This study, a follow-up to a 2020 report that suggested that Black Americans are less likely than others to participate in the arts, seeks to better understand cultural and creative preferences among Black communities. Researchers conducted open-ended, 90-minute interviews with 50 Black Americans from across the U.S. Four main ideas emerged. Respondents reported that they most value arts experiences and organizations that:
- Celebrate Black creativity;
- Support self-care, a practice that respondents say is especially important in Black communities;
- Make a sustained commitment to earn Black communities’ trust; and
- Foster a sense of belonging among Black communities.
The views of 50 people cannot represent the full spectrum of attitudes among Black Americans across the country. But the report's authors, based on these interviews and their own professional experience, suggest that the themes their interviews uncovered could help arts organizations build more meaningful relationships with Black communities. They add, however, that cultural institutions may have to reconsider many long-held practices and assumptions. They offer several “provocations” for the field to encourage such reconsiderations. Among them, they challenge institutions to:
- Rethink their definitions of creativity to include nonprofessional, “everyday creativity;”
- Focus not on the formality or informality of the experiences on offer, but on the personal relationships those experiences help build; and
- Better depict Black experiences, highlighting not just the injustices Black communities have faced, but providing “a fuller view of their humanity, … one that also highlights Black joy, leisure, connection, innovation, and brilliance.”
This report is part of Culture + Community in a Time of Transformation: A Special Edition of Culture Track, a multi-pronged effort in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to better understand the dynamics of race, culture, creativity and social change in the U.S. Previous iterations of this research found lower rates of participation in the arts, as they are traditionally defined, among Black Americans than among other groups. This report is meant to better understand Black communities’ interactions with arts and culture as they define them and learn more about how arts organizations can adapt to better serve and support Black Americans.