At the start of the 2020 fall semester, ODUS Arts announced the kickoff of their newest program: The Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion in the Arts Circuit (EDI Circuit) encouraging collaboration between alumni mentors and student leaders of performing arts groups while working to center equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism in Princeton’s arts community.
Thirty-five student leaders across a variety of arts groups were selected to form this year’s cohort of participants. Since October, they have attended a series of conversations and guest speaker panels, culminating in a two-part Summit. All programming focuses on helping student leaders build an equity and anti-racism lens to impart not only on the audition- or performance-related processes of their respective groups but also the larger Princeton arts community.
The EDI Circuit was established by the Alumni Arts Alliance (A3) in partnership with ODUS, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Lewis Center for the Arts. Specifically formed to facilitate EDI and anti-racism efforts in the arts community, the A3 consists of three Princeton Alumni Ronee Penoi ‘07, Kelvin Dinkins, Jr. ‘09, and Adam Hyndman ‘12. The Alumni Arts Alliance will continue to assist student performing arts groups in the anti-racist restructuring of their practices, policies and behaviors after the EDI Circuit’s Summit takes place. Sponsored by USG, ODUS Arts will be offering grants to participants who are looking for further assistance with the anti-racist restructuring of their practices, policies, and behaviors.
Even in its inaugural year, the program has had amazingly positive reception. Prior to its start, a number of student groups noted their desires to tackle their respective histories of exclusionary and racist practices in order to develop more inclusive and equitable communities of art. For example, the Princeton Opera Company believed the EDI Circuit would offer the opportunity to better understand how to grapple with the vast history of racism in opera. Similarly, Princeton University Ballet hoped the program could guide their commitment to an inclusive company environment despite ballet’s history as a traditionally exclusive art form.
Many of the circuit’s participating student arts groups had voiced their support in the necessity of a program dedicated to EDI and anti-racism efforts, a recognition of how they could benefit from such an opportunity. eXpressions, one of Princeton’s undergraduate student dance groups, noted the role the program would play in approaching their own efforts to combat systemic racism more deliberately and grounded in education. Other arts groups hoped the program would provide helpful tools for shaping audition processes moving forward. Both the Footnotes and Princeton Nassoons, two all-male acapella groups on campus, anticipated their participation in the EDI Circuit to further the inclusivity of future auditions.
The EDI Circuit is currently at the last of four sessions in its series of “Critical Conversations.” The program will conclude with a multi-day Summit, tentatively scheduled for late January/early February.