Equity Commitment » Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington

Equity Commitment

Equity Statement


The board and staff of Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington believe in the power of the arts to engage and empower individuals and communities. We believe that through a rich and versatile arts education, young people will creatively transform their schools, neighborhoods, and beyond. Art can be an agent of personal and social liberation, and we believe this is essential to our mission to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts.

We have a responsibility to continuously work to dismantle the barriers to arts education for all young people. Research shows that arts education has an overwhelmingly positive impact: increased critical thinking abilities, higher test scores, better attendance and graduation rates, and improved confidence and motivation are just a few examples. This impact is especially significant for communities that often do not have equitable opportunities for discovery, exploration and self-empowerment through the arts.

We recognize historic injustices and systems of oppression—both in society at large, and within the fields of education and the arts specifically—that have created the opportunity gaps we must eradicate. We also acknowledge our participation in these systems and the ways we have benefited and continue to benefit from them as an organization and as individuals. We are working to cultivate a greater understanding of relative rank, power and privilege, and the potential of these forces to marginalize other individuals and groups. Further, we strive to use this knowledge as a central point in decision-making and program-building across the spectrum of our work, from the classroom to the boardroom and all of the spaces between.

We strive to foster an atmosphere of inclusivity, empathy and awareness that allows all people to feel safe and valued in every aspect of our work. While we understand that conversations about power and privilege can make people uncomfortable, we are committed to engaging in the hard work necessary to advance equity within our organization and across the arts and education communities.

Racial Equity Focus


The board and staff of Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington believe that our society needs to grapple with and overcome a complex web of privilege and oppression. We must approach this work with an intersectional lens, acknowledging that all disparities compound one another. Due to the effects of racism that have shaped our region—and that continue to shape our future, as evidenced by a persistent achievement gap for students of color—we choose to focus our work at this juncture on racial equity. While we maintain a deep commitment to addressing many other areas of injustice—and acknowledge that concepts like ethnicity, language and culture are profoundly interwoven with race—we believe that investing in the advancement of racial equity serves the advancement of all people.

Equity Commitment


Young Audiences has long held equity as a core value of our organization, and in our 2013 strategic plan we elevated equity to an organizational priority, recognizing that in order to maximize our impact, we must focus our resources on the communities with the greatest need. Since then we have worked to clarify our understanding of, focus on, and deepen our commitment to equity in every aspect of the work we do.

From 2017 to 2018 Young Audiences participated in the Racial Equity in the Arts Self-Assessment Learning Circle, facilitated by Arts Workers for Equity. As part of this learning circle, we conducted a self-assessment using the 2014 tool created by the Coalition of Communities of Color. This led us to make an explicit commitment to establish a written policy and measurable actions in service of greater equity in the field of arts education and across every level of our organization.

Leading this initiative at Young Audiences is our Equity Committee. It comprises both staff and board members, with the intent to expand in the future to include other community members; to learn more about joining the Young Audiences Equity Committee, please contact us at youngaudiences@ya-or.org.

The committee’s current goals are outlined below:

  1. Create an equity definition. It was necessary to create a definition of the term “equity” that we could agree on as an organization in order to develop a shared vision of what we are working toward. We looked at examples from other arts organizations, as well as social service and social justice organizations, drawing inspiration (and in some cases, language) from their work, while crafting our own words as well.

    We have completed this definition and include it here:

    Equity is the quality of fairness in treatment, access and opportunity that acknowledges and consistently strives to eliminate the barriers historically faced by underserved, underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. Equity is achieved when everyone gets what they need to be successful.

    Thank you to Americans for the Arts, Grantmakers in the Arts, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council, whose definitions of equity greatly informed our own.

  2. Create an equity statement. We drafted a statement to communicate our aims and values with regard to equity, and direct our actions going forward.

    The committee again referenced examples from other arts organizations, and from social service and social justice organizations, in order to create a working draft. We also decided to direct our current focus to racial equity, and created an additional statement about this decision.

    We then invited stakeholders from our community to review the statements and offer feedback and suggestions via a written survey or in-person focus groups with a single committee member. These invitations were extended to teaching artists, students and families, educators, community leaders, culturally specific organizations and others. We revised our statements based on the feedback we received in these surveys and discussions, and presented final drafts to staff and community members before final approval by the Board of Directors and publication of the statements. The final statements can be seen at the top of this page.

    Thank you to Arts Corps, The Circus Project, Meyer Memorial Trust, Grantmakers in the Arts, Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), and Portland Public Schools (PPS), whose equity statements strongly influenced our own in language, tone and message.

  3. Create an equity policy. Building off of our equity statement, we will create a longer written policy about equity in our organization. This will be our official code of conduct regarding equity issues and procedures, a statement of our intention and how we will hold ourselves accountable.

    This is currently what the Equity Committee is working on. It is an important step and we are giving it significant care and consideration.

  4. Create an equity plan. Based on our equity policy, we will make a detailed, step-by-step plan of measurable actions we will take within a specific time period to improve and maintain equity in our programs, internal infrastructure, and general service to our community.
  5. These important major steps are what the Equity Committee is currently focused on achieving, and they deserve the committee’s dedicated attention. Alongside this process, our staff and board are also planning and implementing new equity-focused programs and practices, as well as continuing those we have already put in motion, and assessing our established programming through an equity lens. We are in dialogue with members of our community about how we can better support their diverse needs and goals, and we are working to build relationships and collaborations with justice-driven groups and organizations in the region.

    We recognize that equity is not just a one-time project, nor is it an isolated practice. Working toward equity requires us to integrate this lens into every aspect of what we do as an organization, and to make an ongoing commitment to our equity work. We are determined to meet these challenges, and we appreciate the continued support and involvement of our community as we undertake this journey together.

    To inquire about Young Audiences’ equity work or Equity Committee, please contact us at youngaudiences@ya-or.org.

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