Three Lessons for Arts Recruiting with a Racial Equity Lens

by Heather Johnson-Banks, director of grant programs

My teammate Meg and I recently attended artEquity’s incredible session called Finding the Keys: Antiracist Approaches to Radical Recruitment in the Arts. The facilitator, Sharifa Johka, is an experienced expert in the areas of inclusion, equity and hiring. Organizationally and individually, we continue the work to understand of how racism shows up and is embedded in practices and processes that seem otherwise routine and in some instances are considered ‘best practice.’ Sharifa walked us through some of these approaches and provided alternatives for us to put into practice. Through her six keys to antiracist recruitment in the arts and we evaluated each step of the hiring process through an antiracist lens. 

Knowing that so many organizations we work with are embarking on a hiring processes and have a goal to recruit more BIPOC individuals to their organization, I wanted to share information about the workshop with you.

Here are three reminders and lessons I am still holding close:

1.  The ultimate goal should be an antiracist organizational culture. Working toward an antiracist organizational culture will naturally lead to more BIPOC staff members and will also create an environment where everyone has what they need to thrive and feel a sense of belonging.

  • A goal focused solely on hiring more BIPOC individuals without the broader organizational context can lead to tokenization and turnover.

2.  Interrogate how whiteness is showing up in your process. Antiracism takes time in a system designed to favor whiteness. A couple examples might be:

  • Am I favoring perfectionism by tossing out potential candidates for typos in their cover letter rather than valuing their experience? 
  • Am I imposing an unjustified sense of urgency on the process and how can I be more intentional?

3.  Active recruitment is key and means constantly building authentic relationships with individuals who may have the skills to work at your organization. 

  • A good place to start is thinking about the positions that are regularly open within your organization and building out your network with those roles in mind. 

You can learn more and register for upcoming workshops here: Finding the Keys |