Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access (IDEA)

CalArts launches the IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access) Cooperative that will redouble the Institute’s efforts to confront, address and eradicate the structural, systemic, and societal injustice that are threaded through our communities. This cooperative will be led by and housed in the Office of the President. 

Spurred on by the summer of 2020’s social justice movements, CalArts leadership and community members looked inward to assess CalArts’ role and responsibilities as a leader in the arts and arts education. The introspection found that for too many talented artists from underrepresented backgrounds, joining the CalArts community — as both students and faculty members — remains too far out of reach.  

The Institute hasn’t made enough progress in creating a more representational and diverse community of artists in the world, but IDEA will help identify, foster, and spotlight the steps needed to keep building an inclusive, anti-racist community together.  The IDEA Cooperative will make these measures and processes more transparent and will encourage financial support through grants, philanthropy, and open budgeting via the Institute’s established processes. 


Launching IDEA

The IDEA Cooperative begins with the full support of the Institute’s entire leadership: The CalArts Trustees have authorized up to $300,000 to be used from the Crisis Mitigation Reserve for initial start-up costs, and will look for a clear delineation of the ongoing financial commitment for this work in any future annual budget proposed to them.

To ensure ongoing sustainability, the Institute must first perform a rigorous self-evaluation to identify any practices, structures, or individual behaviors that enable racism, sexism, or cultural, civil or social inequity. This first comprehensive “IDEA Assessment” will commence and complete in the 2020-21 academic year, paving the way for an action plan to be formed that works to root out these practices. Subsequent assessments will also be conducted along the way to gauge progress. 

The action plan that results from this first IDEA Assessment will lay out the development and oversight of a specific process to address issues of discrimination under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act. Likewise, the plan will also support efforts to build relationships with communities where CalArts has had no (or only limited) ties, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. 


2020-21 IDEA Initiatives

Led by Title VI & Diversity Officer Dr. Eva Graham, who will now assume the title of Director of IDEA Programs, has put forward the key initiatives for the academic year.

  • IDEA Assessment of CalArts: This evaluation, led by Dr. Benjamin D. Reese Jr., will identify seen and unseen structures, systems, practices, and traditions of bias, racism, and inequity within our community. It will include how we assess and advance our curriculum and pedagogy, the nomenclature we use, and our systems of governance and organization - including all Institute policies and practices. It will make note of cultural racism in the artistic practices represented and taught at CalArts, and the way we structure that work. Dr. Reese is one of the foremost experts in institutional issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and racist structures and cultures in higher education. For 23 years he was the leader of diversity for Duke University. He has over 50 years’ experience in the fields of implicit bias, systemic and structural racism, and diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, and has worked with over 50 colleges and universities in North America, most recently for Yale University and the University of Wisconsin System, to conduct broad assessments of their DEI work.

  • Leadership and Trustee Training: Dr. Reese will also work with CalArts leadership and Trustees to ensure they understand diversity, equity, inclusion, bias, and structural racism, and their responsibilies as leaders to dismantle any and all white supremacist structures that may exist here.

  • Title VI Discrimination Complaint Process: Dr. Reese also will assess our current processes and recommend a more transparent, central system to resolve discrimination complaints related to Title VI issues of race, color, or national origin.

  • Ongoing Faculty and Staff Training: Starting this year, a systematic training approach will center on unconscious and implicit bias; structural racism; and inclusion, diversity, equity, and access. Dr. Bryant Marks and Dr. Tricia Rose will assist with this training, with Dr. Marks to conduct educational and training sessions on implicit bias directly with students and employees. He is a former senior advisor to the White House under President Barack Obama and founder of the National Training Institute on Race and Equity. Dr. Marks also will partner with Provost Tracie Costantino, faculty, and staff to create media that engage with understanding implicit bias – similar in nature to projects with the U.N.’s HeForShe initiative and the World Resources Institute.

    Dr. Rose will work on implicit bias and racist structures with faculty, create a repository of resources, and help foment shifts in hiring practices that promote meaningful representation and cultural change. She is Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, both at Brown University.

  • A Strengthened Focus on Indigenous Communities: In Spring 2020, CalArts will seek to retain an expert who has experience in academia, is from an Indigenous heritage, and has experience directly working on programming and relationship-building with Native nations. This person will embolden our work with and for Native American Indian communities and artists; help introduce new expertise in Indigenous studies; strengthen relationships with native communities; and build financial support to help Indigenous artists become a more active, present part of CalArts. This emphasis will include expanded educational opportunities for Native American students and their communities.

  • Future Arts Leader Development: Through a partnership with the Posse Foundation and its founder, MacArthur Fellow Deborah Bial, we’ll seek to create the nation’s first Arts Posse. This leadership program for undergraduates will prepare a representationally diverse set of leaders and decision-makers in the arts sector, and support this CalArts Posse through significant financial aid and leadership programming for their entire undergraduate experience that follows the Posse model. Thanks to a grant made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Posse board Chair Brad Singer, we will begin work this year toward being able to recruit the first CalArts Posse for fall 2022.


Idea Task Force

To ensure accountability and commitment to the important work ahead, President Ravi Rajan will assemble an IDEA Task Force that includes both internal stakeholders from faculty, staff, students, and trustees, and external ones with expertise at the intersection of race and other critical issues for our community, such as immigration, or indigenous studies. 

This task force will meet quarterly on an ongoing basis to review the Institute’s IDEA work of the previous quarter and ensure that the Institute is making progress towards its goals. The task force will do this through recommendations that will be published publicly to all.