We are grateful for the June 3 A.R.T. People of Color Affinity Group Statement and its call to action on how we must do better in supporting BIPOC employees at the A.R.T., and to the We See You White American Theatre collective for their call for long overdue equity in our field and industry. Every department at the A.R.T. has been discussing action steps in response to the A.R.T. POC Affinity Group Statement and the BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre as part of a staff-wide collaborative process to center anti-racism as a core value at our theater.
In late June, we implemented a staff-led search process that centered BIPOC employees and included representation from our Boards and external stakeholders to select a consultant to work with the A.R.T moving forward. This September, we begin a journey with Lisa Yancey and Yancey Consulting to build anti-racist practices into the A.R.T.’s structure, culture, and governance. Engagement from our Boards will be an essential part of the process ahead.
Today, we are sharing initial commitments and actions that we are already at work on. We will continue to share new action steps adopted by our theater on our social media channels and our website, and aggregate them in summary reports on a quarterly basis. The first summary report of our work will specifically address the BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre and will be released by November 16.
- Transparency and accountability with every step we take. In addition to quarterly public reports, we are holding ourselves accountable internally by developing and implementing a staff-wide system of ongoing feedback and assessment that allows for transparent measuring of progress. To accurately record and share all of the anti-racist work across the institution in a cohesive and accessible manner, we have created an open source drive for staff to upload reports, analysis, and share resources.
- Support for BIPOC employees. A.R.T. POC Affinity Group meetings will be incorporated into paid work hours with full support from white colleagues. Support for BIPOC employees will be sustained, public and built into the institution’s practices.
- Anti-racist education and training. A curriculum of all-staff training, including unconscious/implicit bias and bystander intervention, will be built into our schedule as a core part of the A.R.T.’s activities, and will be included in the onboarding of new employees and creative/production teams working with the A.R.T. The entire staff is currently participating in a Company Read project during regular working hours (beginning with How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi). The goal of this project is to create a shared language and activate conversation among staff relating to specific issues in departmental work.
- Articulating our core values through a collaborative process. A newly articulated values statement, which will include anti-racism as a core value, will serve as a guide for how we make organizational, operational, and financial decisions, and as the basis for a social contract for our workplace, community, and Board culture. A company-wide meeting on July 21 was dedicated to discussing and generating feedback on an initial draft, as was a portion of our July 29 Board of Trustees meeting. Once finalized, these values will be prominently visible in our public spaces, communications, and on our website, and included in every internal and external contract that the A.R.T. undertakes. All visiting artists, teachers, volunteers, consultants, and audiences will be expected to uphold our values as a part of their engagement with the A.R.T.
- Assessing our current organizational climate through a rigorous audit of our practices. Departments are meeting to analyze current structures and existing policies to incorporate anti-racism into their work. Further assessment of organizational climate with both internal and external stakeholders will be part of the work ahead with our consultant.
- Creating more opportunities for transparent and collaborative decision-making. We will review and restructure the A.R.T. org chart with the goal of de-siloing our workplace, providing opportunities for non-hierarchical collaboration, and building a culture that ensures communication, accountability, and staff-wide engagement in decision-making that reflects the mission and values of our theater.
- Dedicating intentional time and effort to building an institutional culture of trust. We are spending more time together as a full company during work hours through the creation of Company Time to provide an opportunity for staff to regularly engage with one another across departments and with the theater’s leadership. We will also use these meetings for staff-wide initiatives like our Company Read project.
We are at the beginning of a transformation for the A.R.T. that will impact all aspects of our institution. We are committed to this process, which will be sustained, ongoing, and foundational to our theater. We look forward to listening, growing, and learning on the journey ahead.
– Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director
– Diane Borger, Executive Producer