Introduction & Project Summary
In development by Visceral Visions since 2015, CultureBrew.Art (“CBA”) is a digital platform that promotes and fosters intersectional interculturalism by building connection, collaboration, and community in the Canadian arts and culture sector – and beyond! Its central tool is a searchable database of Indigenous and racialized artists who work in the performing and media arts – inclusive of writers, directors, actors, dancers, musicians, singers, filmmakers, designers, choreographers, stage managers, composers, production and other cultural workers – to which engagers (employers) may access as subscribers.
CBA was conceived by Valerie Sing Turner, Creative Director, and Anju Singh, Technical Director – both multidisciplinary and racialized women artists with a proven track record of advocacy around intersectional racial equity, and execution of complex projects involving a range of collaborators, partners, and stakeholders.
As an initiative created by racialized artists for BIPOC artists, CBA is built on values of respect, responsibility, reciprocity, relevance, and relationality. We recognize that building trust, even among racialized communities, is slow and intentional work, given the history of systemic racism and white supremacy that still harms people of colour. Part of this work entails making significant investments into the kind of community engagement and development that ensures inclusion of Indigenous and racialized artists across disciplines, disability, sexual orientation, and gender, as well as across the country into remote, rural, and Indigenous communities.
The CBA Rationale
Using an intersectional racial equity lens, CBA intends to be a one-stop, systemic intervention designed to disrupt acknowledged systemic biases in the arts and culture ecosystem, by transforming the process by which BIPOC artists are found by engagers. CBA is positioned to be an indispensable factor in keeping Canadian arts and culture vibrant and powerfully relevant; and in doing so, build intercultural understanding, equitable hiring practices, and meaningful employment opportunities. CBA invites participants to deeply consider and to organically learn about intersectionality by providing a space that centres LGBTQ2S+ BIPOC, Deaf BIPOC, visually impaired BIPOC, and BIPOC with disabilities and/or neurodiverse perspectives.
From a strictly artistic perspective, CBA provides a means to consider cross-discipline collaboration and dialogue. It is intended to transform the ability of Indigenous and racialized artists to access and connect with each other, by providing opportunities to collaborate artistically, share knowledge, and to build political and artistic powerbases. We work from the premise that racism and white supremacy are health and safety issues for Indigenous and racialized peoples.
CBA is more than a database tool, however. Our research indicates that what BIPOC artists really want is community engagement: to connect and work with like-minded artists, find mentors, build spaces (online and offline) where they can meet other BIPOC experiencing the same systemic issues, and TOGETHER figure out a way forward. Engagers – film/TV casting, indie directors and producers, theatres, dance and opera companies, festivals, post-secondary and other training programs seeking instructors, ad agencies, government agencies filling arts advisories & funding juries, media seeking panelists and spokespersons, social service agencies seeking BIPOC to work with refugees, immigrants, LGBTQS2+ youth, and more! – want guidelines/tools to avoid the pitfalls of cultural appropriation/harassment and learn from each other.
With these actions and intentions, CBA has the tremendous potential to make this seismic shift by facilitating the diversification of programming and representation onstage, onscreen, in the studio, and throughout our communities. Research reveals that entities hiring Indigenous and racialilzed artists show positive impacts to the size and diversification of audiences, and overall public engagement with communities who have been historically marginalized, under-represented, and underserved by currently available artistic offerings. The impact of this kind of representation and inclusion has the potential to redefine the ecosystem’s operational definition of who belongs, whose stories are important, and who is qualified to tell those stories. This in turn inevitably enriches and deepens dialogue about equity and inclusion on the civic and political level, as well as within the arts and culture sector.
Long term, CBA is envisioned as a social enterprise which will rely on low-barrier membership fees from BIPOC artists, and monthly or annual subscription fees from engagers looking to connect with and hire those artists.
Equity, Accessibility, Privacy & Security
In recognition of the fact that Indigenous and racialized folks – particularly women of colour – suffer higher rates of online harassment, CBA has developed certain protocols to maintain a safer online space for Indigenous and racialized artists to engage with each other, and the people and organizations who wish to employ them:
- Only paid subscribers – not the general public – are given access to CBA. Having a fee-for-service model discourages would-be trolls who currently roam free across platforms with impunity, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- For more sensitive personal information such as gender, sexual orientation, and disability, BIPOC artists are given the option to limit the sharing of such information to only BIPOC who share the same identity (i.e. a trans artist might want to only be searched and found by other trans BIPOC artists), or only by other artists in CBA (i.e. not with potential engagers). Engagers will be able to still reach these artists by posting opportunities, which will give the artists control over who they wish to engage with.
- We worked with a certified professional privacy consultant and a lawyer with a background in human rights to develop our Code of Conduct and Terms of Service, which are published on CBA’s site, and to which every artist and subscriber must actively agree to in order to access artists.
- Because Indigenous and Black women in particular are often targeted online for human trafficking as well as gender-based violence and harassment, we set up our payment processor to make it mandatory for everyone – whether artist or subscriber – to provide full legal name and credit card info to discourage would-be perpetrators, and make it easier to locate those who contravene our Code of Conduct and/or Terms of Service.
- For BIPOC artists who find a credit card to be a barrier to participation, we are committed to personalized assistance and manual activation that will allow them to join the community once they have provided information to verify their identity.
- We set aside some of our budget to ensure that CBA conforms with accessibility standards of WCAG 2.0 to a minimum of Level AA (sometimes AAA). Part of this budget paid for the services of a company who provided culturally diverse testers with disabilities who use assistive devices to access the internet.
- Visceral Visions received special approval from the BC Human Rights Tribunal in response to our application for an exemption under section 42(3) of the BC Human Rights Code, allowing CBA to restrict the provision of services to self-identified Indigenous and racialized artists. Section 42(2) of the Human Rights Code allows the Tribunal to approve any program that “has as its objective the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups”. What this means in practice is that Visceral Visions – and by extension, the BIPOC community in CBA – is protected from any nuisance lawsuits or claims of discrimination by white artists for their exclusion from CBA.
- We are committed to continuing to work with a certified privacy professional (also a woman of colour), to ensure that all of our policies and procedures promote online safety, privacy, and protection from identity theft as well as harassment. This ongoing process includes staff training, and well as promoting digital literacy among our users, both artists and subscribers.
- All data in CBA is securely hosted on servers located in Canada with CanTrust Hosting Co-operative.
- Digital platforms require ongoing security upgrades in order to protect private and sensitive personal information. Given the communities CBA is meant to serve, this is a high priority. In addition, CBA must ensure ongoing compliance as provincial and federal governments introduce more stringent privacy legislation to combat increased levels of hacking, including ransomware and privacy breaches. In addition to general liability insurance, Visceral Visions maintains cyber privacy breach insurance; but our preference is to continually invest in technological upgrades to prevent such breaches before they happen.