When Lou Rod Cueva of MLR Artist Management launched his business in the Boston area, he noticed that he was often the only person of color at networking events. He began to realize that despite the city’s diversity, many of its business decision makers did not reflect the demographics of the city.
Despite Boston’s “firsts” around equality achievements, it simultaneously has a pervasive reputation as being rife with racism. A national survey commissioned by The Boston Globe, in 2017, found that among eight major cities, African Americans ranked Boston as least welcoming to people of color. More than half — 54 percent — rated Boston as unwelcoming.
In an effort to help change this image while facilitating a conversation around eliminating racism, MLR joined several other small businesses in sponsoring Art + Small Biz for Boston Racial Equity on May 8 at Boston’s SoWa District. The event brought together a diverse group of attendees to gallery hop, with a goal of inspiring each attendee to do their part to eliminate racism. Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, A R E A, Canvas Fine Arts, Claire Carino Contemporary, and M Fine Arts Galerie donated their spaces for an evening of conversation and creative interactive activities. Proceeds from the event supported YW Boston’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women as well as their Stand Against Racism (SAR) campaign.
Art + Small Biz is the brainchild of Sean Driscoll, founder of BBsquared Consulting, a Boston-based firm committed to supporting re-entry, LGBTQ, and disability diversity. Driscoll started his #STAND event three years ago out of a belief that a company’s business model should include community commitment. SAR is an annual YWCA campaign that brings people together from all walks of life to raise awareness and empower action toward eliminating racism. Driscoll first became involved with YW Boston through their inclusive leadership program LeadBoston.
“I have a strong spirit in wanting to play in the community arena, and in helping other small business peers understand how they can, too. We may be smaller, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be community players,” Driscoll states.
In 2017, its first year, Art + Small Biz was sponsored by BBsquared and M Fine Arts. At the end of the night, Driscoll was already thinking about next year and growing the effort. By its third year, Art + Small Biz had six small business sponsors, five SoWa gallery hosts, and three times the attendees. New partners, like MLR, helped BBsquared creatively grow the vision.
“Lou came up with the concept of makeup artists applying #STAND henna spray tattoos to go on hands, arms or shoulders. Tattoos would carry the conversations beyond the event itself, in people seeing them in the following days and asking about them. I am thankful for peers like Lou who inspire me to do more and be better,” expressed Driscoll.
In addition to BBsquared and MLR, sponsors included Jennie Must Love Travel Group, Pillar Search & HR Consulting, Regatta Realty LLC, and Tomo360.