Edina creates rubric to evaluate diversity of its art, decor

Edina city officials have developed a set of criteria to evaluate the diversity shown in city-owned artwork and decor in municipal buildings, parks and outdoor areas.

The criteria — what they call a rubric — evolved out of the city’s 2018 task force report on race and equity and aims to provide a standardized way to judge how genders and ethnic groups are represented in art. The City Council signed off on it last month.

The task force report revealed that some community members felt the city’s art and decor didn’t represent all residents, said Heidi Lee, Edina’s race and equity coordinator.

“To be able to represent who is actually living in Edina, who has had a hand in creating what Edina is … it’s important to be able to do that,” Lee said.

The criteria will be used in coming months to evaluate the decor in the mayor’s conference room and atrium at City Hall. The conference room features portraits of past City Council members and mayors, but “needs to be a representation of the history of who [else] has been involved in creating what Edina is,” Lee said.

Three city commissions were involved in designing the art criteria: the Human Rights and Relations Commission, Arts and Culture Commission and Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).

They began meeting earlier this year to discuss what the city’s art represents now and could represent, said Annie Schilling, HPC chairwoman. Commission members brainstormed ideas such as painting “Welcome” in several languages in the City Hall atrium and adding art to the mayor’s conference room. She said there’s been no conversation yet about using the rubric to eliminate artwork.

The rubric comes at a time when cities, counties and states are assessing what messages are sent by their statues, paintings and other images, and who they represent.

In August, St. Paul and Ramsey County leaders unveiled four new multicultural murals to cover 1930s-era murals at their joint City Hall-Courthouse that feature white men towering over Native Americans and laborers.

St. Louis Park recently finished creating an arts and culture road map, said Jacque Smith, the city’s spokeswoman. One of its guiding principles is to use art and culture to create a more inclusive city, she said, which ties into St. Louis Park’s larger equity goals.

The nonprofit organization Forecast Public Art also has done an equity audit of St. Louis Park’s public art, Smith said, which offers recommendations for art processes and locations.

Edina will employ five criteria — including historical accuracy, cultures and gender identities represented, the welcome that a picture offers visitors — and score them from 1 to 4.

Lee said evaluating the art and decor of the city’s many buildings will take time. Edina has its own art center, with a gallery and classes. The rubric provides a “baseline of what to consider,” she said.

The city’s population is slowly becoming more diverse, Lee said, though Edina was about 87% white when she started in her position 18 months ago.

Read more

Esper promised more diversity at the Pentagon. The White House had other ideas.

Ted Johnson, a speechwriter for the Joint Chiefs from 2014 to 2016 and retired Navy commander, criticized the lack of diversity in the Trump administration broadly, noting that “the rhetoric that often accompanies the conversation around this administration makes it clear that if you are a minority serving in it, you’re going to have to contend with a level of discomfort that you would not have had to face in a previous administration.”

The Pentagon declined multiple requests to provide a breakdown of its senior civilian ranks by race, but publicly available data reveals a department run overwhelmingly by white men. Esper and his deputy, David Norquist, are white. Six out of seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are white men; new Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown is only the second Black man ever to serve on the Joint Chiefs.

The lower ranks of DoD senior leadership are only slightly more diverse. Out of six undersecretaries of defense, all are white and five are male. Out of 60 presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed positions, all but three are men. By comparison, at the end of the Obama administration in 2016, 11 were women.

At the Pentagon’s policy shop, nearly all the top positions are filled by men, including all five assistant secretaries of defense, four out of five principal deputies, and 19 out of 22 deputies, and all but two are white. At the end of the Obama administration, nine positions in the policy shop were held by women.

When it comes to national security, diversity of thought is particularly crucial, said Aaron Hughes, who served as the deputy assistant for cyber policy at DoD until 2017.

“If we have just a homogeneous population that thinks one way, that’s just putting us to [a] disadvantage when it comes to understanding world dynamics,” he said.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Risa Brooks, a professor of political science at Marquette University who specializes in civil-military relations, of Esper’s promise to increase diversity at the Pentagon. “Is this just hand-waving?”

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said while the Pentagon is “proud to be well-regarded as the largest, most diverse meritocracy in the world,” the department recognizes that there is still “work to be done on diversity and inclusion.”

In keeping with Esper’s diversity push, the policy shop has recently launched initiatives aimed at recruiting a more diverse group of junior and mid-level career employees, including outreach to historically black academic institutions, and is also creating a diversity council, Campbell said.

“As we continue to build on our efforts to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce for all who serve, we will draw upon the widest possible set of backgrounds, talents, and skills to increase the overall readiness and effectiveness of the department,” Campbell said.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations struggled when it comes to the overall workforce for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In September 2019, the last time the Office of Personnel Management

Read more