On August 19, 2020, The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County announced its “Collective Action Against Racism & Inequity” Initiative – a Call to the Region’s Artists & Cultural Leaders – comprising three public conversations and a progressive series of workshops.

Three Public Conversations

This initiative opens with three public conversations presented by Valeria and Andrea Lopez, of OnBeat Consulting. Titled “Reimagining Arts & Culture,” this series of online conversations centers on examining and interrupting the dominant story in the arts and culture sector that has excluded or misrepresented Black and Indigenous People of Color.

The conversations will ground participants in key terminology and theories, address how to move beyond shame, anger or guilt and invite participants to engage in a framework for more inclusive and equitable change. The topics include: Race, Power and Privilege in the Arts, Empathy in Times of Crisis, and Moving From Empathy to Action.

The schedule is as follows:

Sept. 15, 6pm: Race, Power and Privilege in the Arts

This conversation will address key concepts such as race, privilege, and systemic racism – especially as it relates to arts and culture. Through small and large group discussions, we will explore the role privilege plays in shaping the stories we tell about our history and the current movement.

Sept. 29, 6pm: Empathy in Times of Crisis

Now that you have increased your understanding of the current racial pandemic, how do you move beyond feeling overwhelmed, guilty or ashamed? This week we will examine morality, empathy, and racial identity as we continue our journey to anti-racism.

Oct. 13, 6pm: Moving From Empathy to Action

Our closing conversation will identify tangible ways to respond to and begin dismantling racism in the arts. In this session, we will discuss key principles to keep in mind as you take action and share best practices.

The series is designed for independent artists, organizations that promote the arts, culture and creative expression, and community members interested in learning about the intersection of the arts and the national movement to dismantle racism in America.

These conversations are designed to help the audience understand and advance the national conversation on race and racism, while inviting them to be a part of the movement by taking individual action grounded in an expanded awareness of the issues. It fills the community need to participate and respond meaningfully to the current reckoning with regard to race and other prejudice and bias.

Conversation Leaders & Facilitators Valeria and Andrea Lopez
Valeria E. Lopez, Founder and CEO of OnBeat Consulting , is a speaker, trainer, and facilitator, specializing in personal and team development, change management and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Valeria has worked with physicians and over 1,200 education leaders from across the country on DEI initiatives. She draws from disciplines such as Liberating Structures and design thinking to create interactive programs. Valeria holds a Masters degree from Brown University and is certified in personality and emotional intelligence assessments. Andrea G. Lopez is a qualitative researcher, educator, and leader with a background in nonprofit and higher edu-cation. Andrea currently co-chairs a Young Professionals Board of a New York nonprofit where she leads conversations on anti-racist and equitable practices. Her expertise includes DEI facilitation, pub-lished research on Black & Latinx families, and higher education advising reform. She holds a Masters degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Teachers College, Columbia University.

The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is very grateful to the Lundberg Family Foundation for its support, and to funds from the Connecticut Office of the Arts that were able to be used to make this important initiative possible.


An Assessment of the Conversation Series, “Supporting Racial Equity In and Through the Arts,” by Angela K. Frusciante is available here.









Workshop Series

Organized around the public conversations, the workshops are working sessions designed for our member artists, organizations, their staff and board members, who commit to undertake specific action against racism and inequity. The working sessions are organized in three “progressions” (see below) supported by peer collaboration, additional resources, and consulting support. The Cultural Alliance seeks members who are ready to commit to participate by registering for the first working session on Thursday, September 17, 6pm, two-days after the first public conversation. Session facilitators will include Valeria and Andrea Lopez, John Cusano, and other guests. 

Participation will involve personal reflection, mutual learning, peer and professional support, and the achievement of specific, self-determined action that measurably eliminates the pervasive racism and inequities in our personal and organizational lives and activities.

● Participants are asked to pledge to:

● Sharpen their awareness of their unique context;

● Learn from relevant resources;

● Give and receive peer support;

● Determine what they can do, with peer and professional help to do it, if needed;

● Undertake specific action to eliminate instances of racism in their individual and/or organizational lives;

● Share what they learn and accomplish; and

● Commit to integrating this work and its ways of being in everything they do.


Working Sessions: First Progression: Reflect, Learn, Understand Context

The goal of the first two sessions is to identify a particular starting point and direction. These two meetings will be full-group virtual explorations and discussions.

The first convening (Thurs. Sept 17, 6pm) will enable reflection on personal/organizational context and ask participants to determine their questions, aspirations, and the changes they seek. We look forward to young people lending their voices to explore, learn, and support the dialogue.

In the second convening (new date: Tues. Oct. 20, 6pm), following the second public conversation, members will create collaborative working groups according to interest and affinity. Participants may choose to work individually but commit to reporting back to the group with updates and learning. We encourage young people to participate in pairs, lending voices, exploring, learning, and giving support. Working groups are encouraged to adjust as the process advances.

Working Sessions: Second Progression: Peer to Peer to Peer Support & Collaboration

The goal of the second “progression” is to establish and delineate individual action. Working groups will establish their own meeting schedules and participants will commit to cooperatively support one another and to complete their self-determined action(s). Working individually (with peer support), participants will outline and prepare individual action(s), present their action plan to their peers (with a timeline and budget as needed), and regularly report back with questions, resources found and needed, and to provide peer support. CAFC will provide outside resources, facilitation as needed, plus peer and professional leadership.

Third Progression: Undertake Individual Actions

The goal of the third “progression” is for participants to stay connected and informed as they undertake their individual actions. Participants will evaluate their progress, regularly communicate outcomes and what they have learned, and commit to meet via small group or large group check-in sessions. Young people will continue their participation as is relevant and practical. It is CAFC’s goal to publish all outcomes and learning in agreement with the participants.

Celebrating passion for the arts and dedication to education