Empowering leaders on stage and behind the scenes to create a more equitable future in the arts.
We all want to see ourselves reflected – on stages, in stories, in CEO suites. The arts industry, like so many others, has a long history of prioritizing homogeneous leadership and perspectives. For those of us who value the vital perspectives of women and people of color, the enormity of the task at hand can be nearly incapacitating.
For years, I was hamstrung by this perspective – and I wasn’t alone in that sense of malaise. Knowing with absolute certainty that we can’t wave our wands and fix everything, it can feel more comfortable to attempt nothing – to begrudgingly tolerate the status quo and wait for the day when the stars magically align and we suddenly feel empowered to create the change we want to see.
What I’ve come to realize is that the very act of naming a problem out loud and publicly committing yourself to moving toward a solution can be what causes that sense of alignment. The time is perfect when you take action, not the other way around.
Our power together – the brilliance of our shared light – is equal to the task at hand, and the caliber of mentors and advisors that form the Spotlight Team is a testament to the timeliness and utter necessity of our mission.
At Turn The Spotlight, we believe systemic change is crucial. We also believe that one-on-one mentoring can have real impact, particularly in an industry where so many professionals are freelancers working outside an established institutional framework.
Our mission – our way to bring light to the darkness – is to identify, nurture, and empower leaders, and in turn, to illuminate the path to a more equitable future in the arts. We offer mentorship by and for exceptional women, people of color, and other equity-seeking groups, with a particular interest in supporting artists who are using their talents and skills to strengthen their communities and pursue social justice.
Our top-tier mentors are singing lead roles at the Metropolitan Opera, developing permanent exhibitions at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and using their art in collaboration with science to educate audiences about sustainability. They are experts in an array of artistic fields who will act as sounding boards and storytellers. We expect that each of our Fellows will emerge from this season-long mentorship with a clearer picture of what lies ahead, and a deeper well of fuel to get there.
Nearly all of our first cohort of Fellows have founded organizations, produced or commissioned new work. Each has a distinctive voice and clear personal mission, and they’ll be collaborating on a striking breadth of projects, including building community investment in arts entrepreneurship, developing a line of gender non-binary swimwear, and confronting personal violence through performance.
We believe these versatile and inventive arts leaders and activists are the way forward, and we are immensely honored to be able to share their continued growth with you. Meet our 2018/19 Fellows in the gallery below!
Executive Director & Mentor
An American immigrant from Armenia, Anush believes that art does not discriminate.
"No matter where you are from and what challenges your life has presented, art is there to transform it into something potentially beautiful. And ultimately, into something others can relate to, allowing empathy to grow."
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH CORINNE WINTERS
Lucy is founder of Resonant Bodies, a festival of contemporary music that invites vocalists to curate their own 45-minute sets in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
"With my festival, I am creating a platform for artists to have autonomy, respect, and a place for growth – a place to direct the narrative about who they are at this artistic juncture. I don’t want to just hope for a better future – I want empowerment."
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH KRISTIN ATWELL FORD
Teagan is founder of the Red Shoe Company, a collective that combines music, dance, visual art, and scientific discovery to educate and engage Midwestern audiences.
"I believe we are all here to serve our community. Originally, I assumed an artist's main job is to put out happiness and creative thought into the world. Now I believe that the arts are responsible for encouraging critical thought. Giving everyone an opportunity to learn the basics and to feel like they have the knowledge to enjoy art gives our community more opportunities to come together as one body of people."
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH ANNE FRANCIS BAYLESS AND REBECCA MCFAUL
Jamil is a director and producer who believes in using his art to actively challenge, heal, affirm, and empower his community.
“Creating art without intentionally involving the community makes the work flat. And artists, especially those who make ephemeral work like theatre, have a chance to create community with each project. At each organization I produce for, I find ways to create thematic links between the art on stage and contemporary challenges facing the community. We use those links to host community conversations where we bring people together to grapple with these issues in hopes of finding solutions to create a more equitable society.”
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH AVERY WILLIS HOFFMAN
Andrew is the founder of DC Strings, which strives to prove that access to excellence in music is an essential human right.
“DC Strings is not making music for the sake of music – we speak to the moment. Our concerts and experiences for patrons provide a space to dissect and discuss our city’s challenges in intimate ways. We also create opportunities for musicians, composers, and conductors. For me, there is unspeakable joy in challenging assumptions, biases, and stereotypes to present a more complete portrait of what classical music looks like.”
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH ALYSIA LEE
Sueann believes nuanced costume design can contribute to normalizing the experiences of marginalized people, helping to dismantle unfounded fear and antagonism.
“With my background in Gender Studies, I costume design as a means to explore identity and expression. I utilize my art as a powerful tool to bring humanity and truth to the characters I design for. I enjoy thinking of the characters as real people – influenced by their gender, race, class, and age – who make real choices about how to dress and present themselves to the world. The very heart of my work is to humanize and respectfully represent people – especially queer people of color.”
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH JESSICA JAHN
Felicia values visibility and representation – on- and off-stage.
“I am a plus-sized performing artist. After spending far too much of my life trying to appear ‘normal’, I now live my life in a way that is full of pride and respect for my body. Performing is my way to share joy, and my way to share women’s strength. I want to tell stories onstage so that those in the audience who have bodies like mine can feel seen and heard. I believe diverse representation will help our way of storytelling stay relevant and powerful.”
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH HEIDI MELTON
Frances is a composer whose music examines social issues through collaboration outside of traditional academic circles.
“Even as a teenager, I was profoundly invested in understanding the role of race and economic class in America. In Winston-Salem, I worked at the Innocence Project, with people who were recently released from the prison system. In New York City, I worked with men that had spent 25+ years in Sing-Sing Prison and helped create a platform for them to tell their stories. These experiences not only inform my music, but they provide me with communities of people that I am eager to work with in the future.”
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH KAMALA SANKARAM
Rehanna is a mezzo-soprano who believes storytelling is a form of therapy, and that live performance can help audience members experience their world in a new way.
“To be able to express myself on stage is a sense of freedom that I don’t often get in my everyday life, and to be able to captivate others with that is incredibly powerful. As a black woman, I am often not heard as loudly as others. When I sing, if I can show my fellow sisters that I can command a room, they can rise and do the same.”
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH JAMIE BARTON
ILLINOIS & PENNSYLVANIA
Elena and Melissa are the founders of Intermission, a company that teaches musicians yoga techniques to support the demanding physicality and emotional undertaking of performance.
"As artists, we understand intrinsically that what we do effects positive change in the world at large. But without knowing how to refuel ourselves after giving so much to our audiences, the demanding lives we lead can begin to present major personal challenges. With Intermission, we hope to teach self-compassion, gentleness, and body awareness – allowing artists to nurture positive change within themselves that they may then radiate outward into the world."
MENTORSHIP CO-CREATED WITH BETH STEWART
“It is argued and largely believed that the arts is a place where a variety of perspectives can be seen, heard, and experienced; but historically, the perspectives given the most platforms have come from one affinity group. It’s time to turn the spotlight on the next generation of creative voices, a generation that further aims to highlight all of its variants and diversity.”
Julia Bullock, Soprano
“The classical music industry continues to lag woefully behind when it comes to diversity, especially in leadership positions within larger-budget organizations. Turn the Spotlight is providing the essential mentorship and support those from marginalized groups require in order to reach high-level career goals. I am thrilled to be part of this essential resource for deserving artists across the field.”
Lidiya Yankovskaya, Conductor
"Mentorship is one of the most powerful tools for raising up the next generation of leaders and artists. If you're lucky, you'll happen upon a mentor who's experienced, knowledgeable, and willing to guide your steps. Turn the Spotlight offers that kind of mentorship and guidance without waiting for luck. This program will be transformative."
Celeste Headlee, Journalist and Author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter
“The arts provide the prism through which we can first envision, and then build, a better and more just world. To deliver on this, our talent pipelines and cultural institutions — our arts delivery systems — must champion equity and offer radical welcome to those who have historically not been invited in. By throwing the doors wide open, the most promising previously unheard voices will be encouraged to join, even lead, the table. And make no mistake: it will take all voices to create real transformation.
It’s a joy to join with Turn the Spotlight to do exactly what the name infers: refocus the illuminating power of the arts.”
Camille Zamora, Co-Founder of Sing For Hope
“It’s so important to support the voices of people – and the ideals – we believe in, and we’re living in an age in which personal attention can feel like a luxury. I’m so proud to be part of Turn The Spotlight, which is actively working toward creating a more equitable future in our industry by fostering the strong and diverse voices of individuals who clearly have incredible contributions to make."
Jamie Barton, Mezzo-soprano