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Steps toward equity: NAAC program connects BIPOC arts administrators with mentors

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Steps toward equity: NAAC program connects BIPOC arts administrators with mentors
Dawn Simmons (left) and Jazzmin Bonner, participants in NAAC Boston’s Mentorship and Sponsorship Program attending a pre-pandemic launch event. PHOTO: Courtesy of ArtsBoston

The Network for Arts Administrators of Color (NAAC Boston), a program of ArtsBoston, announced its new year of mentorship between BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) business and cultural leaders and Boston arts administrators of color.

Aimed at increasing professional growth and leadership opportunities among the BIPOC arts community, the program pairs mid-level arts administrators with executive-level business leaders to share knowledge and provide professional guidance. The project is a step toward a more equitable and diverse arts industry in Boston.

Yvonne Cain, senior vice president and group media director of the global media firm MediaHub Worldwide, is one of the sponsors in this year’s program. “It is true in the arts, as in all other industries, that inclusion, representation and the raising of diverse voices makes the work better, deeper and more resonant,” Cain says. “ArtsBoston’s commitment to making real change toward racial equity in the arts is the reason I joined the board and why I became a sponsor in this program.”

NAAC was founded in 2016. This mentorship program is part of the organization’s robust roster of resources for BIPOC professionals in the arts industry. NAAC also maintains an extensive online directory that’s regularly tapped by grantmakers looking to support diverse voices. Job opportunities and peer support are also shared via a community run listserv and the group has grown to more than 400 members.

This year’s arts workers benefiting from the program as mentees include Maria Servellon (Northeastern University), Cameron Lane (Artists for Humanity), Leslie Condon (Pao Arts Center), Lani Asuncion (Digital Soup) and Kat Nakaji (ArtLab at Harvard University), Jamison Cloud (MassArt), Noelle Villa (Harvard Museums of Science and Culture), Amy Chu (Massachusetts Cultural Council), Holly Dyer (Community Music Center of Boston) and Merlo Philiossaint (artist).

Jazzmin Bonner, program manager for StageSource and a co-producer for Plays in Place, is a mentor for this year’s program. She says the need for resources like this is profound in the Boston arts scene. “Being an arts administrator of color can be an isolating and challenging experience,” Bonner says. “We face particular challenges around culture, interpersonal communication and promotion that require a specific set of skills and awareness.”

In addition to providing one-on-one mentorship and meetings between the administrators and executives, the program coordinates broader networking sessions and a collection of resources that BIPOC arts professionals can use going forward. Bonner says, “This mentor/sponsor program is a great way to address those challenges with smart matches and deep sharing of knowledge and networks.”

arts, NAAC Boston
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