Luther Hughes: writer, editor, founder of Shade Literary Arts, dancer, singer, and Artist Trust Program Manager. Is there anything Luther doesn’t do?? Luther is our final feature for our end of year fundraising campaign and his interview leaves us with powerful lessons and words to remember in the new year. Read more below!
Thank you for following along with all the interviews from Artist Trust board & staff. Today is the final day to make a donation to Artist Trust in 2020! We appreciate your support. Make a gift at artisttrust.org/donate/.
What is your role at Artist Trust and what do you enjoy about it?
I’m a Program Manager at Artist Trust. I enjoy a few things about being a Program Manager, but the things I enjoy most is working with artists and telling artists when they’ve received one of our grants. But the type-A side of me loves strategic planning and creating plans on how to make our programs better and ultimately more equitable.
How are you involved in the arts?
I’m a writer and editor. I’ve been working with literary magazines and journals for about five or six years. I’m currently an executive editor at The Offing. Also, I have a chapbook called Touched, published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018, and my debut collection of poems is A Shiver in the Leaves will be published in 2022 by BOA Editions. I’m also the founder of Shade Literary Arts, a literary organization for queer writers of color. We have our own journal, which is currently on a hiatus, called The Shade Journal, founded in 2016.
Also, while growing up in Seattle, I was in a dance company called Kutt ‘N’ Up Entertainment for about seven or eight years before moving away for college.
In addition, and while I’m certainly not active in these things anymore, I have a background in acting and singing.
What has 2020 taught you both personally and professionally?
I think there are a few things 2020 has taught me and a few things I’m still trying to grasp. Ultimately, though, 2020 has taught me that time is a complete hoax and that I shouldn’t stress myself out or beat myself over anything. I need to be kind to myself and allow myself rest. And not fake rest where I’m relaxing and checking emails. Real rest, where I’m on the couch drinking wine, scrolling through Twitter, and watching tv—rest where I’m not thinking about work or stressing about an unanswered email. Because I have a pretty active professional life outside of Artist Trust, I created “office hours” for myself, which includes being “out of the office” on Sundays.
More professionally speaking, 2020 has taught me to be a better advocate for myself and the work that I do.
And lastly, but of the utmost importance, 2020 taught me—although, “taught” might be the wrong word, more like reminded me—is that people aren’t as “progressive” as they claim to be. A lot of people claim to be anti-racist until anti-racism means creating tangible change for Black people like me.
How will you carry those lessons into 2021?
Truthfully, I don’t know. Hopefully, I will just keep reminding myself of these things the best way I can.
What excites you about what you’ve learned/the changes Artist Trust has made or will make?
What excites me most about Artist Trust right now in the midst of all this change is how we’re really thinking about what it means to be an anti-racist organization—it doesn’t feel fake or surface-level like it has in the past.
What else excites me is how we’re reviewing and rethinking our work so that it fits our mission. I think it’s important to remind ourselves, always, that the work we do is for artists and it’s never for us directly.
What is your vision for a stronger Artist Trust?
My vision for a stronger Artist Trust is something that can’t ever really be accomplished but I wish Artist Trust will always consider and reconsider, actively, what it means to serve artists and challenge white supremacy. I say it can’t be accomplished because once Artist Trust believes they’ve done all they can or they’ve successfully challenged white supremacy, Artist Trust will begin—like it has before—fail the people they very well want to help. These things aren’t meant to be “accomplished,” but are goals—it’s a horizon, we have to keep trying to reach it, we have to keep pushing ourselves. My “vision,” I guess, for Artist Trust is to never stop trying to become better.