IPaintMyMind's 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report - IPaintMyMind's 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report -
IPaintMyMind’s 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report

IPaintMyMind’s 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report

Written by:
Lillie Therieau
Feb 10, 2021

Looking back, 2020 meant a lot of things in flux, including how our organization thinks about delivering our mission of connecting communities through art. We’ve had to deeply rethink what our programs look like, how we fund them, how we tell our story, and how we wear our values on our sleeves through action, not just words.

After IPMM founder Evan La Ruffa’s Black Lives Matter statement on behalf of the organization and our Board in June 2020, our Board of Directors embarked on a plan to bolster our commitment with an actual plan as to how to formalize our commitment in the way we do our work, by being intentional about our processes, and codifying ways of walking the walk, and being the change we want to see in the world.

The result was 3+ months of work led by IPMM Impact Advisor Levi Baer in conjunction with IPMM Executive Director Evan La Ruffa, and supported by IPMM Impact Advisor Chevy Williams, and IPMM Executive Board Members, Brian Flannery, Josh Hoekwater, Sam Kirk, and Roxy Piersanti.

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The Resulting 5-Part Plan 

Out of our collaborative efforts came a 5-part plan to set in place goals, enforce accountability measures, and support BIPOC led nonprofits and organizations working in Chicago. 

  • Creating new policies and frameworks to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. 
  • Committing to actively support efforts of BIPOC led organizations working in the realm of education and the arts. 
  • Continuing commitment to diversity in our Permanent Collection, while working to increase minority representation so that it matches the demographic makeup of our city! 
  • Prioritizing a continuing commitment to outreach, messaging, and investment in our programs in communities of color. 
  • Ratifying our new mission statement and discussing next steps and a continuing process for accountability and transparency. 
  • Creating a Better, More Inclusive Workplace

Part 1 of our DEI plan reflects our belief that IPaintMyMind can only do the work we aim to do if the organization is a welcoming, equitable, and accountable place to work. Our staff need to feel comfortable calling out bias, asking tough questions, and pushing for new ideas in order for us to serve our communities at the highest level possible. 

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That organizational openness and honesty will take work, but we’ve come up with the following 6 policies and programs. 

  • Create a minimum number of intentional community partnerships, to prioritize diverse, community-centered candidate sources. 
    • For every position that we hire for, the candidate pool must include one person from a local community partner. 
  • Screen job descriptions and expectations for bias/exclusion. 
    • Before any job listings are posted, they will undergo an internal review with IPMM staff and a community partner to ensure that they do not include exclusionary, gendered, racist, or inaccessible language. 
  • Create mandatory diverse candidate pools and hiring committees. 
    • Job postings will not be closed, nor a candidate selected, unless the candidate pool for every open position includes a minimum of one woman or nonbinary person, and one person of color; the same person cannot fullfill both requirements.
    • The interview process for all candidates must include one woman/nonbinary person and one person of color. This can include community partners, board members, advisors, and staff.
  • Social justice training for all staff and Board. 
    • Each calendar year, all IPMM staff and board must attend a minimum of 2 hours of social justice training. This requirement can be met at an IPMM training or another qualifying event. 
  • Implement formal and informal feedback/review/innovation process for staff. 
    • All full- and part-time IPMM staff will participate in an annual performance review with their manager (or a Board member) where both employee and manager provide ratings of performance, give feedback on those ratings, review goals, and revise performance goals. 
    • All full- and part-time IPMM staff will also participate in a “coffee chat” with an IPMM Board member with the purpose of creating a welcoming and safe space to ask/answer: “How are you doing? What can we do to make you comfortable here?”
  • Supporting staff involvement with affinity groups. 
    • IPMM will support staff wishing to participate in affinity groups centered on identity or culture by giving them paid time off to attend events and providing them with money to purchase supplies for events or pay dues. 

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Supporting BIPOC Led Arts and Education Organizations 

Part 2 of our DEI plan involves investing in and amplifying the amazing work of BIPOC organizations working in arts and education. We plan to work with 10 local BIPOC organizations and black leaders who work in education and the arts and assess what kinds of partnerships, collaborations, and financial contributions we can offer to maximize our impact.

We’ll partner with 3 BIPOC led organizations per year for the next four years. 

Representation In Our Permanent Collection 

In Part 3 of our DEI plan, IPMM decided to continue prioritizing minority representation in our Permanent Collection, with the goal of representing and speaking to the full diversity of the communities we serve and our collaboration partners.

IPaintMyMind’s goals as far as building our Permanent Collection are all about being able to provide mirrors and windows for every community we work with. This means ensuring that the IPaintMyMind Permanent Print Collection be composed of works that reflect the communities we serve while also providing access to very different realities. It’s this interchange between reflection and expansion that we love as far as getting people and communities to think about themselves within the creative landscape.

As such, we want to move the above metrics in the following 2 key representational categories: Gender, and Race & Ethnicity.

Gender (National Metric, Women 51%, Men 48%, 1% Non-Binary)

  • Women: Increase by 18% (32% to 50%)
  • Men: Reduce by 9% (57% to 48%)
  • Non-Binary: Increase 1% (1% to 2%)

Race & Ethnicity (Local Metric, see below)

  • White: Reduce by 47% (57% to 10%)
  • Black: Increase by 29% (11% to 40%)
  • LatinX: Increase by 30% (16% to 46%)
  • Asian: Maintain (14%, national is 4.5%)

We are aiming to reach our ambitious acquisition goals by Winter 2022. 


Continuing to Provide Equitable Outreach

Since IPaintMyMind launched the Shared Walls Program, the idea was about getting art into every corner of our city. It was about using equity as THE lens for measuring our work, and so we set a goal of reaching every Ward in the city with the Shared Walls Program. 

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In that sense, we have always been working at offering our programs to any public school in Chicago, regardless of where they were located, how much investment the school already had, or who had clout to bring in the needed resources.

While equity and geographical parity were always a way to ensure fairness, access, and diversity and inclusion, we have also folded in our understanding of the Chicago Public School system into our outreach efforts, thusly prioritizing black, brown and Latino communities with respect to information and opportunities to participate in our programs.

Both by evaluating property tax bases and the history of racism in Chicago, it’s clear which communities and schools have seen regular investment, and which have been divested from and underestimated for decades. 

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Our Process: The Philosophy of Equity

How this view informs our process is fairly straight-forward. As previously mentioned, it involves giving communities of color, specifically those historically underestimated and divested, the first bite at the apple when it comes to applying to our programs. 

The process is outlined as such:

Prioritizing Black & Latino Communities as a result of A Lack of Need-Based Investment in Education

  • Since the very first Shared Walls exhibition at Willye B. White Park District on Howard Ave in Rogers Park, the idea was to systematically ensure that kids and communities all over the city had access. As we achieved the goal of working in every Ward, we then implemented a system, beginning in 2019, which staggered our outreach timelines, ensuring that our programs are rolled out in alignment with and in proper proportion to the demographics of our city and nation. That system includes: 
  • A 30-day lead time on program applications for Black and Brown communities:
    • IPMM has begun outreach efforts to enroll CPS partners on the East, South, and West sides of the city a full 45 days before our team begins outreach efforts to predominantly white schools on the northside.
    • Schools we haven’t worked with are the priority, ensuring that as many CPS schools as possible can participate in our programming. 
  • Reduced program fees in subsequent years, allowing schools to continue to access our programming despite financial barriers. 

Removing The Access and Cost Barriers

  • Shared Walls is always funded outside of CPS budgets, allowing teachers and administrators to allocate their limited budget to other necessary costs. 
  • While IPaintMyMind also sells programs and services to our school partners, we felt it was important to take this marked and differentiated approach, in which every school receives the Shared Walls Program for FREE in Year 1 – both allowing everyone to participate, but also putting it on the IPMM Team to come correct, serve, delight, advocate for, and support our schools, principles, teachers, and students in every way possible.

Working Collaboratively not Colonially

  • Co-Curation, Mirrors and Windows – art is both about seeing ourselves and seeing the world, as both are hugely important!
  • Power Sharing: Feedback and Accountability – democratic decision making among our IPMM Partnership Teams – IPMM Lead plus Principals, VP’s, and Teachers
  • Qualitative Feedback Sessions to Shift Power
    • We will also conduct surveys and Events in 2021 to debrief as best as possible from a tumultuous 20/21 school year. 

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Ratification, Accountability, and Transparency 

The final step in our DEI plan was to have our Board of Directors ratify the policies and adjustments, which they did! Now, we move onto working to implement these policies, a process which we plan to discuss with openness and transparency. We will also hold ourselves accountable to meeting these goals within the timeframe we have set out. Throughout the process, we’ll hold space for conversation with community members, staff, and other organizations to discuss what we’re doing and how we can make the process better and more inclusive. 

Here’s our new Mission statement: Our mission is to connect people through the power of art. Our art programs inspire diverse communities through creative, collaborative, and equitable experiences.

Our vision is a world where art is a human right. By combining art, value, service, and innovation, we foster creativity through purposeful relationships that make us all more engaged.

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Written by:
Lillie Therieau
Feb 10, 2021