GETTING TO KNOW: GLAIZA PEREZ

Glaiza is a writer, and works for Diversity Arts Australia as an associate producer and social media content producer based in Sydney. She is a graduate of Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and a post-graduate Diploma in Digital Information Management from the University of Technology Sydney. Glaiza has interviewed artists and writers for Literary CelebrAsian, Warhol’s Children and Diversity Arts Australia. She is also a passionate book blogger and supporter of own voices books.

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The Street talked to Glaiza as she comes to Canberra for Stories from the Future and the ACT’s workshop to imagine a future where cultural and linguistic diversity is present at every level in the arts and screen sectors.

WHY STORIES FROM THE FUTURE?

The name and the workshop project ‘Stories from the Future’ itself was coined and first developed by Diversity Arts Australia’s Executive Director, Lena Nahlous, to refer to a workshop series that seeks to re-imagine a collective roadmap and timeline towards an equitable future for the arts from the perspective of culturally and/or linguistically diverse artists and arts workers in Australia.

“The idea of these workshops is to literally take people outside of this space, to imagine the future, to articulate a timeline and then to action that. It is important for this work to be done by the CaLD artists themselves – to imagine the creative cultural landscape that we want to be in.” Lena Nahlous, Executive Director of Diversity Arts Australia.

Stories from the Future was born from a desire to move away from a reactionary space to a space of self-determination by culturally diverse artists and arts workers from across the country. In these meeting places, the workshops become safe spaces for culturally diverse artists to set their own agendas and imagine their own futures is central to taking us outside of the structures that reinforce marginalisation in the creative sector.

With a mindfulness touch on creating this space, Dr Remy Low of The University of Sydney developed the workshops, with support from Dr Paula Abood and Lena Nahlous. Our report documentation writer Kiriaki Koubaroulis and I also offer additional support for the workshop development process. Our amazing film crew, Phoenix Eye Production Film Company led by culturally diverse women  are documenting the workshops in short films too.

In 2020, we’ll also be releasing a report on the workshop findings, more written works, and podcast episodes featuring artists from across the country. The project has core support from Australia Council for the Arts, Create NSW, Liverpool City Council and City of Parramatta Council as well as state partners from across the country like The Street in ACT.

WHAT ARE PEOPLE AROUND THE COUNTRY SAYING ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS IN AUSTRALIA?

So far, a common thread is the desire for urgent change to drive culturally diverse equity on all levels including arts policy and media. We’ve released a few introductory short films interviewing artists from the workshops, and their thoughts are best heard directly from there:

“Almost radical policy, policy that shifts the power balance because unless we do that – we’re kind of just reinstating the status quo…In 2050, a child of any colour, any appearance, any cultural heritage can turn on the tele in Australia and see themselves represented, not only in the media but in terms of how different stories are told.” – Francisco Lopez, Actor and Co-Chair of the Equity Wellness Committee with MEAA.

Outside of the Stories from the Future project, Diversity Arts Australia has also recently published the report, Shifting the Balance: Cultural Diversity in Australia’s Arts, Screen and Creative Sectors, which found that only 9% of the 1,980 leaders of our major cultural institutions are CALD Australians. This report was funded by a UNESCO grant and led by Diversity Arts Australia in partnership with Western Sydney University (WSU) and BYP Group, this is the first research of its kind to put a clear figure on what cultural and linguistic diversity—or lack thereof—looks like in the creative sector at the leadership level.

DARTS IS DRIVING THE PROJECT, STORIES FROM THE FUTURE WITH STATE PARTNERS. WHAT TAKES PLACE IN THE FUTURING WORKSHOPS?

It’s so important that we collaborate with State and territory organisations that are already connected to and working with artists. Otherwise, the work we are doing won’t be sustainable and meaningful. The Street are already doing important work and provide support for artists.

Our workshop facilitator Dr Remy Low guides participants through reflective exercises of mindfulness that flow from the personal to the structural and systemic; including exercises that reflect upon experiences of marginalisation in the arts to group exercises of collectively imagining milestones and actions along a timeline towards an equitable culturally diverse arts scene in 2050.

WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED SO FAR IN WORKSHOPS AROUND THE COUNTRY? WHAT CONCERNS ABOUT THE ARTS AND SCREEN SECTORS TODAY HAVE BEEN EXPRESSED FROM ETHNO-CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND MARGINALISED EXPERIENCES?

We’ve co-hosted workshops in the ACT and NSW so far and we’re looking forward to running workshops in WA and SA later this year. Concerns so far have included experiences of marginalisation and being locked-out of participating in the sector; a lack of trust towards culturally diverse artists and art forms by people in decision-making positions; the inequity of leadership and decision-making and the need to shift power; the need for systems of support for diverse artists such as networks and structures; experiences of the erasure of non-white voices and stories; a lack of funding and infrastructure to support diverse artists and stories; and, the need to support work by artists in languages other than English. One of the recurring themes has been acknowledging those who have come before, particularly Australia’s First Peoples and the need to always develop work and practices based upon the principle of First Peoples First.

Our report writer Kiriaki Koubaroulis is currently synthesising ideas and we’ll be saving most of our findings in the official release of the Stories from the Future report next year. You can also hear directly from artists in the short films and podcast episodes on our project page in the near future.

PLEASE SHARE SOME OF THE PERSPECTIVES EMERGING FROM THE RECENT ACT WORKSHOP AT THE STREET THEATRE. DOES THE ACT DIVERGE FROM NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES?

For ACT, there was an emphasis on uplifting each other through creating culturally diverse-led hubs and nurturing cultural awareness for the future through mentoring programs as ways to tackle the systemic exclusion that has been experienced. The ACT doesn’t diverge far from the national perspectives, but each state brings their own focus and The ACT was especially focused on advocating for sustainable support systems for artists and united approach to creating change with other artists.

WHERE DO PARTICIPANTS WANT TO BE IN 2050?

So far, a creative, political, and environmental sector led by First Nations peoples’ as participants expressed that true equity across society can only start restructuring sustainable change from this point. If you listen to our introductory workshop videos, you’ll find artist’s visions for the future, including:

  • One of the recurring themes has been acknowledging those who have come before, particularly Australia’s First Peoples and the need to always develop work and practices based upon the principle of First Peoples First.
  • People from culturally diverse backgrounds being in decision-making positions. Greater infrastructure and support.
  • Strong representation of diverse stories, artists and work throughout the entire arts and screen sector. More CALD-led projects and initiatives, with more people from culturally diverse backgrounds in decision-making positions
  • More work, including literature, written in languages other than English to reflect the linguistic diversity of Australia.

There’s more to come. Watch out for the release of the short films and read our report in 2020 to find out!

YOU ARE PART OF THE TEAM AT DIVERSITY ARTS AUSTRALIA (DARTS) TELL US MORE ABOUT THE WORK IT UNDERTAKES TO INCREASE THE PROFILE OF CULTURALLY AND LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE ARTISTS.

We have a small but strategic team dedicated to each of our strategic projects and initiatives, which all revolve around advocating for and actively working towards a creative sector that reflects the complex cultural diversity of the Australian population from artists to audiences to leaders across the creative sector.

Our core areas of activity are:

ADVOCACY: For greater diversity in programming, leadership, audiences and participation

RESEARCH: Developing an evidence base that measures and tracks diversity

BROKERING CONNECTIONS: Building strategic partnerships and fostering relationships across the arts landscape in Australia

KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE: Creating content and establishing platforms for sharing resources, knowledge and best-practice examples of Australian and International research and work.

PROJECTS: Designing and implementing strategic projects that influence sector change and position artists as advocates

We have projects that produce short-films, panel forums, reports, written/creative works, podcasts episodes, training and more. We highly recommend checking out our other current projects on our website: StoryCasters, Intersect Knowledge Exchange, Fair Play, Diverse Screens, Diversity Dialogues, The Colour Cycle Podcast and Creative Lives.  http://diversityarts.org.au/projects/

HOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA BE USED TO CREATIVELY AND EFFECTIVELY TO TELL STORIES?

There’s so many different ways to use social media – whether it’s text, graphics or video – being able to reach another person with your own voice in a quick and engaging way is important.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT

‘Conversations with Octavia Butler’ edited by Conseula Francis. A grounded collection of interviews with an amazing speculative fiction writer.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

I’m currently reading In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri on moving between writing, liminal spaces, and languages in life. I also just finished Meet Me AtThe Intersection edited by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rebecca Lim – a brilliant own voices young adult Australian anthology of works. It’s a collection of writing from writers who identify as First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with a disability. The last show I really enjoyed watching was Killing Eve, I’m so happy to see Sandra Oh embody that character.

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