MCLA’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities Presents its First Virtual Speaker Series EventPage Title


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. —The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH) has partnered with the Berkshire Cultural Assets Network (BCAN) and Penn Creative Strategy to present the IAH Virtual Speaker Series: Aligning and Activating Change Through Storytelling. 

This series, which takes the place of the IAH’s annual summer symposium, begins with the talk Penn Creative Strategy: Managing Bias, held from 2-4 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. Facilitators Molly Penn and Sofiya Cheyenne will present a virtual workshop for cultural organizations to learn more about managing bias within their institutions. This webinar is intentionally designed for those managing seasonal volunteers in cultural organizations but is open to those outside the arts and culture sector.  

Penn and Cheyenne will showcase pre-recorded interviews that explore the various ways that bias presents itself in the workplace. These pre-taped elements will seed conversation with participants by defining key terms, building a safe space for self-reflection, surfacing areas of growth, and sharing learnings. The recordings will be made available to arts institutions to use for their own professional development offerings. Participants will also receive a tip sheet that outlines suggested trainings and follow-up materials. 

“If we want change, we need to begin with ourselves, acknowledging that we all have implicit bias,” said Dr. Lisa Donovan, IAH director, BCAN co-leader, and MCLA professor of arts management. “This workshop invites us to start with self-awareness.” 

“We are excited to share our own personal stories of bias to encourage a discussion of advocacy, allyship, and belonging, with the focus of learning what implicit bias is, how we name it, and how we check it,” said Penn.

Penn Creative Strategy is a boutique management consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations and foundations to build a thriving, just, and relevant cultural and social sector through transformative strategy, culture change, and internal renewal processes.

Molly Penn has been a consultant for 20 years, and is focused on how effective strategy can help disrupt and rebalance existing systems of power and access. She is excited for this moment when there is real opportunity to rethink traditional organizational structures that inadvertently reinforce structural racism and inequity. Penn works with the Ford Foundation as a facilitator of its organizational assessment process for grantees. She holds an MBA from Fordham University, a master’s degree from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree from Bard College.

Sofiya Cheyenne is an associate consultant with a focus on inclusion and equity. As a disability advocate, she has been a facilitator, public speaker, and panelist at schools, venues, and conferences across the country. Cheyenne heads her own social justice programming for youth where she uses drama therapy, storytelling, and hands-on approaches to tackle implicit bias and systemic oppression.

To register for this event, please submit your name, organization/affiliation, and email here. For any questions, contact Erica Barreto at

About the MCLA Institute for the Arts and Humanities:

The MCLA Institute for the Arts and Humanities is a grant-funded initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which works to strategically promote equity-centered change on campus and in the community by (1) expanding access to area arts and humanities resources, (2) catalyzing opportunities for interdisciplinary engagements, and (3) advancing experiential teaching and learning practices in higher education. 

About BCAN:

The Berkshire Cultural Assets Network (BCAN) is co-led by MCLA Professor Lisa Donovan and serves as a peer learning network for the education and engagement of staff of Berkshire County cultural institutions. For more information, go to