December 16, 2022
Earlier this year, the Guild entered a process that we called the Portal of transformation. The purpose of this process is threefold: to become more fully aligned with our racial equity principles, policies and values; to continue our historic service and advocacy work while imagining an inclusive organization which reflects the nation’s broad and diverse community arts sector; and to strategically position the Guild for relevance and resiliency into the future. Transformation or revisioning requires curiosity, a deep commitment to the field of community arts education that we serve, and the willingness to think within a renewal mindset and make bold changes. As Albert Einstein once said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” We, the trustees of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the only national organization dedicated to the growth and sustenance of Community Arts Education, in fulfilling the Guild’s mission and our responsibility to communicate with our members and the field at large, are pleased to share our first transmission about the Guild's re-imagining process and some reasons why this transformation is crucial to the the goals and vision of the organization.
A number of messages have been transmitted from the organization. We are in the process of realizing a communications strategy to ensure that all transmissions to you are transparent and fully crystallized within the National Guild’s mission and values as we move into a strategic plan and a new, inclusive era of service and advocacy to Community Arts Education in all of its forms and functions.
The appointment of our current Executive Director, Quanice Floyd has been pivotal to this process. Quanice Floyd, a dynamic, enthusiastic and prophetic leader has demonstrated the capacity, imagination and experience to guide us toward the emergent vision of equity, community, leadership and creativity that is foundational for a transformed National Guild for Community Arts Education. We present to you the Guild’s key transformational message in the inspiring words of the Executive Director: “The Guild’s work over the past 85 years has helped us build a strong foundation to support community arts education leaders around the country. After these past two years, we realized that we are on the right track with the “why” but now is the time to expand the “how” we do our work so that we can best adapt to the needs of our community. The only way we can accomplish this is by working collectively together and by seeing humanity in one another. Together, we can strengthen the community arts education ecosystem so that our communities can thrive by removing barriers. We must use our creativity to better not only the community arts education field, but the entire world. The time to do this is now.”
Our 85 years of organizational service and advocacy began in 1937 as the National Guild of Community Music Schools. In 2009 we changed our name to the National Guild for Community Arts Education, to reflect a more inclusive vision of community arts beyond the “music school-based” model, and in 2017 we articulated a new mission—“To ensure all people have opportunities to maximize their creative potential by developing leaders, strengthening organizations, and advocating for community arts education.”
These changes have allowed the Guild to grow from less than 20 member organizations during the first few decades, to over 300 members throughout the U.S. As the Guild expands to include all arts disciplines, populations and types of community organizations, we recognize that to fully realize our mission we need to grow and transition in a manner that is more inclusive, and serves and uplifts communities and organizations which have been historically excluded.
2015 was a primary turning point in the Guild's history as we embarked on a journey towards a culturally and racially equitable vision. At this time, the values of Equity, Community, Leadership and Creativity were named, and guided the formation of a Board Committee to ensure that our core values were actualized within the policies, procedures, programming, processes, and actions of the National Guild for Community Arts Education.
In 2020, the Guild’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved our Racial Equity Guiding Principles and Policies as an addendum to the Guild’s by-laws. In so doing, the Board created a mandate that we consciously shift our focus to include and prioritize communities who have been most impacted by inequity and injustice.
To midwife a transformation of this magnitude is challenging, since Equity was not a foundational building block for the Guild. Given the dearth of working equity models in the arts (or any organizational sector), the Guild is charged with envisioning and modeling cultural and racial Equity as a reality within the community arts education sector. We seek to shape structures and policies that promote an organizational culture where our energies and efforts are engaged to create an equitable context and climate for everyone we serve.
A New Collective Story
Our quest is to meet the moment for the nation-wide equitable expansion of community arts education within one of the most racially and culturally challenging times in our country’s history. As the only community arts education organization serving this nation, we seek to expand membership from the center outward, and intentionally serve the people, organizations, and communities that have been excluded from access to the Guild’s programs and services since inception. Member organizations and others, organizations rooted in BIPOC neighborhoods, and teaching artists have shared with us that they need culturally relevant programming, an inclusive membership structure, and full community input and participation to support belonging. Our commitment is to address and remove these barriers, as well as others, as we work with you to create and implement our strategic plan. The Guild intends to take part in the creation of an ecosystem where equity, community, leadership and creativity function dynamically as our collective North Star.
As we bring forth the promise of a new and inclusive National Guild for Community Arts Education, within the community that we continue to serve, intentionally giving priority to racial equity through active inclusion, our work has stirred doubt and anger among some current and former Guild members. For the new story of the Guild to become a reality, we need a shared commitment to working towards a better, more equitable, and more abundant future.
Our goal and quest is to hear you, inspire you and work with you to build a stronger, more relevant, inclusive and equitable National Guild. Our key organizational messages, highlighting the vision of our Executive Director as well as organizational messages from the Board and Staff will be consistently provided to you, outlining our goals at this juncture and throughout the strategic planning process. We will ensure that our messages to you are clear, transparent, and that they present opportunities to solicit your input, thoughts and ideas as we move forward. One way you can share ideas and questions is by submitting them anonymously using this form.
As we move into a strategic planning process, we are thinking big and dreaming about new and inspiring ways to achieve our mission. However, there are some things that will always remain true.
We will always act as a welcoming hub for community arts organizations and artists to convene, learn, and seek support through events, publications, and our website.
We will always advocate on behalf of our field and engage with stakeholders to ensure Community Arts education is valued and resourced.
We will always prioritize leadership development as a critical component of building our field.
We will always be a place for a wide variety of artistic mediums, communities and approaches to Community Arts Education to come together as one field.
We will always be committed to making sure that Community Arts programs are understood as a lifelong right for people of all ages.
The changes we seek in our organization are rooted in the way we will listen, center and design our programs and services to ensure that those who have been excluded are no longer, and that we will institutionalize and actualize policies, processes and practices in our organization that align with our commitment to equity, power redistribution and restoration. We seek concrete approaches to ensure these commitments are not simply words but result in real action and new ways of doing things.
We, the Guild Board of Trustees and staff commit to showing up consistently, clearly, and creatively within this process. We, the Board of Trustees are a committed group of arts and culture professionals who have dedicated our lives to this field. We deeply honor and value the work of community arts education in all of its forms, for we know that the arts within a social justice framework are key to the success for all of our communities, our children, and our futures.
Published: December 16, 2022