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Centering Creatives of Color

By Elizabeth Snell

Centering the Margins text over a red background with black and white patterns. Text that states your co-hosts, show headshot images of two individuals with their names underneath the photos: Diane Burkholder and Desiree Kane.

Navigating art ecosystems can be challenging, especially for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Being a BIPOC artist in the Midwest can also feel isolating and it may be challenging to unite with like-minds across vast geographies. That’s why Centering the Margins exists, to cultivate a community of care that can feel and be very hard to find. 

What is Centering the Margins?

Centering the Margins is an online gathering series designed for participants to process, learn, find one another, and find joy in camaraderie. It’s a space thoughtfully designed so people can candidly talk, process their experiences, and learn new things about navigating as a creative professional together—inviting those who feel they are on the outside to share their experiences, moving the margins to the center. 

Logistically, Centering the Margins will host four virtual events, beginning this October and continuing through June, which create spaces where the voices of BIPOC individuals are at the center. 

“We’re creating a container, a vessel, for people to BE themselves, without white gaze,” says Diane Burkholder, co-creator of Centering the Margins and founder of the DB Approach LLC. “To not feel pressure to perform for others or be in ‘professional mode,’ ready with an elevator pitch about themselves/their work—it’s been wonderful to hold space with so many amazing creatives.” 

Shaping our arts ecosystem

Centering the Margins is based on an understanding of the need for a supportive community where everyone can feel heard and validated. Serving BIPOC arts professionals and emerging creatives in M-AAA’s region of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, the program created and shared space with approximately 130 people across our six-state region and beyond in its first year.

Now returning for a second season of online programming, Centering the Margins continues its aim to foster solidarity amongst peers and to develop an understanding of the current state of relationships between artists, communities of color, arts institutions, and our shared society.

“The joy, the radical honesty, the vulnerability folks show while we’re together demonstrates WHY these magical spaces are so vitally needed,” Burkholder explains. She believes that centering the voices and experiences of BIPOC individuals can shape the future of our arts industries. 

Burkholder describes the space as one where participants have felt comfortable sharing stories and thoughts about rest, love, preservation, as well as about teaching, unearthing histories, and more.

For Desiree Kane, co-facilitator of Centering the Margins, this program is also about giving back: “Creative industries, like many others, are at a pinnacle moment of transformation. It has been inspiring to see the support network that has formed around Centering the Margins. It was something I needed when I was in my earlier career and it’s wonderful to be supportive of a space like this for others who may need it now.” 

Kathy Liao, M-AAA access and inclusion program officer, explains that Centering the Margins is unique because it was born out of a community need. “The community identified this need across our region, it came together organically, and M-AAA is honored to give the critical support to a programming series that many artists feel is needed regularly in the arts community.”

Programming and Sessions for 2023-2024

The themes for the programs in Centering the Margins Season 2 are Show & Tell, Shaping, Communicating, and Coalesce.

The themes were chosen through a collaborative in-person and online visioning session last summer where 27 participants across the region showed up to shape the program’s future. BIPOC artists and creatives who were invested in their own long-term success as well as their broader arts ecosystems gave ideas central to Centering the Margins’ theory of change: igniting creativity, collaboration, and connection across the Midwest.

Pre-register now and join in on the dynamic, fulfilling, and restorative conversations happening during Centering the Margins Season 2. We’d love to have you join! Registering for one registers you for the following, all at once.

FREE Program Dates

(Past) Centering the Margins: SHOW & TELL (October 18, 2023) 2:00-4:00 p.m. Central Time

Centering the Margins: SHAPING (February 14, 2024) 2:00-4:00 p.m. Central Time

Centering the Margins: COMMUNICATING (April 17, 2024)  2:00-4:00 p.m. Central Time

Centering the Margins: COALESCE (June 12, 2024) 4:00-6:00 p.m. Central Time

Registration link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUrdOusrj0pG9YajreYPiZVc8JyDIvVqn1E#/registration 

Sessions will not be recorded, but resources will be shared after each program.

Centering the Margins is a program of DB Approach, LLC and is led by community leaders Diane Burkholder and Desiree Kane with support from Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Meet the organizers

Diane Burkholder, co-creator and co-facilitator of Centering the Margins

Diane Burkholder (she/her) is Black mixed-race, queer equity consultant, and community organizer who considers herself half Midwesterner, half Californian. She is the founder of The DB Approach, providing anti-oppression and social justice facilitation, coaching, and training to creatives and arts organizations, NPOs, universities, and healthcare facilities. Diane co-founded One-Struggle KC, which received a 2015-2016 Rocket Grant, and the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition, which focuses on improving the state’s HIV-criminalization laws. When not chasing sunsets and taking pictures of foliage and landscapes, she lives under the rule of her cat, Rosa (Parks).

Desiree Kane, co-facilitator of Centering the Margins

Desiree Kane (she/they) is a Miwok activist and journalist who collaborates with collectives, nonprofits, organizations, and individuals to organize and produce journalism and art highlighting social justice issues. She is currently creating and stewarding an Indigenous language immersion metaverse. During the COVID-19 shutdowns, Desiree co-hosted an Indigenous food-culture show. She also founded the Missing Indigenous Sisters Tools Initiative (M.I.S.T.I.), which provides resources for families of missing Indigenous Peoples. 

Desiree is committed to providing workshops and training on anti-oppression and anti-racism to build inclusive and equitable communities that foster safer spaces. Her work has been recognized by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where she has served on the Charlotte Advisory Board, furthering her goal of creating a more equitable world for all. She currently sits on the board of Natives in Tech, a collective of Native technologists crafting free and open source technology that empowers Native peoples.

Centering the Margins Support

Kathy Liao, access and inclusion program officer at M-AAA

Kathy Liao (she/her) is a creative and connector. Since moving to the Midwest nine years ago, Liao found belonging through facilitating and organizing spaces towards a more inclusive and equitable arts and culture ecosystem for creatives to thrive. As a Taiwanese American artist, Liao looks for patterns and repetitions that weave through the immigrant families’ experience in her mixed-media work. She is a recipient of various awards, including the 2023 Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship, 2022 21c KC Artadia Award, and 2020 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Award. She also received a public art commission for the new Kansas City International Airport. Formerly, Liao was Director of the Painting and Printmaking department at Missouri Western State University. She was nominated “Most Influential Professor” in 2019. 

In addition to her role as access and inclusion program officer at Mid-America Arts Alliance, she continues to learn and to advocate for well-being and holistic support for creatives at the interpersonal and systems level. 

Questions about Centering the Margins?

For questions about the program or help with registration, contact Kathy Liao, M-AAA access and inclusion program officer at kliao@maaa.org.

Updated Jan. 24, 2024