In Conversation

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Several leaders in Louisville’s arts community discussed how they’re trying to make their organizations and their audiences more diverse this week on WFPL’s In Conversation.

They discussed the status of arts diversity locally and nationally, and detailed how they are encouraging diversity now. Our guests were:

  • Idris Goodwin, the first black artistic director at Stage One Family Theater
  • Shannon Woolley Allison, Co-Founder of the Looking For Lilith Theater Company
  • Stephen Reily, the Speed Art Museum Director

Louisville has shown progress in arts diversity. More diverse roles are springing up in productions and Actors Theatre recently hired Robert Barry Fleming as artistic director — he is the first non-white person to hold that position. But there have been pitfalls, too, with racist imagery in an art installation sparking tense conversations and Confederate monuments sparking months of deliberation on race and art.

For Shannon Woolley Allison, co-founder of the Looking For Lilith Theater Company, arts groups can encourage diversity in the arts by involving underrepresented people in their processes and by partnering with local organizations.

“Our mission at Lilith for the last 18 years has been to create productions and programming that uplift under-heard voices,” Woolley Allison said. “There’s got to be the groundwork done of building partnerships, building collaborations, building friendships.”

Looking For Lilith Theater Company Co-Founder Shannon Woolley AllisonKyeland Jackson |

Shannon Woolley Allison of Looking For Lilith

Speed Art Museum Director Stephen Reily said art itself can invite people into unique discussions on race and diversity, but said white men such as himself should be aware of what reactions that art could stir.

One example of that was the “Unraveling”, a performance piece at the Speed Art Museum two years ago that revived discussions of race and racism in the United States.

Idris Goodwin, Artistic Director at Stage One Family Theater, said leaders can support diversity by involving people in different communities. Goodwin, the theater’s first black artistic director, said representation increases art’s impact and said there should be chances for people from different communities to experience art.

“The only reason I’m sitting here right now is because growing up, my parents took us to museums, they took us to theater, they took us to concerts — they fostered that love in me early,” Goodwin said. “We’re trying to do the same thing with all kids, even if their parents don’t do that.”

Stage One Family Theater Artistic Director Idris GoodwinIdris Goodwin

Stage One Family Theater Artistic Director Idris Goodwin

Woolley Allison, Goodwin and Reily said more of their productions will feature voices from underrepresented communities and perspectives.

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District and the city’s infrastructure.