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Q&A with Dr. Antonio Cuyler

Antonio CuylerDr. Antonio Cuyler joined the SMTD faculty as professor of music in the Department of Entrepreneurship & Leadership in fall of 2022, following a two-year visiting appointment at SMTD. In this Q&A, he shares his thoughts on joining the school, his priorities for his role, his anti-racism work, and the future of arts leadership training.


What makes you excited to be part of SMTD?

Several things excite me about joining SMTD. My colleagues, students, and the leadership have been warm and welcoming. In addition, over the last 10 years of my career I served in an art education department. I’m thrilled to now serve in a school that unites the power of the performing arts. I especially enjoy teaching students from across music, theatre, and dance.

What are your top priorities as a scholar and educator? 

My top priority as an educator and scholar is to seek to uncover the truth and to disseminate that truth. This is why, in my teaching, I aim to balance academic rigor with professional relevance. I also feel compelled to empower my students with the skills to enter the field, but also to transform it. So I especially appreciate when students ask probing contextual questions to gain a deeper understanding of why things are the way that they are.

What do you feel is most important for the next generation of arts leaders to learn or consider? Skills, experiences, etc.?

Increasingly, the ethics around what we do in the creative sector is important to me. These ethics should center access, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI), but with the central focus on cultivating a love for humanity. The arts and culture can do this well. But, humanity is not just abled-bodied, cis, hetero, male, wealthy, and/or White. Humanity is beautifully diverse. A focus on ethics also invites us to consider how a true love for humanity is anti-capitalist and anti-colonial. What if we gain even more by centering and prioritizing people over everything else? 

What plans and/or upcoming projects related to the Anti-Racist Hiring Initiative (AHRI) are you most excited about?

I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with a collective of colleagues that will develop a research and teaching agenda that approaches the opportunity of anti-racism interdisciplinarily. Implicit in the focus on anti-racism is an invitation to uncover and bring forth the attitudes, behaviors, policies, and practices that yield counter-racism outcomes, by also examining the intersectionality of racism with other forms of oppression. For example, two colleagues from the library (Jason Imbesi and Matt Carruthers) and I are co-authoring a paper entitled “Cultural Policy of the Oppressed.” In the paper, we conduct a qualitative systematic content analysis to determine the extent and frequency at which scholars have published about oppression in the top three cultural policy peer-reviewed journals. I presented our preliminary findings at the International Conference on Cultural Policy Research (ICCPR) in Antwerp, Belgium, in September and will present our paper at the Social Theory, Politics & the Arts conference in Seoul, South Korea, in December. In addition, a colleague from economics and I plan to investigate the effects of racism on the creative sector. I’m also collaborating with the National Center for Institutional Diversity on a webinar next semester about #BlackLivesMatter Performing Arts. Given that some municipalities have declared racism a public health crisis, I look forward to exploring the anti-racism interventions arts and culture hold when combined with social work. It’s an incredible task, but I’m up for the challenge.

Why is a program like EXCEL important for students?

According to the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), arts school graduates are dissatisfied with their entrepreneurial, business, and financial preparation while in school. Specifically, respondents wish that their alma maters had taught them about the practical aspects of their work, including how to network and promote themselves, how to handle debt and budgets, how to manage the business concerns associated with their particular arts-based work, how to be entrepreneurial, and how to find jobs. EXCEL is important because it will ensure that SMTD alumni will not have buyer’s remorse because of a lack of access to entrepreneurial arts education. This is just one of the reasons why I believe SMTD leads in higher ed arts programs – we professionally prepare the whole artist. The education that students receive through the Performing Arts Management and Entrepreneurship (PAME) minor and certificate will enable them to lead and manage their careers through the entirety of their life span.