Our Commitment to Anti-Racism

Who we are:

ArtsWest is a predominantly white theater institution that is committed to becoming an anti-racist theater.  We understand that we have made errors and have much work before us.  We welcome this work and we will do better.  We will hold ourselves accountable and ask that our stakeholders, our artists, staff, board, patrons, donors, and volunteers also hold us accountable. 

What we believe:

We believe that there are only two choices – racist or anti-racist.  We recognize the definition of anti-racist theater to be that put forth by Nicole Brewer, founder of the Anti-Racist Theater (A.R.T.) movement.  A.R.T. is defined as practices and policies that actively acknowledge and interrogate racism, anti-Blackness and other discriminatory practice, promoting anti-racist ideas, values, and policies that counter the oppression of any people during education or production of theatre.  

We also believe that anti-racist theater is practiced in reciprocity with other anti-oppressive values, creating space for dismantling a myriad of oppressive constructs such as, but not limited to: sexism, ableism, paternalism, gender and sexual orientation discrimination, bias against Indigenous peoples, and patriarchy.

How we’ll move forward:

We have begun a rigorous examination of our core practices, values, and the existing structures of our organization, including what stories we tell, how we make and present them, who makes them and who hears them, and how we will hold ourselves accountable to this work.  Below is a list of commitments we have made and work we are doing, to be updated regularly as we continue this journey.  We’d like to express our gratitude to the framers of the We See You White American Theater documents, in addition to our local BIPOC theater communities, for their labor in helping define a path for change.

  • What stories do we tell?
    • What we’ve done:
      • Create a new power-sharing model for curation in season programming and beyond in the form of a paid, majority BIPOC Associate Artists group.
      • Continue to program seasons in which BIPOC plays comprise at least 50% of the programming.
    • What we’ll do this year:
      • We will take steps to identify whose stories are being left out of our work.
      • We will begin to form relationships with communities whose stories should be represented in our work.
    • What’s upcoming:
      • We will create policies around representation in the stories we tell.
  • How do we make and present them?
    • What we’ve done:
      • Eliminate 10/12s and 6-day rehearsal weeks.
      • Ensure all artists are compensated for appearances at donor events, talkbacks, etc., and not asked to volunteer their time.
      • Ensure funding for cultural consultants on culturally specific shows .
      • Ensure that BIPOC hair and makeup, especially in regard to Black hair styling, will be designed in collaboration with the actor and in consultation with properly trained designers and budgeted for by the organization.
    • What we’ll do this year:
      • We will develop and disseminate intervention and disruption protocols for harmful moments throughout all levels of the work we do across the organization.
      • We will hire BIPOC casting associates and, where necessary, show specific casting associates.
      • We will center BIPOC artists in the telling of their own stories, and ensure a focus on cultural specificity.
      • We will ensure that BIPOC artists have the agency and resources to make work the way it needs to be made.
      • We will ensure proficient and accessible walkthroughs of inventory and spatial configurations for designers.
      • We will hire culturally competent facilitators for BIPOC stories at talkbacks.
      • We will include marketing personnel in early concept meetings with creative teams.
      • We will ensure that the ways in which race and other forms of oppression manifest in the narrative will be named and discussed at first production meetings as well as at first working rehearsals.
      • We will create pre-production and rehearsal structures specific to the needs of the project and taking into account the needs of the humans working on it.
      • We will ensure that artists are valued for their worth as artists, not just for how they racially or ethnically identify.
      • We will make it clear on all levels of the organization that we honor and value lived experience.
    • What’s upcoming:
      • We will set up a reciprocal relationship with a mental health organization to make available therapists when producing content that deals with racialized and other forms of trauma.
      • We will create a system of artist approval and compensation for use of their image in marketing and fundraising materials.
      • We will ensure that rehearsal/performance/creation processes are not predicated on “the show must go on at all costs” and “pushing through” and make this humans-first approach clear in onboarding.
      • We will create a clear grievance process structured to eliminate fear of retaliation, especially when it comes to advocacy of cultural specificity.
      • We will ensure that collaborations with BIPOC theatres will be equitable and reciprocal partnerships.
      • We will ensure that we are prepared to make work with and for differently abled audiences and artists.
  • Who makes them?
    • What we’ve done:
      • Ensure leadership is dedicated and working extensively on every level to weave anti-racist practices into the very fabric of the organization.
      • Begun Board self-education and training with consultants on anti-racism as a practice, and begun work on dismantling racist practices in their governing structure.
      • Continue to employ greater than 50% BIPOC actors and creatives throughout the season.
      • Continue to ensure that BIPOC artists are involved throughout the season, not just on BIPOC shows.
      • Continue anti-racist casting practices, such as:
        • Color-conscious casting as opposed to colorblind casting
        • Racialized narratives created by casting choices discussed and created in collaboration with the actors involved
        • Casting BIPOC in “golden age” and “canonical” material
        • Being specific in regard to races called for by the script
    • What we’ll do this year:
      • We will offer free anti-racism training to creatives, contracted over-hires, donors and patrons.
      • We require anti-racism training of staff, actors, crew, board, volunteers and hourly over-hires.
      • We will update and publish contracting preferences to reflect our prioritization of creative and other contractors with up-to-date anti-racist training.
      • We will ensure that the onboarding of all who work at and volunteer for ArtsWest includes conversation around anti-racist values.
      • We will begin to offer open sessions quarterly for free audition piano recording sessions.
      • We will begin to offer biannual open free headshot sessions.
      • We will continue to develop and will publish our anti-racist casting practices .
      • We will ensure BIPOC representation in all casting rooms.
      • We will disclose who else is part of the project when offers are made and update as people are brought on.
    • What’s upcoming:
      • We will create an equitable and transparent hiring process that includes: diverse pools of candidates, no tokenization, not using language such as years of experience and education requirements, and a committee rather than one person, ensuring that jobs are posted through avenues that are highly accessible to BIPOC candidates and leveraging meaningful relationships with BIPOC community members and organizations.
      • We will examine our human resource structure to better match skillsets with roles in ways that are different than the inherited structures currently in place.
      • We will identify and remove barriers to board candidacy, among the creation of other strategies toward creating a more inclusive and broadly representative board.
      • We will seek out BIPOC vendors for work within and for our facility.
  • Who hears them?
    • What we’ve done:
      • Continue to program work that tells BIPOC stories.
      • Continue to invest in BIPOC marketing vendors.
      • Begin offering free audience anti-racism education and discussion.
      • Continue to offer use of our building and staff in support of the work of BIPOC social justice organizations.
    • What we’ll do this year:
      • We will ensure BIPOC artistic work has the audience for which it was intended, including:
        • Providing a welcoming space for BIPOC audiences
        • Fostering collective organizational cross-racial relationships
      • We will create the position of Relationship Manager that will connect and maintain relationships with donors, subscribers, board members, and BIPOC audiences, organizations and community groups.
      • We will turn over part of our Gallery to a permanent artistic installation and education space that speaks to anti-racist ideology, education, practices, and policies.
      • We will create initiatives that ensure equitable access for BIPOC audiences to shows and events.
      • We will publish a statement of inclusion for BIPOC audience cultural practices in program, and support this in the onboarding of volunteers and staff.
    • What’s upcoming:
      • We will begin to develop relationships with our Indigenous community and partner with them on the recognition and caretaking of the land.
      • We will invest in and foster reciprocal relationships in BIPOC communities and re-invigorate our ArtsWest Voices program.
  • How do we hold ourselves accountable?
    • What we’ve done:
      • Begin work with an anti-racist consultant to examine the entire structure of the organization.
      • Commit a growing percentage of our budget to support specifically anti-racist work.
      • Post a land acknowledgement in our building, on our website, in our programs, and given voice to it at every rehearsal, performance, donor event, and meeting.
      • Include a standing agenda item at every staff and board meeting for an EDI/anti-racism check-in.
    • What we’ll do this year:
      • We will create a statement of values to be read at every first rehearsal and used wherever else applicable that addresses such things as: land acknowledgement, racism, sexism, and all other forms of oppression; and ends with a commitment to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable among us and celebrate those whose voices have been historically excluded in the curation, creation, and presentation of our work.
      • We will retool the current vision and values statements and organization bylaws to reflect anti-racist and anti-oppressive values.
      • We will post anti-racism and anti-oppression statements on callboards and elsewhere in the building.
      • We will continue to use the Continuum on Becoming a Fully Inclusive Arts & Cultural Organization in the version published by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture as a self-rating tool for their Civic Partner Program.
    • What’s upcoming:
      • We will publish a listing of board member affiliations including corporations and other non-profits.
      • We will conduct a vendor audit and investigate the ratio of dollars spent with BIPOC-owned businesses and white-owned businesses.

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Jenny Durkin – 206-684-4000 – jenny.durkin@seattle.gov

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