Dear Mayor Rawlings, The first thing I'd like to say in this very public letter is a big thank you for Dallas Arts Week. From what I can gather, it's your way to bring awareness to the arts, which is, in a sense, my job as well. Samesies! Even if you don't do much other than launch a few marketing initiatives, create a hashtag (#DallasArtsWeek, hashtag predictable) and send out a press release marking April 5-13 as the most artastic week in all of 2014; even if artists do the work for you; and even if they're the same artists who are creating art year round -- well, I won't hold that against you. I'd like to think of it as a work of political conceptual art. It's about the ideas.
Your big role in the week is the now annual "Creative Conversation with Mayor Rawlings." You or someone on your staff hand-selects a group of local artists to sit on the stage at City Performance Hall and discuss ways to make the arts in Dallas better. I see this as proof that you're willing to listen and open to discussion. But when it comes to inviting artists to sit on this panel, you just can't seem to get your guest list in order.
Last year there were no women on the "Creative Conversation" panel and all of us creative ladies bitched and moaned (because that's how women speak out). Like any world-weary married man you listened to us bossy females and gave us a panel of our own. Virginia Woolf might be proud. I'd call it overcompensation. It's not exactly the same thing as bringing women to a male-dominated table, but I'll let that one slide. I've got a stick of celery to chew with you. (No bones ...I'm on a diet, because, you know, I'm a woman.)
Other than the fact that there are no men on this panel, you almost nailed the diversity quotient. Let's see, it's a six person panel. So you invited four white women, one black woman, and an Iranian woman. I have to admit that at first glance I was so happy to see you giving a voice to a group of women I respect and admire that I didn't notice your blunder either. Then again, we have the same blinders: We're both white and bad at math (I'm just assuming this about you).
Lucky for me, earlier this year I interviewed David Lozano when we named him one of the Dallas Observer masterminds. He received the same invitation to your creative conversation and immediately noticed the lack of a Latina. He emailed everyone in his database with the reminder that 42 percent of Dallas residents are Hispanic. (There's that damn math again) I engaged him further on the topic, suggesting we send you a list of potential panel guests, because maybe you simply thought Latinas weren't interested in art. His response?
"What frustrates me even further is that even if the mayor does place a Latina on the panel, it reveals that Latinos are not part of his real vision. And we are not included on any real planning for the arts in Dallas. ... It could be a positive step in including our community or it could be just a cosmetic change and last minute band aid."
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Over the weekend after your office received a few complaints, you added Giovanni Valderas as a "special guest" for the evening. That'll have to do, I guess. It's not quite the same thing as adding a Latina artist to the panel and may do more to signify a sort of otherness than solidarity, but at least we know you're listening. Your assistant blamed herself for the oversight, but that seems unfair. Surely the two of you didn't simply forget. After all, the director of the Office of Cultural Affairs is Maria Muñoz-Blanco. A Latina. So what's the deal?
Please respond posthaste. In the meantime, I'll just be over here roaring.
Braless and liberated, Lauren
P.S. It has not gone unnoticed that your all-male panel last year was "A Creative Conversation" and the all-female panel has the additional title "Re-imagining the Arts." Because, clearly, men get shit done and women are just dreamers. I'm not calling you sexist, because I'm sure you're not as concerned about the connotations of certain words (or salary levels) as I am.