Marches and protests for the Black Lives Matter movement have sparked conversations about race in America from our personal lives to the workplace.
Here in Milwaukee, the Marcus Performing Arts Center is working to further advance racial equity in the performing arts on and off the stage. President and CEO Kendra Whitlock Ingram is the first female and person of color to lead the organization. She says that work needs to center around a theme of accountability.
“I think the thing now we’re working on as an organization is, you know, how do we hold ourselves accountable for advancing racial equity,” says Whitlock Ingram.
Inside the Marcus Center from both the board of directors and the staff members, she says people are ready for change and excited to push forward. One of those steps forward has been the creation of their REDI task force.
“Which is a Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force of board and staff and we’re saying let’s figure out our short-term goals,” she says. “What are, you know, our 12-18 month goals and what is that three years and beyond goal.”
More diverse programming and partnering with more minority-owned vendors are two short-term goals Whitlock Ingram highlighted. She says selecting more diverse content has already begun with their virtual concerts.
But racial diversity is not just something Whitlock Ingram wants to see on stage but in the seats at the Marcus Center. She acknowledges that often the theater is just marketed towards white and wealthier audiences, but she wants the audience at the Marcus Center to reflect the actual Milwaukee community.
As the Marcus Center prepares to hopefully bring back audiences in the spring, they have renovated their south lawn to make their outdoor amphitheater a more inviting space.
“That’s gonna be one of the first places I think that we’re gonna start bringing audiences back together. It’s outdoors, it will probably be low-cost or free, it will be a very welcoming and open space,” she says.
She hopes that this space will be just one way they try and show that the performing arts center has something for everyone.
As Whitlock Ingram looks to the future, she says she understands this issue can’t be fixed by one single decision or action and that changing an institution like the Marcus Center takes time.
“We keep talking about this layered approach when it comes to public health. I think it’s a layered approach too, with how we’re gonna see a shift in perception about our venue truly being what our vision is — a world class gathering place for all,” she says.