A fellow artist was scathing in his assessment of an initiative that was set up several years ago, to showcase the creative work of practitioners of Black and Minority Ethnic heritage. He said the organisers and arts venue programmers that attended the events were behaving like school teachers on an inspection, making sure that their charges were well groomed and following their diktats at the time. I thought his attitude was cavalier, but in retrospect, I can see that he was thinking of the rights of a performing artist to create present work with freedom of imagination.
Sometimes the process of reaching a level of understanding between artists and gatekeepers can take a little too long for those of us who need to get on with being creative, but younger artists have emerged from our communities who have managed to gain access to mainstream exposure, possibly because they were nurtured by some of those “school teachers” my colleague was alluding to.
Perceptions can alter through prolonged exposure to diverse ranges of stimuli. Those of us who have been on the margins for a long time might be able to communicate with the gatekeepers using different terms of reference now, simply because of the symbiotic work that has emerged as a result of learning processes for the gatekeepers and the emerging artists alike.
It is possible that there will times in the future when the artists will be able communicate directly with the audiences who are being somehow shielded or protected by the gatekeepers.
This is not to suggest that there shouldn’t be room for critics and programmers. It is the nature of the flow of communication between artists, gatekeepers and audiences that needs to be reassessed and modified, to ensure that there is more fairness in our sector.