Plural is a collaborative research project that examines the situation of culturally specific arts organizations in the United States and Canada. As our societies rapidly diversify and we seek to negotiate our increasingly complex national identities, these organizations possess enormous potential to assist in this process for they serve as cultural advocates, cultural interpreters, facilitators of cross-cultural understanding and communication, keepers of ethnic tradition, and/or sites where prejudice is exposed and challenged. By providing support for emerging artists and establishing venues for ignored art forms, they also serve as spaces for cultural growth and innovation.
Despite their invaluable services, culturally specific arts organizations have received little attention within the arts community, and there is a significant amount of unknown information about these organizations as a whole. Plural aims to fill this void by collating existing research and developing new research on the characteristics, needs, and support systems of these arts organizations. The project addresses the following research questions:
The project’s findings will culminate in a project report, Figuring the Plural: Needs and Supports of U.S. and Canadian Culturally Specific Arts Organizations, that will be widely disseminated to culturally specific arts organizations, arts service organizations, funders, and other project stakeholders. It is the overall goal of the project to heighten awareness, provide new insights, and lead to the strengthening of existing support structures and/or the creation of innovative approaches to bolstering the work of this important segment of the arts and culture field.
Plural focuses on both the U.S. and Canada as research sites because our countries share similar histories as vibrant immigrant nations with distinct, growing, and shared indigenous populations, and our literature review has indicated that despite diverging cultural policies, the needs of culturally specific arts organizations on both sides of the border are likely to be comparable. By taking a comparative approach, consulting with stakeholders and considering initiatives undertaken on both sides of the border, we intend to provide fresh insights and recommendations on addressing the needs and strengthening the work of culturally specific arts organizations.
This project is based out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is receiving generous support from The Joyce Foundation, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Idea Generation Grant), and the National Endowment for the Arts.