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Arts, Culture, and Museums TIG Week: Linguistic Inclusivity: Navigating Language Justice in Creative Spaces by Eva Chavez

¡Hola/Hello! My Name is Eva Maria Chavez (Eva, as in “4-eh-vah-eh-vah”), and I am a community-based evaluator and organizer who, until recently, worked at The Music Center of Los Angeles (TMC). TMC provides cultural events for the diverse community of Los Angeles County. My role was to operationalize the theory of change across the organization and build the organization’s muscle on using data to improve programming and learn about what residents of LA want to see at TMC. More importantly, my focus was to think of creative ways to collect data and make that process equitable and accessible. 

The free performances highlight a specific culture’s dance and music — including Colombian Salsa, West African Dance, and Dominican Bachata. Given the diversity of L.A. County, with 49% Latino/a/e and 1-to-3 million who speak a language other than English at home, TMC’s programming aims to focus on all LA. communities. As a result, ensuring that the evaluations catered to the appropriate audience was also important.

DDTLA Arts Based Data Collection Method

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Being from Boyle Heights, an activist, brown, and from a working-class community, I adamantly believe that language access is the bare minimum to offer in all services. As such, here’s how I evaluated the free events:

  1. Translated surveys into Spanish and tested them out with the participants.
  2. Conducted short intercept surveys with Spanish speakers and asked them about their experience and safety at TMC. I chose every third person who approached the information table.
  3. Set up butcher paper along the walls of the information tables and asked folks in Spanish and English to share their community in L.A. and one word to describe their experience at the event. I also encouraged families/youth to draw how the event made them feel.

At the end of the season, I collected over 500 data points and was able to tell a larger story of the events. The English and Spanish surveys were also available online, but doing paper surveys was a great way to get to know the folks.

To build the team’s muscle on data utilization, I hosted sensemaking sessions to review the data together. I showed the disaggregated data by language and race/ethnicity and compared them to previous years. There were differences across the groups when it came to the presence of security or police officers, which allowed the team to engage in a dialogue of what it means to create a welcoming and inclusive space. In addition, program staff had data to show that programming is reaching the target audience and can know from residents what programming they would like to see in the future.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Arts, Culture, and Museums (ACM) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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