Updated March 2021
We acknowledge that systemic racism and bias permeates every industry in our nation. This includes the performing arts, an industry that historically has failed to acknowledge the innumerable contributions of Black artists. We recognize our responsibility as an international steward in the fields of opera, dance, music, and theater, while also recognizing our place in Charleston—a city fraught with historical and modern-day racial injustices.
As a presenting and producing organization, Spoleto Festival USA has a unique platform to amplify Black voices. Representation in the forms of dialogue, education, and performance teach us not only about artists’ creative processes, but also about the larger historical and cultural contexts surrounding their work. Spoleto will continue to program works created by people of color and those identifying as LGBTQIA+. We will also continue to commission new works (such as our next opera, Omar) that engage a broad range of perspectives. In this vein, we pledge to examine our own practices of engaging artists—especially those in leadership roles such as directors, composers, designers, and choreographers—thinking deeply about the works created and their intended audiences, including beneficiaries of our Spoleto ETC (Engaging the Community) programs. As part of Spoleto ETC this spring, we are continuing our ongoing Exploring Omar Discussion Series and Book Talks with Charleston County Public Library–online discussions about race, arts activism, and the African diaspora.
Spoleto Festival USA recognizes that Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion initiatives must be infused in all practices at each level of the organization—the values cannot apply to a single entity or programming endeavors alone. Spoleto is committed to ensuring that DEAI initiatives are part of its long-term strategies; this necessary work cannot be rushed or done performatively. For this reason, Spoleto has engaged a DEAI consultant to work with staff to set realistic goals and help steer their efforts.
In December 2020, Spoleto staff members also participated in two DEAI and anti-racism workshops. These workshops helped provide a framework for an ongoing Spoleto staff-led DEAI committee that had been formed in September 2020 and continues to meet bi-weekly. Staff members have also formed a book discussion group that meets outside of business hours and is geared towards personal development and learning.
These actions are by no means exhaustive, and we will remain accountable as we move towards a more accessible and inclusive Festival.