In the Wake of Blackout Tuesday, L.A. Arts Organizations Consider Next Steps

Peter Feher on June 9, 2020
Roderick Cox hosted a conversation with fellow conductors | Credit: Courtney Perry

The show was paused. Now what? After a day of black squares and online silence, arts organizations are working to provide adequate answers.

Blackout Tuesday, last week’s social-media moment in response to the killing of George Floyd and protests nationwide, has reignited an old argument of solidarity versus action. Classical-music institutions — quick to join in the online moment of solidarity, in part because much of their activity has moved online in the age of coronavirus — are now considering what action would look like.

In its initial steps, the follow-up to Blackout Tuesday from arts organizations has stayed digital. Los Angeles Opera canceled the remainder of its online offerings last week, instead hosting a Zoom conversation on Friday, June 5 about inequality and racial disparity in the opera world. Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges led the discussion, archived and available to watch on LA Opera’s website and Facebook page. She was joined by singers Julia Bullock, Lawrence Brownlee, Russell Thomas, Karen Slack, and Morris Robinson.

The orchestra world’s counterpart came from conductor Roderick Cox, who hosted a similar style conversation with Hollywood Bowl Principal Conductor Thomas Wilkins, Oakland Symphony Music Director Michael Morgan, and former LA Phil Dudamel Fellow Jonathon Heyward (now chief conductor-designate of Germany’s Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie). That June 5 discussion is also still available to watch, on Cox’s Facebook page.

On the administrative side of things, the League of American Orchestras announced on June 4 its second year of Catalyst Fund grants, aimed at organizational work around equity, diversity, and inclusion. 2020 recipients include the LA Phil, Pacific Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony. Yesterday, June 8, as part of the League’s annual conference (online this year), the SF Symphony presented a session titled “DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] at the SFS: Foundational Work and the COVID-19 Challenge.” The focus: the efforts of SF Symphony’s DEI Workgroup over the past 20 months and how, online and amid a pandemic, that work can still go forward.

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