Welcome to the Culture Commons

Dear Friends, I won’t bury the lede. We are now Red Olive Culture Commons. Being an artist whose main medium is words, it’s been a source of conflict for me for some time to know that a universe as dynamic, movable, and encompassing as Red Olive’s also called itself a “consulting firm” (emphasis mine), which meant that folks either: Had an incorrect idea of our specific and collaborative interventions, and only through the lens of consultant: an often fully external third party who swoops in, waves a magic wand or creates a pretty PDF, and leaves the org in a trail of
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The Answer Could Be Anywhere

Dear Friends, This season I’ve been working with several artist-run collectives in one-on-one sessions—from South Carolina-based Black cultural organizations to Boston-run Black arts collectives, from For Freedoms to the 2020 winners of the Whiting Foundation Literary Magazine Prize, and, of course, Black Art Futures Fund grantees. Almost 20 groups! It’s certainly a challenge and a privilege to see the ways in which artists, culture makers, and storytellers also use the vehicle of the institution to bring a community together, inspiring me to endure the zoom room marathons. This year, Red Olive articulated, in writing, our Core Values, one of which
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What Would You Bring Back to the Before?

Dear Friends, I don’t know if it’s my just own Instagram algorithm, but I’ve seen what feels like an increase in articles acknowledging our continued collective burnout, our anxiety around an implied return to normal and what that might entail, and now conversations about what to take with us into the next normal and what to leave behind. Of course I am thinking about Octavia Butler’s Kindred as I am writing this note to you; Black artistry continues to write the framework for our understanding. A story about time travel and love and learning from the past also provides us with a framework
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Renewing Our Commitments to the Field

Dear Friends, This month we will mark a year since our lives changed. I find myself doubling down on things I held near and true in the “before.” That art, and the preservation of it, can help us translate the unspeakable, and can help build the archive for the future. We’ll know where we have been and how and who because of art.  Last March, Grantmakers in the Arts convened a panel of folks to speak to ways philanthropy could and should respond to what was then “only” the COVID-19 crisis. We were given just 1 slide and 6 minutes—a
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Moments of Light

Dear Friends, As if it is no surprise, of course I’m one of those folks who insists that every month in America is Black History Month—that any day ending in Y is an occasion to celebrate the contributions of Black folk, and that my particular lean is the cultural and artistic contributions of Black folk. The first day of February I was in a familiar, yet now foreign space: a movie theater. Being married to a Black independent film curator will present you with many opportunities to sit in front of a screen. His Luminal Theater was selected to program
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Sharing the Full Story

Dear Friends, At least the turn of a new year gives us a chance to re-imagine the stories we want to tell about ourselves and our work, the journeys we want to take into our futures. One of the stories I am choosing to lean into for 2021 and beyond is to remind myself that the work I do shines when I let my artist self be more visible. Work, and the idea/drudgery of it asks that we hide portions of ourselves that didn’t directly relate to a job description. My colleagues at Red Olive might get caught up in
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