A.R.T. is centering anti-racism as a core value, including in our policies, structure, programming, philanthropy, communications, pedagogy, and workplace culture. Our journey will be sustained, ongoing, and foundational to our theater.
February 18, 2021
A.R.T. Anti-Racism Work Quarterly Update
The A.R.T. is releasing today the second of its ongoing quarterly reports to update our audiences, artists, and community on our action steps to build anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices into our structure, culture, and governance.
Our work continues to be guided by the A.R.T. BIPOC Affinity Group and the We See You White American Theater Collective, whose clear demands envision a way of making theater and performance that is anti-racist and equitable for all. Staff across all departments continue to contribute to the A.R.T. Anti-Racism Drive, a collaborative folder where staff members share their departmental conversations regarding anti-racism and anti-oppression. The A.R.T. has also opened a Slack channel dedicated to anti-racism to share timely content, notifications of events, resources, and recent articles.
Work with Yancey Consulting
Last fall, using the practice and philosophy laid out by Yancey Consulting, the A.R.T. executive team and board leadership made recommendations for staff, board, and partner participation in the seven areas of focus of our anti-racism and anti-oppression work. These areas are: Mission, Vision, and Values; Workplace Culture; Decision-Making Processes; Programming and Engagement; Board and Executive Leadership; Internal and External Investments; and Capital Campaign and Building Project. A small staff working group including A.R.T.’s two Company Managers, an Anti-racism Engagement Co-Lead, the Associate Director of Board Relations, and the Managing Director, spoke with individuals to gauge their interest in participating on the various teams. As these conversations developed, managers also connected with staff members to invite their participation. The teams were assembled to include a diverse group of individuals directly impacted by the work, a variety of perspectives based on tenure and familiarity with the A.R.T., and thoughtful distribution of decision-making power.
The process resulted in 56 staff, 22 board members, and 4 artists joining the various teams. Each of the seven focus groups—Building and Weaving teams—are comprised of up to 13 participants. A board and a staff representative from each team also sit on the Kitchen Cabinet, the committee that is shepherding and ensuring that the ideas explored during A.R.T.’s strategic planning process are bold, visionary, forward-thinking, capacity-feasible, and organizationally appropriate. Each member of the Kitchen Cabinet will bring back the ideas/recommendations/discussions from their respective Building and Weaving teams to share with the Cabinet. The Cabinet will eventually approve recommendations (based on priorities and strategies that arise out of the work of the Building and Weaving teams) to be presented to the A.R.T board.
In December 2020, Yancey Consulting conducted a staff and board-wide survey and had dozens of individual conversations with members of the staff and board. On January 5, 2021, Lisa Yancey led a three-hour session for A.R.T. staff and boards around the fundamentals of anti-racism and anti-oppression, which included a sharing of the results of the survey. This initial offering helped ground the 135 participants in the focus of the work ahead and provided the opportunity to have a shared understanding of basic principles.
Later in January, the Kitchen Cabinet reviewed the results of the survey and determined which comments aligned with specific Building and Weaving teams. Each team then reviewed the survey results to determine whether the issues raised are root causes or symptoms of root causes, and how to prioritize the various concerns. The Building and Weaving teams are meeting from February through April to determine desired change, develop strategies and a timeline to get there, outline recommendations to the Kitchen Cabinet, and then refine those recommendations based on feedback from the Cabinet. It is anticipated that the Kitchen Cabinet will make their recommendations to the board in late April.
In addition to the Building and Weaving and Kitchen Cabinet process, A.R.T. leadership and the Yancey Consulting team met with key Harvard stakeholders in early February to discuss the work we are embarking on, and to learn about the University’s journey and explore where there may be intersection in our processes.
Mission, Vision, Values
Between July and November of 2020, staff across all departments collaborated on the creation of a core set of values, while simultaneously interrogating the theater’s vision to ensure alignment. Through a series of company meetings, staff reviewed drafts of the vision and values and offered feedback, which was then aggregated by interdepartmental committees, and utilized to create next drafts. At the annual joint Board of Trustees and Board of Advisors meeting on December 2, 2020, board and staff members worked together in small groups to reflect on this work. The current mission, vision, and values document can be found on the A.R.T.’s website as a living document that will be reviewed and revised as A.R.T. applies its values to our work. The Mission, Vision, and Values Building and Weaving Team is in the process of reviewing the current document through an anti-racism lens and will provide guidance for the implementation of the mission, vision, and values.
Marketing & Communications
A.R.T. now includes the following language in all of our pre-show and pre-event emails that outlines expectations of A.R.T. audiences and our zero-tolerance policy for race-based harm:
“We will not tolerate anti-Blackness or racism of any kind in our buildings nor at our online events. A.R.T. is unequivocally opposed to hate and centers anti-racism as a core value. We expect everyone in the A.R.T. community, including our audiences, to uphold these values.
We aim to create an environment that is uninhabitable to racism and discrimination, and where all BIPOC staff, artists, volunteers, audience, and community are seen, heard, valued, and provided the opportunity to thrive. This work is only possible when we do it together. Thank you for being our partner in it.”
A.R.T. production management has participated in weekly production anti-racism conversations with production managers across the country through the PMF Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Members of the A.R.T. production staff and recruiters from Harvard University attended an artEquity workshop on Antiracist Approaches to Radical Recruitment in the Arts. A.R.T. staff subsequently met with Harvard HR to discuss recruitment strategies and have begun an audit of the production department job descriptions.
Education & Engagement
A.R.T. instructors teaching in Harvard’s undergraduate concentration in Theater, Dance & Media (TDM) are meeting regularly to discuss anti-racist teaching strategies, and have revised syllabi, course descriptions, and reading lists with a focus on anti-racism.
The A.R.T. Education & Engagement team has integrated sliding scale tuition models and differentiated instruction through tactile learning kits and online teaching for A.R.T. Kids Company.
The A.R.T. General Management, Patron Services, Operations, and Finance teams are conducting a vendor audit to outline the breakdown of dollars spent with BIPOC-owned businesses. This audit will be included in the A.R.T.’s annual report.
The Patron Services team attended a League of Resident Theatres (LORT) session focused on BIPOC Engagement in Predominantly White Institutions and subsequently engaged in internal conversations around this topic in order to address siloing and existing barriers within the A.R.T.
Boards & Development
A.R.T. board members are actively involved in the theater’s partnership with Yancey Consulting. Board members took part in an organization-wide survey in December and participated in an anti-racism and anti-oppression fundamentals session with the full staff in early January. Board of Trustee and Board of Advisors members are also part of the Kitchen Cabinet and Building and Weaving teams, and will play an integral role in keeping both boards informed of and engaged in the A.R.T.’s work to become an anti-racist theater.
A.R.T.’s process to audit existing board practices and policies is on track for completion by the end of fiscal year 2021. This process will be informed by the work that is being undertaken by the Building and Weaving teams, including but not limited to the Boards and Executive Leadership team.
In order to build more trust and transparency between board and staff, the Development team is working to find more opportunities for learning and dialogue. As part of this effort, a new monthly series of lunchtime conversations will launch internally in February with the goal of creating an open space where board and staff can get to know each other, break down silos, and gain a better understanding of how the institution operates and the roles everyone plays within it.
At the Board of Trustees meeting on December 2, 2020, the board unanimously voted to remove suggested financial minimums from the board service policies for the Board of Trustees and the Board of Advisors. This effort was stewarded by the Nominating and Governance Committees in order to make board service at the A.R.T. more accessible and inclusive.
Commitments We Are Making and Actively Working On
- Creating an artist compensation rate sheet for activities outside of rehearsal and performance
- Developing policies around photography usage (including approvals, limitations, and compensation)
- Creating a policy for Land Acknowledgement usage in A.R.T. communications
- Evaluating the values and methods for cultivation and stewardship of promotional partnerships
- Participating in a training course in March for costumes and wardrobe staff to learn more about working with Black hair and makeup
- Exploring ways to make fundraising practices more equitable, including examining our current benefits structure and piloting a more inclusive events model
The A.R.T.’s process to become an anti-racist theater is sustained, ongoing, and foundational to our work. In our commitment to transparency and accountability, we will release our next quarterly report in mid-May. As we continue to share our progress, we welcome your feedback, comments, and questions. We invite you to reach out to us at Feedback@amrep.org.