During years of working with nonprofit and arts organizations in the Lehigh Valley, Norberto Dominguez saw a number of flaws with the way these institutions are run — especially when it comes to including diverse voices.

“When I found through a study that, in the [Lehigh] Valley and particularly in the city of Allentown, less than 10 percent of funding went to arts organizations of color, it lit a fire in me. Because this study also found that communities of color were distancing themselves from the arts further,” Dominguez said. “Culturally, the arts are a big part of many communities of color. So, now we have a large community of color that doesn’t trust the larger arts institutions because their programming doesn’t reflect them. The people see that the boards and the decisions made behind their closed doors are not including their voices. The arts community is fractured, splintered, and not speaking to each other or working together, and we’re confirming that that needs to change. They want those bridges built.”

Thus, Dominguez founded The Guild of Creative Citizens (GCC) in January 2020. He works alongside a small but growing team of passionate individuals dedicated to bringing artists together, lifting them up and fostering lasting, positive change within the arts community. While still in its youth as an organization, the GCC aims to provide helpful resources, conduct research on the community’s needs and forge relationships in the Lehigh Valley.

“We’re beginning there — bringing small arts groups together and artists of the same discipline to the table and having these folks share their concerns and speak out about collaborative projects and ways they can work and possibly even merge as arts organizations,” Dominguez said. “Having survey data and a large enough group to work together towards uniting will help this movement become a real coalition, and later form into a viable organization.”

Though COVID-19 put a strain on the GCC’s proceedings shortly after it was founded, its members are staying positive and looking ahead to the future. They plan to offer workshops and classes with the goal of educating, encouraging collaboration and strengthening business savvy. Above all, the GCC aims to piece together a divided community, and make it even stronger — and more inclusive — than it has ever been. 

“The best part of this effort is the relationship building. Witnessing amazing artists speak about collaborations and what they’d like to see change encourages me,” Dominguez said. “I see the enthusiasm over this movement and the new friendships that are beginning. What’s happening is turning into unbreakable bonds. I’ve seen this happen before; once bonds like these take hold, it grows and develops into an entity that lives and works for the people’s good.”

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