organization must attend all sessions, including Executive Director (ED) and Board Chair.
  • Presenter and Technical Assistance Provider: Brea Heidelberg, Ph.D., assistant professor at Drexel University (see bio below).
  • Program elements: Workshops (3 hours each): each workshop will run from 9 AM – 12 PM on the date specified at RIF. Workshops will be followed by a networking lunch courtesy of RIF.
    • Friday, June 21, 2019 – Nuts and bolts of diversity, equity, and inclusion work: an overview.
    • Friday, August 30, 2019 – Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within your staff and volunteers.
    • Friday, September 27, 2019 – Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within your governing body. Upon completion of the workshops, participating organizations will be eligible for participation grants up to $1000 from the RI Foundation.
    • Individual technical assistance: up to 3 hours of individual phone, video conference and/or in-person coaching for ED and/or board chair after workshop series is completed, depending on org needs. Participating organizations will receive grants from RISCA to cover the cost of the 3 hours of technical assistance.
    • Peer-to-peer check in session 6, 9, and 12 months after first workshop to maintain accountability.
  • Program outcome (short-term): clearly defined staff and board diversity and equity development plan.
  • Program outcome (long-term): implementation of staff and board diversity and equity development plan. We understand implementation may only be initiated during program time table.


In order to build a sense of shared cohort for this pilot, organizations must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the state of Rhode Island.
  • Have arts and culture as central to the work of the organization.
  • Have an annual budget under 1.5 million.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the board and executive staff level.
  • Illustrate an understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Be ready to take the steps to implement change within 6-12 months.

The following criteria are not required, but are welcomed:

  • Demonstrate a past history of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the organization.

Because this is a pilot program, the cohort will be kept small and – in as much as possible – focus on a group of organizations who share similar attributes, including level of commitment, budget size, programming, and communities served.

Participation and performance in this program will have no impact on future or current funding from either RISCA or the RI Foundation.

Requirements of Pilot Program Participants

As pilot program participants, you will be helping RIF, RISCA, and Dr. Brea Heidelberg in developing this model of cohort-based DEI learning for organizations of small-to-mid sized budgets. Participants will be asked to complete surveys and respond to interview questions about their experiences. Participation in these assessments is voluntary and may stop at any time without forfeiting the right to continue in the cohort. All responses will be kept confidential and will be used to improve cohort structure, materials, and provide the arts and cultural field with insights into how to work toward field-wide equity.

Application and Review Process

Application deadline is April 15. Notification of acceptance into program will be by May 3.

Application will consist of a brief narrative and supplemental materials (see below). Application can be completed online via RISCA’s grant portal for organizations here.


While we want an organizational cohort that has shared attributes and commitment to this work, we also acknowledge that commitment is not always readily apparent in current organizational practices – which is why you might be interested in participating in this program! Dr. Heidelberg would like to get a sense of the breadth of experience among potential members of this cohort; we want organizations along a spectrum of accomplishment and welcome your honest answers to these questions:

In no more than two pages, please answer the following questions:

  • Briefly discuss your organization’s current diversity, equity and inclusion work. Highlight your areas of success or triumph, as well as your perceived areas of growth moving forward. If applicable, touch on the following areas:
    • Existence of trainings for staff and board on DEI.
    • Degree to which board and staff reflect communities served.
    • Processes for engaging staff in discussions around differences, and ensuring safety of staff in discussions.
    • Existence of written policies that relate to DEI (e.g. cultural equity statements, policy for reporting discrimination).
    • Existence of self-reflection and assessment by staff and board on organization’s DEI efforts.
    • Degree to which communities served and staff are allowed input into decision-making.
  • Picture your organization 5-10 years from now. What are 2-3 things would be different from a DEI perspective? What do you think you need to accomplish them?

Supplemental Materials

  • Board and staff list with * indicating Asian/Asian-American, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African-American, Middle Eastern/North African, Pacific Islander, and Native American individuals.
  • Brief, signed letters of support from ED and Board Chair indicating their interest in the program and commitment to attend the workshops.

About Dr. Brea Heidelberg

Brea is an arts management consultant, educator, and researcher. She is currently an Assistant Professor and Associate Program Director for the undergraduate Entertainment & Arts Management Program at Drexel University. Brea serves on the Emerging Leaders Council for Americans for the Arts and on the editorial board of the American Journal of Arts Management. She is also a Board Member of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, currently serving as Vice President and the chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force. Brea’s research and consulting work centers on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the arts management ecosystem, professional development issues facing arts administrators, and human resource management in arts and cultural organizations. She has a varied background that includes experiences as a dancer and choreographer as well as positions in community engagement and programming at both visual and performing arts organizations. Brea has completed specialized training in evaluation at Claremont Graduate School. She also earned her master’s in Human Resource Development from Villanova University and her doctorate in Arts Administration, Education, and Policy from The Ohio State University.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Lorén Spears

Exif_JPEG_PICTURELorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Masters in Education and has received numerous awards, including a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Rhode Island for her work. She is an author, traditional artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She is also a council member of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
LS: Yesterday I went to Providence as I serve on the MET School Board for an 8am meeting then went to the Secretary of State’s Office for the RI Historical Records Advisory Board (newly appointed by Governor Raimondo) for that meeting. After that meeting I stopped into an unique vintage shop and bought my nephew a gift to go with his traditional regalia, it was this amazing mink stole! He is an MET high school intern at Tomaquag and is focused on education and fashion design. He designed his last two grass dance outfits. Back in the office, I met with staff about various projects from collections, archives, education, retail and the Indigenous Empowerment Network. I spent quite a bit of time responding to emails, following up on partnerships, and preparing for grant writing & reports.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community/scene in Rhode Island?
LS: I love the diversity. I love the partnerships we have across the state. We have wonderful partnerships that allow the Indigenous viewpoint, voice and culture to be included. The partnership with Avenue Concept Project & Gaia an international street artist produced an amazing mural spotlighting Lynsea Montanari, a Narragansett, artist, IMG_6973.jpgcultural educator, college student and Millennial, holding a photograph of Princess Red Wing, Narragansett- Wampanoag Sachem, Educator and Culture Bearer. There are so many partnerships to mention but we are proud to be a partner with RISCA since its first Eastern Woodland Native American Art Show. Each year, the show becomes even more vibrant. We are partnered right now with the University of Rhode Island’s Fine Arts Gallery for the show, Yo Nuweekun; We Dwell Here. It continues until March 1st. We have worked with many organizations to bring Indigenous arts into visibility within our homelands. Check out the painted cairn in Roger Williams National Memorial Park, painted by Tomaquag Narragansett Interns Robin Spears III & Lynsea Montanari. We partner annually with the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Charlestown, RI over Labor Day weekend. It includes an Narragansett elder Dawn Dove, providing the opening welcome & blessing; Native Artist collaborative vendor tent; free daily art workshops; storyteller Thawn Harris in Family tent; and last year The Groovolottos, a funk R&B band, performed in the Roots Tent. Through all of these artist partnerships, we want Rhode Islanders & Tourists alike to know “We Are Still Here” and to learn about our history, culture and contemporary lives through the arts.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
LS: It is my Homeland, as a Narragansett. We are the First Peoples of this place. Our ancestors are here. However, I was born in Spokane, Washington, as my father was in the Air Force. We moved back home when I was two. I have no memory of our time there. This is my home.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
LS: Visibility for the smaller yet impactful community arts organizations, they make Rhode Island vibrant, serve their community, and impact Rhode Island through tourism, economic investment and quality of life.

IMG_3425.jpgRISCA: What Rhode Island artists and/or arts organizations most inspire you and why?
LS: There are so many wonderful and impactful RI artists and arts organizations that I struggle to narrow it down but I will name a few. Holly Ewald, UPPArts for her ability to use art for environmental change and creating a coalition of folks to join her from all walks of life. Valerie Tutson, RIBS, for bringing untold history to life through storytelling. Dawn Spears, NIAA & Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative, for supporting New England Native artists’ development via NEFA, her own artwork, design work, arts leadership and integrating arts into all her advocacy. Nancy Brown Garcia, Narragansett, for the world record for smallest beadwork. Allen Hazard, for his wampum art, willingness to mentor other artists and share his story with the world. My husband, Robin Spears, Jr. for expressing our history, culture, ecological knowledge through his art, for inspiring others, and for passing his gifts to our children, all traditional artists. For the late, Ella Seketau, along with Alberta Wilcox and the late Diosa Summers, who at various times taught me to Fingerweave and twine. I am forever grateful, as it is an artform, I love and am blessed to share with others. To all my tribal elders, family, and especially my mother, Dawn Dove, who shared their cultural, arts knowledge with me and empowered me to share it with my family and community. Kutaputush! Thank you!

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Hernan Jourdan

Free Portrait Vancouver - Hernan JourdanHernan “Americo” Jourdan was born in Argentina. He studied filmmaking at Tokyo Visual Arts and after traveling across South and North America settled in Providence, Rhode Island. He has recently came back from a residency at Cité Internationale des Artes in Paris to write the chronicles of his travels and he’s an anchor host for the podcast “Thank You For Listening” –a bilingual platform where Latinx identities are debated and reflected upon, partially funded by RISCA, and a freelance producer for the arts.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.

HJ: I like this question –It feels gossipy. I like that there is an interest in the life of the artist aside from what it produces. So right now I’m in Argentina and yesterday I was filling out an application for a possible housing opportunity. I came to travel for long periods of time so my dwelling places change often. I consider myself lucky because living in different places gives one a lot to think of. It becomes inevitable to be surprised and to question, and the exercise can deliver a deeper understanding of how we live, and what cities are built for. Uncertainty is inevitable while moving in and out of places. I came to appreciate its confounding quality. It keeps me at bay.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice and work as an arts and culture administrator?

HJ: A “culture administrator” is interesting terminology. How do you “administrate” La despedida - Hernan Jourdanculture? The image it brings to me is an intra-skin tube into something –as if anybody is waiting for it or depends on it. An unnatural procedure. But there is nothing unnatural about culture. It is the most unavoidable act after sleeping and eating. Perhaps even before having sex. Culture is our nature, and in any case we should feel proud to nourish it. I don’t identify myself much as a culture administrator but as a person who is an artist and is applying himself to projects where I can find money and interest –the first one for need, the last one for luck. I happen to believe culture is the one thing that we as a specie can do for fun while untangling the mysteries of our human condition. That I’m excited about. Pretty much all the time.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

HJ: It’s my way of partaking. Unfortunately we have endangered the ecosystem we are a part of to such an extent I have to conclude the old ways have led us to failure. Some still have energies to deny this but we can’t afford to keep moving towards a black hole where entire species of the animal kingdom are disappearing daily, to mention one of the many facts. That’s why I want to be a piece of the puzzle. There is a bigger picture.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

lifted1 - Hernan JourdanHJ: Confidence –which doesn’t translate into sparkle and glamour (although it can have that too). People are already doing very interesting things –in the arts and culture. We need to make efforts to travel more locally in order to become more acquainted with neighbor districts. Rhode Island is a small state but it feels somehow fractured. We need to travel more to see that play in Pawtucket, even though the 20 minute ride makes it feel far away for our standard. When more people engage, more connections are made; we get to know each other more, and we might even start doing things together. I like to think this helps our places become bolder, more inhabited, more ours. What at least I can say is that this dynamic gave me a sense of belonging and agency in a place that was completely new to me five years ago.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

HJ: Stay focused. There are not a lot of things really important to do right now for me. It s a straight arrow. And yet, distractions take me away from it. And I mean on a personal level. Which is my one and only life. I don’t always make the right choices and what’s striking is that I’m aware of it.

Check out Hernan’s Thank You for Listening podcast here.