The A.R.T. is releasing today the third 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 informed 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. also operates a Slack channel dedicated to anti-racism to share timely content, notifications of events, resources, and recent articles.
Work with Yancey Consulting
As part of the A.R.T.’s ongoing partnership with Yancey Consulting (YC), seven Building and Weaving teams, comprised of board members, staff, and outside partners, met throughout February, March, and April to review survey comments and issues shared with Yancey Consulting through various conversations and meetings. Each Building and Weaving team had an area of focus: 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. Over the course of 31 meetings, the Building and Weaving teams discussed and analyzed actions and statements in their areas through the lens of whether the issues presented were root causes or symptoms of racism and oppression. Groups worked collectively to prioritize actions and strategies to address root issues and drafted recommendations. These recommendations were then reviewed and edited again by the YC team and the Building and Weaving teams before being shared with all staff and boards for additional comments.
The next phase of the process involves the review and consideration of the recommendations by the Kitchen Cabinet, a group comprised of a staff and board member from each Building and Weaving team. In addition to the recommendations, the Kitchen Cabinet will also determine how to hold additional notes and considerations that didn’t rise to the top. The Kitchen Cabinet will continue to meet over the next few weeks to organize, prioritize, and determine how the recommendations will be activated. These recommendations will then be presented to the staff and Boards. The Kitchen Cabinet will continue to work to create a timeline and structure to implement prioritized recommendations.
A.R.T. staff and boards have begun to incorporate learning from the Building and Weaving team meetings into their work. The practice of meeting and sharing space has provided a template for ongoing conversations at the institution beyond those within the seven identified areas. As the YC team noted, each Building and Weaving team has “been sharing space and building trust in discussions ranging from personal journeys, hopes and expectations for this engagement, logistics around the planning teams, communication challenges, identifying and addressing root issues, and assessing actionable steps towards creating a culture that better reflects anti-racist and anti-oppressive values in the day-to-day workplace.” These discussions are helping build a practice of collaboration and are continuing to inspire staff and board conversations.
Executive Director Search
In April, the A.R.T. formed a committee composed of board members and staff from departments across the A.R.T. to select a firm to lead the search process for an Executive Director. After initial conversations with eight potential search firms, the committee reviewed proposals from and interviewed three firms. Through a rigorous and thoughtful process, the committee selected ALJP Consulting Group, an organization that puts artistry and equity at the heart of its consulting practice and strives to create more diverse and inclusive environments for artists, administrators, and patrons. As a first step, ALJP has begun conversations with stakeholders and will be meeting with the A.R.T. BIPOC Affinity Group.
Marketing & Communications
In response to the A.R.T. BIPOC Affinity Group’s call to increase access to performances, the A.R.T. Marketing team restructured the pre-sale for our online production of The Conjurors’ Club. Because pre-sales are offered to limited groups, A.R.T. piloted an initiative that: shortened the pre-sale window; held significant inventory for each performance until the general on-sale; suppressed entire break-out room availability for potential group sales; made numerous $25 tickets available for community partners and for our Tickets from $25 program; and held five tickets per performance for rush availability. Building on this model, A.R.T. is now in the process of revising our subscription offering for the 2021/22 Season in order to continue to increase access.
A.R.T. is also undertaking a strategic review of its website. Part of that work includes assessing how best to integrate the messaging of our values of anti-racism throughout the user experience, and continue to publish and deliver our anti-racism updates to audiences and stakeholders. We are also reviewing the accessibility of the A.R.T.’s website.
The Scene Shop staff spent most of the last quarter watching and discussing the ArtEquity Talking Back series. All Production departments are now working through this series, with only a few episodes left.
As part of a reevaluation of hiring practices, most teams in the Production Department have completed updates of job descriptions to prioritize specific skills needed for the jobs (instead of educational requirements and vanity/low-threshold skills) and to describe the work environment. Production departments are also working to integrate A.R.T.’s established values into their hiring process.
The Production Department is also implementing changes to embed better practices in Budgeting and Calendars. These include: a separate budget line for Hair, Wigs, and Makeup; paid workforce development partnerships (e.g. Brighter Boston); revised design deadlines and production calendars to better manage workloads and reduce unanticipated overtime.
Boards & Development
A.R.T. board members continue to be actively involved in the theater’s partnership with Yancey Consulting. With robust representation on the Building and Weaving and Kitchen Cabinet teams, Board of Trustee and Board of Advisors members have played an integral role in keeping both boards informed of and engaged in the A.R.T.’s work to become an anti-racist theater.
The Nominating Committee has continued its work to build a more diverse board, with a particular focus on engaging more BIPOC candidates, candidates who will expand board representation of all age groups, and artists. Recognizing that representation is only the first step to authentic inclusion, the Governance Committee has begun an audit of A.R.T.’s on-boarding processes with a goal to implement a comprehensive 1 – 2 year orientation plan that ensures new board members are informed, involved, empowered, and valued.
In order to build more trust and transparency between boards and staff, A.R.T.’s new monthly series of lunchtime conversations for boards and staff launched in February and have already been successful in generating positive and informative dialogue, breaking down silos, and building community.
The Development team continues to have internal conversations that assess current practices and policies through an anti-racist lens as they relate to the organization, using Edgar Villanueva’s journal Money as Medicine as a guide. In keeping with the department’s goal to make development events more accessible and inclusive, the theater’s Spring Celebration will be presented virtually this June and will include an unlimited free ticket option.
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-August. 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.