As we approach and pass the one-year mark since the COVID-19 pandemic caused nationwide lockdowns, South Arts is reflecting on our constituents who have worked tirelessly to overcome new challenges and reimagine their work. Throughout March 2021, South Arts will be running a series of articles penned by our program participants and grant recipients exploring how their work has changed in response to the pandemic.
Atlanta's Out of Hand Theater, in partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, is a recent Cross-Sector Impact Grant recipient, supporting their Equitable Dinner series. Using facilitated conversations in people's homes in conjunction with brief performances, Equitable Dinners raise conversations about social justice and equity. As the pandemic caused an abrupt halt to in-person gatherings, Out of Hand Theater was able to radically reinvent the series and find the path to deep, meaningful partnerships.
The following article was written by Ariel Fristoe, Artistic Director for Out of Hand Theater
We couldn't have done all of this without the support of South Arts. We were able to leverage South Arts' Cross Sector Impact Grant and a sponsorship from Mailchimp to raise the funds for the first 18 months of Equitable Dinners online. The idea of cross sector impact is at the very heart of our work: Out of Hand works at the intersection of art, social justice, and community engagement, and for us, this means designing and implementing all of our programs with community partners.
Out of Hand Theater: Leading conversations on equity, one dinner at a time.
When the world shut down, Out of Hand was on the verge of launching Equitable Dinners: Atlanta, 500 potluck dinners for 5,000 diverse strangers in one month with a facilitated conversation about race and equity at each table ignited by the live performance in every room of a 10-minute play about being Black in Metro Atlanta. Equitable Dinners: Atlanta was an outgrowth of Decatur Dinners, the event we produced in 2019, where 1,200 people gathered on one night, in homes, community centers, and places of worship with a performance in every room sparking facilitated dialogue on race over dinner.
After the Shelter in Place order, the Equitable Dinners design team met on Zoom to talk. It's an incredible team, representing the Equitable Dinners partners: National Center for Civil and Human Rights (our partner on the Cross-Sector Impact Grant), The King Center, and Partnership for Southern Equity, plus a handful of other champions for racial justice. That day, we made a plan to go online, and Equitable Dinners: Setting the Table for Racial Equity was born. We launched in April, just a month after everything came to a halt, and since then, we have produced a free, online, monthly, online series featuring art, experts, and conversation. Every month, we address a different racial equity topic with a guest speaker, the performance of a new 10-minute play written in consultation with the speaker, and facilitated, small-group conversations in Zoom breakout rooms.