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Last week I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the Knight-sponsored SphinxCon event. A gathering of national leaders in Detroit to discuss the issue of diversity in the arts. Speakers ranged from Delroy Lindo to Maria López De León, the director of NALAC.

Knight Foundation National Arts Advisory Committee member and Sphinx founder Aaron Dworkin led off the conference with an interesting and thoughtful question: “What if cultural organizations had a Rooney rule like the National Football Association, which require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching positions? What might happen to improve minority leadership opportunities?” Sphinx has worked for 15 years to create opportunities for minority participation in the world’s leading orchestras.  You can learn more about the Sphinx work and the conference at SphinxCom.

My talk was recorded by Detroit public television and can be viewed above. I brought a few friends from the Michigan Opera Theater who received a standing ovation from the audience. Much thanks to David Dichera and the MOT for making my presentation fun and exciting!

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Why Does Knight Foundation Fund Random Acts of Culture™? Knight Foundation, like its founders Jack and Jim Knight, focuses on promoting informed and engaged communities. To that end, we strongly believe in the potential of the arts to engage residents, and bring a community together. Hearing Handel, or seeing the tango in an unexpected place provides a deeply felt reminder of how the classics can enrich our lives. As you’ll see in our videos, the performances make people smile, dance, grab their cameras – even cry with joy. For those brief moments, people going along in their everyday lives are part of a shared, communal experience that makes their community a more vibrant place to live. In these days of shrinking audiences, we also hope that these random acts will encourage people to attend traditional performances. We can’t promise it. But it’s hard to watch what unfolds during a Random Act of Culture, and not be inspired to see and hear more.

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