Foundation to empower leaders to create a more equitable future in the arts

NEW YORK, NY – July 31, 2018 – Today, twenty-one arts leaders and activists announce the launch of Turn The Spotlight, a foundation created to pair top-tier mentors with exceptional women, people of color, and other equity-seeking groups in the arts. Beth Stewart, a New York City-based arts entrepreneur and classical music publicist, will lead the foundation, which is supported by an Advisory Board of arts world luminaries, including soprano Julia Bullock, journalists Anne Midgette and Celeste Headlee, conductors Lidiya Yankovskaya and Nicole Paiement, stage director Francesca Zambello, classical music publicist Mary Lou Falcone, arts advocates Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora, and women’s rights advocate Amanda Mejia.

“We believe that systemic change is crucial,” said Turn The Spotlight Founder Beth Stewart. “We also believe that one-on-one mentoring can have real impact, particularly in an industry in which so many professionals are freelancers working outside an established institutional framework. Our mission is to identify, nurture, and empower leaders, and in turn, illuminate the path to a more equitable future in the arts.”

Stewart has recruited ten industry-leading mentors from a wide range of artistic specialties, including Emmy Award-winning documentarian Kristin Atwell Ford, producer/director Avery Willis Hoffman, Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, and composer Kamala Sankaram. They will join arts activists Alysia Lee, Rebecca McFaul and Anne Francis Bayless, sopranos Heidi Melton and Corinne Winters, and designer Jessica Jahn in mentoring the foundation’s fellows during the 2018/19 season.

“Nearly all of our first cohort of Lumos Fellows have founded organizations, produced or commissioned new work. Each has a distinctive voice and clear personal mission, and they are committed to using their art to strengthen their communities. We believe these versatile and inventive arts leaders and activists are the way forward,” said Stewart.

The 2018/19 Lumos Fellows will collaborate on a striking breadth of projects, ranging from building community investment in arts entrepreneurship to developing a line of gender non-binary swimwear, and confronting personal violence through performance. The Fellows include vocalist Lucy Dhegrae, founder of the Resonant Bodies Festival, director/producer Jamil Jude, founder of The New Griots Festival, violinist and Fulbright Scholar Teagan Faran, who studies how music can strengthen community togetherness, and composer Frances Pollock, whose music examines social issues through collaboration outside traditional academic circles.

Emerging classical singers Rehanna Thelwell, Felicia Moore, and Anush Avetisyan, costume designer Sueann Leung, and DC Strings Artistic Director Andrew Lee will round out the first cohort, along with violinists Elena Urioste and Melissa White, whose company Intermission Sessions was founded to teach musicians yoga techniques to support the demanding physicality and emotional undertaking of performance.

At the conclusion of the mentorship season in May, one Lumos Fellow will be chosen by the Spotlight Advisory Board to receive the Hedwig Holbrook Prize, to include $5,000 and a website designed by Stewart’s PR firm, Verismo Communications.

“It’s my hope that this prize, named in honor of the late soprano Jennifer Holbrook, will represent a galvanizing force in one fellow’s life each season,” said Stewart. “I expect each of our Lumos Fellows to emerge from this experience with a clearer vision of the path of his or her personal mission, and a deeper well of fuel to get there.”

Though the organization’s day-to-day operations will be focused on individual mentorship, Turn The Spotlight leaders hope that their cumulative efforts will contribute to addressing inequity across sectors of the arts industry.

“The classical music industry continues to lag woefully behind when it comes to diversity, especially in leadership positions within larger-budget organizations,” said conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, founder of the Refugee Orchestra Project and the only female Music Director in the top 50 opera companies in the United States. “Turn the Spotlight is providing the essential mentorship and support those from marginalized groups require in order to reach high-level career goals. I am thrilled to be part of this vital resource for deserving artists across the field.”

“The arts provide the prism through which we can first envision, and then build, a better and more just world,” added Camille Zamora, co-founder of Sing for Hope and a leading voice in the artist-as-citizen movement. “Turn The Spotlight is poised to do exactly what the name suggests: refocus the illuminating power of the arts.”

 

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