December in Miami for Art Basel seems like a plum assignment. Hanging out and looking at great art? Check. Exclusive dinners? Check. Great parties? Absolutely.
But there is real, important work being done. During my second consecutive trip to the world’s most important art fair, I reaffirmed my view that the push toward amplifying and fueling creativity across underrepresented communities, creating opportunities and shifting the grip of wealth in the U.S. remains strong.
This year, the Rally Point team had the opportunity to work with Howard University’s Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. Like me, you likely ask yourself why an HBCU would plant a flag and create a presence at this art spectacle? The rationale was two-tiered. First, it was an opportunity for a delegation of students to see cutting edge art up close. Second, it was a significant networking opportunity to gain exposure across the arts and business community.
What I witnessed and experienced was incredibly moving. In partnership with the Black founded and run venture capital firm, Lightship Capital, visitors to the Cadillac Hotel on Miami Beach could experience a unique series of pieces entitled “Chroma –The Perception of Colour in Light” which captured a handful of powerful Black leaders from the late congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis, to Maya Angelou, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the famed author James Baldwin.
But what stood out to me in my days with the Howard University team was the impression that this experience made on the young Black student artists – from being in the presence of great art to getting to know the art community itself. They also received a real world education from successful alumni who are already traversing the industry as well as from business experts that shared the fundamental cornerstones of how they can be not just great artists, but great business people. What I heard at the end of my time with them is how much they appreciated learning the business aspect of their passion that has the potential to create generation wealth.
These students were quite impressive. They brought their artwork to display and even sold a number of pieces giving them a taste of what success as an artist can look like.
On the other side of town, the LVMH Culture House in Miami’s Design District drew a bigger audience than in 2022.
The audience listened to a panel discussion with three of the global luxury giant’s U.S. division heads – Herve Perrot (Bulgari), Valerie Leon (Givenchy) and Natacha Lamour (Hublot) – with a focus on how DEI impacts their business success today while also driving future growth.
Make no mistake, LVMH is a company steeped in tradition. But Hublot’s Lamour struck a chord with the statement that “tradition needs disruption to stay relevant.” It made me think about the fear that many “gatekeepers” among global businesses have; that embracing diversity and creating an equitable outcome for all is somehow a loss and not a gain.
But for companies like LVMH and its myriad of brands, a successful and more profitable future means diversifying the talent pool, expanding the consumer base of successful professionals of color who can afford those goods. What they’ve learned is if demographics are changing – especially in the U.S. – and that not speaking to that new group of consumers means less profit down the line.
As I consider my time at Art Basel Miami Beach it was much more than art and parties. It was about the resilient spirit of diverse people and an affirmation that despite the challenges faced and the pressure applied by some on diversity efforts, it’s really helping those of us – individuals, nonprofits, corporations and all who support – to fine-tune our efforts so they are more impactful and widespread.
2024 brings another presidential election and the political challenges to DEI that have always been present. But after Art Basel I’m refreshed. Diverse communities are still bridging gaps across industries, building new bridges to opportunity, having meaningful conversations, and pushing the world toward a greater understanding of how our differences can be our strengths.
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