Guild Letter to AFTA Leadership in Support of Arts Education Advisory Council

December 30, 2020

The National Guild for Community Arts Education

Statement of Support for Americans for the Arts’ (AFTA) Arts Education Advisory Council


The Board of Trustees, the Racial Equity Committee of the Board and the Staff of the National Guild for Community Arts Education are writing to voice our deep concern about the issues raised by the Arts Education Advisory Council for Americans for the Arts to actualize racial equity in policies, practices and priorities. We join the AFTA Arts Education Advisory Council in the call for change. We also support the call for change regarding the accounts of a hostile work environment at AFTA by current and past staff members.

The Guild, a longtime member and partner of Americans for the Arts, stands in alignment with the AFTA Arts Education Advisory Council in a united call for Americans for the Arts, our nations’ largest and most powerful organization serving the arts sector, to proactively address longstanding unresolved racial inequities in the arts sector along with labor matters in the AFTA organization with deliberate speed and transparency.

As national organizations serving the arts, it is our moral and cultural responsibility to dismantle the oppressive systems that have dominated the arts sector for decades. As a national membership organization in the arts field, the Guild continues to listen to the call for accountability; to reflect on how we have been complicit in the white supremacist, patriarchal, ageist, and ableist culture of the arts sector and the larger society in which we operate; and to devise ways to put into action recommendations like those from the Arts Education Advisory Council.

Structural racism is by design. (Sentiment expressed in the book "Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America," by Ijeoma Oluo with which the National Guild concurs)

The fact that the vast majority of leadership/decision-makers (CEO’s, executive directors, board members), staff and faculty of non-profit arts organizations are white is by design.

The dearth of fully resourced arts presence in BIPOC communities is by design.

The dearth of arts in schools for Black and brown participants is by design.

The dearth of BIPOC artists and teachers is by design.


Racial equity as “window dressing” rather than as authentic promotion of anti-racist practice in arts organizations is by design. We at the National Guild believe that we are either dismantling structurally racist designs and creating new equitable ones or we are complicit in the maintenance of oppressive systems in the arts. There is no middle ground.

We, the Board officers and senior staff of the National Guild for Community Arts Education would welcome a conversation with the AFTA Board about these matters, including our concerns about the leadership of Robert Lynch and his capacity to serve as an effective advocate for the growth and strength of the vast racially and culturally diverse arts sector in this country.

We at the National Guild recognize the necessity of our organization aligning in partnership with organizations that share our values, principles, and policies. Given the issues raised above we need to discern if AFTA is an organization with which we can remain in alliance. We look forward to a conversation as soon as possible.

Signatories on behalf of the National Guild for Community Arts Education's Board of Trustees

Duffie Adelson

Board Chair, NGCAE


Sandra Bowie 

NGCAE Board Vice Chair and Co-Chair, Racial Equity Committee; Executive Consultant


Kyle Carpenter

CEO, MacPhail Center for Music, Minneapolis, MN


Chad Cooper

Executive Director, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn, NY


Eric Delli Bovi

President & CEO, Urban Gateways, Chicago, IL


Sofia Fojas


Dr. Derrick Gay

Co-Chair, NGCAE Racial Equity Committee; Diversity and Inclusion Strategist


Lili Hussey

Principal/Founder, Mariner Consulting, LLC


Darren Isom

Partner, The Bridgespan Group


Lee Koonce

NGCAE Board Secretary; President & Artistic Director, Gateways Music Festival


Karen LaShelle

Co-Chair, NGCAE Racial Equity Committee; Executive Director, Creative Action, Austin, TX


SoYoung Lee

Executive and Artistic Director, Rocky Ridge Music Center, Estes Park, CO


Gayle Morgan

NGCAE Treasurer; retired grantmaker in the arts


Robyn Newhouse

Civic Leader, Springfield, MA


Nancy Ng

Executive Director, Creativity and Policy, Luna Kids Dance, Inc., CA


Myran Parker-Brass

Boston Public Schools (Retired)


Martha Rochelle

Board President, Armstrong Community Music School, Austin, TX


Katie Smythe

CEO and Artistic Director, New Ballet Ensemble and School, Memphis, TN


J. Curtis Warner Jr.

Founder and Past Executive Director, Berklee City Music, Boston, MA


Lecolion Washington

NGCAE Board Vice Chair; Executive Director, Community Music Center of Boston

This statement was sent to board member representatives of Americans for the Arts on December 30, 2020 on behalf of the National Guild's Board of Trustees, Racial Equity Committee, and Staff.

Published: December 30, 2020