DiverseArts Culture Works, a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, was founded in 1994 by cultural historian and musician Harold McMillan. DiverseArts began as a means to bring a full season of multidisciplinary arts programming together under one organizational structure, with an emphasis directed to the appreciation, presentation and preservation of African American culture and music.
Initially, DiverseArts annual season consisted of the Clarksville Jazz and Arts Festival, Women in Jazz Concert Series, The Austin Acoustic Music Festival, African American History Month Concert Series, and Blues Family Tree Project (founded in 1990; produced and founded by McMillan). In late 1994, DiverseArts founded Austin Downtown Arts Magazine and launched a series of visual arts programs, DiverseArts Little Gallery Exhibition Series, now the New East Arts Gallery Exhibition Series.
Since the early 1990s, McMillan has been an advocate for an African American Cultural Heritage District in Austin’s East End. As part of the African American Quality of Life Initiative’s Arts Culture, and Entertainment committee, he began efforts to promote this goal. In 2005, McMillan founded Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, an outdoor venue through which he began holding events and performances aimed at promoting African American history and culture. The success of his efforts and those of the African American Quality of Life Initiative, ProArts and others, the City of Austin approved the district proposal (also authored by McMillan) and officially designated an African American Cultural Heritage District in 2007.
Throughout the 1990s and into the new century, DiverseArts has been at the forefront of innovative cultural programming and arts advocacy. Currently, the organization’s programming season and active projects include East End Fourth Fridays! East End Summer Music Series, Blues Family Tree Archival Project, word/jazz Performance Series, New East Arts Gallery Exhibition Series, and Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, live performance venue.