Ashley Wheater
by Kalya Ramu

by Emily Trace

Ashley Wheater:

The Joffrey Ballet

“ I think keeping people sticky takes a lot of work. You can’t just let people go—you need to let them know where they are, what we’re doing, and that we’re here.”

5.1

Ashley Wheater MBE may be the only member of the Order of the British Empire to also be named Chicagoan of the Year. Popularity like that stems from creating fully-funded access to dance education for children across the city through the historically diverse Joffrey Ballet—known for daring original works that resonate with contemporary audiences.

 

Wheater sat down with myself and smART Chief Editor Michael Zarathus-Cook to discuss what gives Chicago an international reputation as a thriving arts eco-system and how it became even more important during the pandemic to keep this access alive. He also talks about how to create the pipelines that support an equitable, inclusive future for the art form.eco-system and how it became even more important during the pandemic to keep this access alive. He also talks about how to create the pipelines that support an equitable, inclusive future for the art form. uture for the art form.eco-system and how it became even more important during the pandemic to keep this access alive. He also talks about how to create the pipelines that support an equitable, inclusive future for the art form. He also talks about how to create the pipelines that support an equitable, inclusive future for the art form.

Five Questions with Ashley Wheater

1

Favourite virtual ballet performance from the past year?

Answer

2

Favourite contemporary choreographer of colour?

Answer

3

Favourite quality in a dancer?

Answer

4

1 word that describes The Joffrey's culture?

Answer

5

Last song you listened to?

Answer

How is the SFAC contributing to the DEI efforts of San Francisco organizations?

SFAC has a legislative mandate that dates back to the early nineties, requiring our public funding to prioritize BIPOC communities and artists as well as women and people with disabilities. So this cultural equity endowment fund is one of the first of its kind in the nation. We give millions of dollars a year to these historically underserved communities. But our work has evolved to do even more over the last decade; we’ve upped our game in terms of outreach and technical assistance to ensure that the artists we commission for public art, who exhibit in our galleries, or those we fund through our grants are representative of these BIPOC or LGBTQ communities that define San Francisco’s rich diversity. 

 

The cultural centres we support are rooted in communities of colour, and more recently, San Francisco voters passed legislation to stabilize arts funding from year to year with an emphasis for funding BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations. We’re also going to roll out, in the coming weeks, funding to serve the Black community as part of the city’s effort to reallocate funding from law enforcement. Post-George Floyd, Mayor London Breed moved $120 million from law enforcement to cultural efforts. So doing our work with an anti-racist lens is ongoing because inequities will remain for a long time. Our country was built on it—in fact, I almost left and went to your country if the election had gone otherwise (laughs). Fortunately it didn’t, not that I wouldn’t have wanted to live in Toronto.

 

[The fund reallocation] is pretty exciting and forward-thinking. The whole Defund the Police movement is really taking shape with a practical lens. It’s one thing to say Defund the Police, but it’s another thing to ask if resources are going to be reallocated, where are they going? And I was a city councillor in Minneapolis; George Floyd was killed right down the street from where Pillsbury House Theatre is, the theatre I founded in Minneapolis, so I knew that community intimately… yeah. Life is wild.

"How is the SFAC contributing to the DEI efforts of San Francisco organizations?"

How is the SFAC contributing to the DEI efforts of San Francisco organizations?

SFAC has a legislative mandate that dates back to the early nineties, requiring our public funding to prioritize BIPOC communities and artists as well as women and people with disabilities. So this cultural equity endowment fund is one of the first of its kind in the nation. We give millions of dollars a year to these historically underserved communities. But our work has evolved to do even more over the last decade; we’ve upped our game in terms of outreach and technical assistance to ensure that the artists we commission for public art, who exhibit in our galleries, or those we fund through our grants are representative of these BIPOC or LGBTQ communities that define San Francisco’s rich diversity. 

SFAC has a legislative mandate that dates back to the early nineties, requiring our public funding to prioritize BIPOC communities and artists as well as women and people with disabilities. So this cultural equity endowment fund is one of the first of its kind in the nation. We give millions of dollars a year to these historically underserved communities. But our work has evolved to do even more over the last decade; we’ve upped our game in terms of outreach and technical assistance to ensure that the artists we commission for public art, who exhibit in our galleries, or those we fund through our grants are representative of these BIPOC or LGBTQ communities that define San Francisco’s rich diversity. 

 

The cultural centres we support are rooted in communities of colour, and more recently, San Francisco voters passed legislation to stabilize arts funding from year to year with an emphasis for funding BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations. We’re also going to roll out, in the coming weeks, funding to serve the Black community as part of the city’s effort to reallocate funding from law enforcement. Post-George Floyd, Mayor London Breed moved $120 million from law enforcement to cultural efforts. So doing our work with an anti-racist lens is ongoing because inequities will remain for a long time.

"How is the SFAC contributing to the DEI efforts of San Francisco organizations?"

How is the SFAC contributing to the DEI efforts of San Francisco organizations?

SFAC has a legislative mandate that dates back to the early nineties, requiring our public funding to prioritize BIPOC communities and artists as well as women and people with disabilities. So this cultural equity endowment fund is one of the first of its kind in the nation. We give millions of dollars a year to these historically underserved communities. But our work has evolved to do even more over the last decade; we’ve upped our game in terms of outreach and technical assistance to ensure that the artists we commission for public art, who exhibit in our galleries, or those we fund through our grants are representative of these BIPOC or LGBTQ communities that define San Francisco’s rich diversity. 

 

The cultural centres we support are rooted in communities of colour, and more recently, San Francisco voters passed legislation to stabilize arts funding from year to year with an emphasis for funding BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations. We’re also going to roll out, in the coming weeks, funding to serve the Black community as part of the city’s effort to reallocate funding from law enforcement. Post-George Floyd, Mayor London Breed moved $120 million from law enforcement to cultural efforts. So doing our work with an anti-racist lens is ongoing because inequities will remain for a long time. Our country was built on it—in fact, I almost left and went to your country if the election had gone otherwise (laughs). Fortunately it didn’t, not that I wouldn’t have wanted to live in Toronto.

 

[The fund reallocation] is pretty exciting and forward-thinking. The whole Defund the Police movement is really taking shape with a practical lens. It’s one thing to say Defund the Police, but it’s another thing to ask if resources are going to be reallocated, where are they going? And I was a city councillor in Minneapolis; George Floyd was killed right down the street from where Pillsbury House Theatre is, the theatre I founded in Minneapolis, so I knew that community intimately… yeah. Life is wild.

HIGHTLIGHTS
FROM PAST
ISSUES

National Arts Centre
Orchestra

Alexander Neef

FFDN Festival

Route 66

Pia Kleber, UofT

Hyde Park Center

The Joffrey Balley

Chicago Symphony

Art on theMART

Josh Grossman

Dennis Watkins

Guillaume Côté

Barre Flow

Starry Opera Night

Saving Chagall