Although the Academy Award nominations were strongly criticized for lack of diversity, the Oscar presentation ceremony was a multi-faceted extravaganza that seemed chockfull of contrasting images and ideas.
Diversity seems to me a natural complementary component of all art forms, although the definition of the word may vary among assorted on-lookers, being somewhat dependent upon what one views as “different.”
Diversity takes many forms when applied to the arts. From its very beginning, Darke County Center for the Arts has endeavored to present diverse programming to appeal to a broad array of potential audience members.
But “presenting diverse programming” contains myriad layers of meaning. To begin with, the performing arts include an extensive array of delight — music, theatre, dance — and each of those disciplines hold exponential possibilities for presenters to consider. Of course, diverse programming means including artists and art forms of different ethnicities and cultures, welcoming people of all generations and every race, not discriminating between genders. But that’s only the beginning of diverse issues to be considered when planning a season of arts events.
Lots and lots of people call themselves music lovers; however, the music they love may be limited to a particular genre, or even a narrow segment of that genre. For example, many people enjoy country music; some of those limit themselves to contemporary country, while others only want to hear classic country, and yet others believe the only true country music is bluegrass. Some country fans love the banjo, some say fiddle music is the true sound of country — I could go on.
Jazz lovers who long for the sounds of the big bands enjoy a much different playlist from jazz lovers who like bebop, and that’s only the beginning of the various sounds that can be labeled jazz. A wide variety of instruments provide specific appeal; a trumpeter can provide trills that thrill the senses or evoke a mournful mood, the smooth sound of a saxophone can induce warm thoughts or sound like elephants mating, a keyboardist can tickle the keys to send melodies soaring or innovate rhythms. And that’s only a few examples, demonstrating the hall of mirrors that define diversity.
During this past season, DCCA’s Artist Series has presented Celtic fiddling step-dancers The Fitzgeralds, contemporary country duo Thompson Square, a cappella quintet VoicePlay, and classic country performers The Malpass Brothers; yet to come are The Hit Men performing classic rock and roll, and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra playing historical and contemporary classics of yet another kind. That seems pretty diverse, but wait — there’s more! DCCA’s Coffeehouse Series has hosted DuffleBag Theatre performing theatrical karaoke and guitarist Jim McCutcheon playing music from almost every genre; upcoming Coffeehouse shows will feature purveyors of Irish music Siusan O’Rourke and Zig Zeitler, singer Luke McMaster performing soul and Motown favorites, and violinist Doug Hamilton whose abilities are so diverse that he is known as a musical chameleon.
Diverse family fun is provided by DCCA’s Family Theatre Series which opened with the sweet and moving The Velveteen Rabbit, then presented the cutting edge technology of glow-in-the-dark adventure Dino-Light, and will close with the hilarious musical Llama Llama Live! Could the season be any more diverse!
Truthfully, diversity is required in order for an arts presenter to succeed. A melange of performances, a medley of presentations must appeal to a broad (and diverse) audience; variety is necessary to not only attract new audience members, but to develop a loyal following who trusts that their expectations for comprehensive excellence will be met.
Meeting the expectations of a diverse audience is a difficult goal to achieve, but throughout its history, DCCA has worked to present an eclectic array of artists who entertain, enlighten and enrich their audience.