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A Seat At The Table

A Conversation About Cultural Equity In The Arts

In an intentional effort to elevate cultural equity, diversity, and inclusion in our arts and culture community, the Des Moines Arts Festival® hosts a quarterly online opportunity to showcase how you can find your “Seat at the Table". Each conversation will include a panel of community partners sharing how they've been working towards cultural equity and how we, as a community, can collaborate to elevate the arts.

The May session of "A Seat at the Table" will be Wednesday, May 26, 11:30am-1pm. Register below!

Questions? Please reach out to Daphne at ddickens@desmoinesartsfestival.org

Thanks to those who joined us on Thursday, February 11 for a conversation in celebration of Black History Month: Transforming Barriers into Opportunities. The expert panel included local community creative and educator Emmett Phillips , artist H.C. Porter, and Des Moines Symphony member, Jason Wells; facilitated by Kate Hightshoe.

To view a recording of the conversation, click HERE.
View Emmett's music video with the Oakridge Neighborhood in it's entirety HERE.

Meet the Panel

Emmett Phillips is a facilitator at Oakridge Neighborhood. He is a Hip-Hop Artist, poet, teaching artist, and actor who’s performed from St. Louis to New York City. Emmett has worked with Des Moines Public Schools, the Des Moines Play House, Pyramid Theatre Company, and more. Emmett is also the founder of Speak Your Peace, an independent art service that specializes in education and consulting to support artists, serve businesses, and assist communities in general. He is most passionate about using his art forms as a way to tell stories that promote equality, social justice, and freedom.

H.C. Porter, a Jackson, Mississippi, native, is an internationally known painter, printmaker and photographer with a signature gallery in historic downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi. Her artwork is in private and corporate collections around the globe and has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions for the past 30 years. She is currently working in Annapolis, Maryland, as an Artist in Residence at Maryland Hall for the Visual and Performing Arts, where she currently creating with exciting results. Porter’s recent project, titled Blues @ Home: Mississippi’s Living Blues Legends was inspired driving along Mississippi Delta back roads. “I had painted the Delta in some of my past works, but I had never so clearly felt the need to tell the story of Delta people’s lives through the art form that was born there…the Blues.” In the Blues @ Home project, Porter set out to document Mississippi’s legendary storytellers…the living legends of Mississippi bluesmen and women. “Seeing the bluesmen in a personal, home environment through the eyes of an artist is a unique opportunity. I hope viewers recognize these are not works just about music and musicians, but about the human spirit - about lives lived and the culture from which they come.

Jason Wells first picked up the double bass at age of 10, then started studying privately at 12. He graduated high school from Interlochen Arts Academy with a focus in music, then went on to DePaul University where he studied double bass performance with Robert Kassinger of the Chicago Symphony. After college, Jason decided to take a break from music for a number of years after suffering from a shoulder injury, but returned to music in 2016. He is now a full-time member of the Des Moines Symphony and subs with many other groups such as the Sioux City Symphony and the South Dakota Symphony. Jason spends a lot of his time teaching and does everything from private bass instruction to group workshops at various middle and high schools in the Twin Cities area where he lives. He also enjoys playing different genres such as jazz and bluegrass and is a former member of the progressive bluegrass band Barbaro.

Kate Hightshoe has a proven track record in implementing cultural change management strategies at all organization levels – organizational compliance and enterprise risk management and mitigation - and community building, development, and engagement. Her areas of expertise include the strategic building of highly functioning teams and partnerships designed to support business objectives and sustainability - convening conversations and opportunities for innovation and creative business - and tying equity, inclusion, diversity and accessibility values and initiatives to corporate strategy that can further assist the organization in achieving key objectives. Kate has her BA in Oboe Performance and minor in Music Composition from the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Interdisciplinary Masters: American Culture, American History, American Music. Kate is the immediate past Chair of the Inclusion Council for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, serves on The Des Moines Symphony EDI Committee, the Board of Directors for the Des Moines Art Center, and the Executive Board of Directors for BRAVO Des Moines.

May 13 conversation registration


(click on the date to view)

February 11, 2021 conversation
Expert panel included local community creative and educator Emmett Phillips , artist H.C. Porter, and Des Moines Symphony member, Jason Wells. This conversation will be facilitated by Kate Hightshoe.

December 17, 2020 conversation
Expert panel included Executive Director of the Des Moines Art Festival, Stephen King, Executive Director of BRAVO Greater Des Moines, Sally Dix, and Des Moines Artist INC facilitators Beau Kenyon and A'ndrea Wilson; facilitated by Kate Hightshoe.

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