Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MLive.com: National arts diversity group to host SphinxCon conference in downtown Detroit this weekend

Sphinx Vurtuosi at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. The Sphinx Organization facilitates diversity in orchestral music. They're hosting a conference the weekend of Jan. 30 in downtown Detroit. (Courtesy image)

January 27, 2015

DETROIT, MI - Michigan-based arts diversity group The Sphinx Organization will host the third annual SphinxCon diversity conference Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 at The Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit.
According to executive and artistic director Afa Dworkin, both the organization and the conference fosters discussion and action towards inclusion and diversity in the arts.
"There's really no (conference) around the world and in this country that focuses on diversity" in the arts," Dworkin said.
"We kind of began to ask the question of what diversity actually means."
The Sphinx Organization started in Detroit in 1997 after Aaron Dworkin saw a lack of black and latino musicians in orchestras at concerts he attended or played in himself.
Dworkin is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan. He has played the violin since his childhood.
His desire to facilitate diversity in string players is the crux of The Sphinx Organization.
For the Dworkins, solving the lack of diversity lies in providing school-age kids with access to fine arts and music programs, which has been part of their initiative since the organization's inception.
SphinxCon expands the conversation to encompass other fine arts: theater, music and dance.
"Such a conversation is long overdue and much needed," Afa Dworkin said.
The conference will host speakers representing the arts, as well as speakers from academia and various corporations.
In total, around 35 speakers from around the world will make their way to Detroit this weekend to spur the conversation.
"People should come out to SphinxCon to understand the public value of the arts and to be able to understand why inclusion and diversity is relevant," she said. "It's a great opportunity to participate in the conversation."
A series of "Ted-inspired" talks will incorporate speeches as well as conversation with audiences, Afa Dworkin said.
Tickets for the conference can be bought by clicking here.
General admission for the entire three-day conference is $100, with day passes running at $50 a piece.
Student rates are available with valid IDs for the entire conference for $35.
Dworkin said she expects about 300 people to come out to the conference. She hopes for a diverse crowd.
"We would love for the guests to be representative of our community," she said.
The conference runs tangentially with The Sphinx Organization's Sphinx Competition, which culminates in a concert at the Detroit Orchestra Hall on Sunday, Feb. 1 at 2 p.m.
Finalists in the competition will be accompanied by the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra to compete for more than $100,000 in prizes.
Tickets for the concert start at $10, and can be purchased by clicking here.
Though there has been some progress since Sphinx began in the nineties, there's still work to do, according to Dworkin.
Currently, black and latino string players represent just over four percent of musicians globally. In recent years, the amount of black musicians in top-tier organizations has doubled, however.

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