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Mixed Metaphor: A Hybrid Approach Toward Liberatory Infrastructure for Arts & Culture Organizations

Once upon a time, across kitchen tables, front porches, conference tables, performance spaces, and workshop sessions, a big conversation was happening at the National Performance Network (NPN). The network was in a quandary: BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving arts organizations, as well as rural arts organizations of all racial identities, were either folding or leaving the Network. 

The picture that emerged, as Sage Crump describes it, was this: “[Arts organizations of color and geographically isolated arts organizations] didn’t have the support they needed for their artistic work or for their organizational infrastructure. And as a body, the Network said, ‘That’s unacceptable.’ We shouldn’t lose organizations through no fault of their own because there are systems at play that undervalue who they are.” From these conversations, Leveraging a Network for Equity (LANE) was born.

LANE was a ten-year initiative by NPN to support arts organizations of color and rural arts organizations to thrive in ways that are rooted in who they are, deeply nourish their well-being, and build on their brilliance and leadership in tearing down white supremacy culture, racial capitalism, and other systems of oppression. Through those ten years, two cohorts of six organizations amassed a wealth of learning toward creating Liberatory Infrastructure: systems of accountability and governance that hold the core principles of justice, dignity, and humanity for all.

“We, as creative people, have the capacity to create a different ending to the story; explore the context, allow room to acknowledge layers, imagine possible outcomes.”

LANE Cohort Member

To share their experience with the field, the LANE team and cohort members compiled their learning and practices—from their lived experiences as well as the LANE program materials—that supported them to engage in a range of Liberatory Infrastructure experiments. As LANE’s participatory learning partner, Change Elemental worked with cohort members and the LANE team in co-creating a learning framework rooted in their lived experiences and in the weaving of the offerings for the field shared here.

The below offerings from LANE hold that BIPOC arts organizations in urban and rural areas and rural arts organizations of all racial identities are leading the arts sector—and the social justice field—towards both the vision and the ways of being and doing necessary for joy, racial justice, and cultural equity.

Mixed Metaphor: A Hybrid Approach Toward Liberatory Infrastructure for Arts & Culture Organizations—and the Social Justice Field

These offers are made for people who believe culture is the fulcrum of social change, and who care about co-creating equitable and liberated arts leadership and organizations. They share the learning of the artists, culture workers, poets, dreamers, strategists, arts administrators, organizational leaders, organizers, and visionaries of LANE who came together for nearly a decade to learn what it takes to create thriving, equitable arts organizations. We believe they can be helpful not only to nonprofit arts organizations but also to any formation of people in which infrastructure is necessary to advance your vision by deepening sustainability, justice, and liberatory practices.

These offerings can support you when you feel stuck, alone, or unsure of the pathways forward because systems rooted in white supremacy culture and racial capitalism inhibit dreams, approaches, and practices of liberation. Both resources support exploration either as an individual or within collectives.

Learning Deck

The learning deck is a tool that pairs brief learnings from LANE cohort members’ experiences with reflection questions to guide you in your own journey toward Liberatory Infrastructure.

You can use the cards to reinforce your work of shifting and dismantling systems of oppression while creating liberating alternatives and new worlds within yourselves, your organizations, and your networks.

Shuffle the deck and pull a card, or download a copy on LANE’s website!


People, Places, & Communities That Guide Us

The workbook presents the learnings at greater depth and includes individual and collective practices developed during LANE. The workbook uses interactive media and video elements to invite fellow travelers to fully understand the journey that LANE took—and to take it further.

You can reference the workbook repeatedly over time, entering into it wherever you feel called, and engaging with it based on your pressing questions. It was not designed to be a linear cover-to-cover read, though you are welcome to do that.

Dive in by downloading it on the LANE website!

“It’s not about the lack within these organizations; it’s not [that they are] at risk. It is: these folks are brilliant and they are living inside a toxic system. How do we uplift their brilliance and how do we detoxify the system?”

Sage Crump, LANE Staff

These resources are an invitation to dream more fully. We invite you into Mixed Metaphor, a Liberatory Infrastructure toolkit to help you untangle your challenges, engage complexity, and advance liberation.


Cohort Members:

Affiliations current to their time in LANE. 

The Carpetbag Theatre, Inc.: Linda Parris Bailey, Emmanuel Bailey, Jonathan Clark*

Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas: Dawn Chirwa, Jeffrey Cohen, Suryanka Kalra, Merri Ann Osborne, Dani Tirrell, Sharon Williams, Nina Yarbrough*

Coleman Center for the Arts: Jackie Clay,* Suzanne McGahey, Audra Tignor

Hayti Heritage Center/ St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, Inc.: Angela Lee,* Melody Little 

Junebug Productions: Damia Khanboubi,* Kiyoko McCrae, Stephanie McKee-Anderson, Mariana Sheppard, Adonis White-Price  

La Peña Cultural Center: Tara Dalbo, Carol Pierson, Natalia Neira Retamal, Bianca Torres

Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA): Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez,* Nicolas Holguin, Letetia Rodriguez

The Myrna Loy: Phil Campbell, Krys Holmes,* Retta Leaphart 

Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) and All My Relations Arts: Alex Buffalohead, Robert Lilligren, Edward Minnema, Taylor Rose Payer, Cole St. Arnold, Angela Two Stars, Rory Erler Wakemup 

Pangea World Theater: Adlyn Carreras, Dipankar Mukherjee, Meena Natarajan,* Ahn-Thu Pham

Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center: Tony Garcia, Mica Garcia de Benavidez, Tanya Mote,* Victor Vialpando 

The Theater Offensive: Evelyn Francis,* Matt Gelman, Stetson Marshall, Abe Rybeck, Harold Steward 

LANE Consultants: Leatrice Ellzy, Justin Laing,* Keryl McCord, Kiyoko McCrae, Sham-e-Ali Nayeem,* Márquez Rhyne, Kristen Sbrogna,* Beatrice Thomas*

*A subset of cohort members and consultants participated in a design team for these offerings. They lovingly called themselves “the Geese” and flocked in different configurations at various points.

National Performance Network LANE Staff: Sage Crump and Monica Tyran

Learning Partner: Change Elemental – Natalie Bamdad, Elissa Sloan Perry, Naima Yael Tokunow, Monica Tyran, Natasha Winegar

Design Coordinator: ill Weaver

Illustrator: Amir Khadar 

Graphic Designer: And Also Too

Copy editors: Ciara Diane and Sara Carminati