Penn Live Arts Blog

A message from our Executive & Artistic Director

Posted June 4, 2020

I write to you this week knowing that we are filled with emotion over the events of recent days. It has been difficult to watch and experience as communities across our country react to the tragic killing of George Floyd and to the sight of thousands of people coming together in peaceful protest, even as we continue to struggle with the public health crisis of COVID-19.

As a center for the arts, we reaffirm our continued commitment to presenting artists of color on our stages, supporting artistic work that addresses the important issues of our time, and we join President Gutmann in pledging to work toward creating an environment that is inclusive and free from discrimination, for our patrons and supporters of diverse cultural backgrounds, our staff, board and all persons of color across the Penn campus.

While we grapple daily with anger, pain and sorrow, I hope it gives you solace to remember that the performing arts are a powerful influence in helping us work through the large issues that may be hard to process individually. The performing arts regularly bring us together in all of our diversities, in a shared experience of fellowship. During such troubled times, they play a greater role in our lives. Even experienced in the digital realm, the arts help us make sense of tragedy and challenge, bringing us meaning, comfort and spiritual affirmation, all of which are essential in our lives right now.

The arts also comment on and help bring about social change, and artists themselves are reacting to this exceptionally difficult time with a great outpouring of creativity. I encourage you to read an excellent article, Jazz as a Medium for Social and Political Change, which traces the history of jazz as a catalyst for change.

And I recommend to you two profoundly moving performances by artists of color specifically in response to current events. Please take a moment to view Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s WE. DANCE. video and listen to this performance of “America the Beautiful” by Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic.

With best wishes for your continued health and safety,

Christopher Gruits
Executive & Artistic Director