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.

How will we disrupt inequitable power structures?

  • Our seasons will be curated via a power-sharing model in the form of a paid, majority BIPOC Associate Artists group charged with making decisions on programming collaboratively.  The first Associate Artists cohort began work in November 2020.
  • The marketing we generate specific to productions will include creative teams early on so that the marketing will accurately reflect their work. This looks like including the Marketing Manager in early concept and production meetings with the creative team, beginning with the first production of the 2021-2022 season.
  • There will be a process for artist approval and compensation for use of their image in marketing and fundraising materials for any use after the season in which the production was presented.   This will appear in every contract beginning with the first production of the 2021-2022 season. 
  • We will have a clear grievance process in place by Fall 2021, articulated up front to all involved at ArtsWest.  There will be multiple choices of who to speak with, and individuals will be able to express their concerns to someone they feel comfortable with.  Responsibility to resolve the issue will lie with the leadership of the organization and not with the affected person. 
  • Collaborations with BIPOC theatres will be equitable and reciprocal partnerships with the definition of success defined together.
  • Our Board will continue to self-educate as well as train with consultants on anti-racism as a practice, including removing barriers, reexamining governance and values, and ensuring a more inclusive and broadly representative board.
  • Our human resource structure and process will prioritize skillsets and lived experience.  This looks like an expanded reach for job postings, a diverse multi-person hiring panel, and interview questions that highlight lived experience over credentials and degrees.  This will begin with hiring for our re-opening in Fall 2021. 

How will we remove barriers to accessibility?

  • Our seasons are comprised of at least 50% BIPOC stories and we will continue to identify whose stories are being left out of our work.
  • We will ensure BIPOC artistic work has the audience for which it was intended. Some ways we will get to this include providing a welcoming space for BIPOC audiences,  fostering collective organizational cross-racial relationships, and investing in reciprocal relationships with BIPOC communities via our ArtsWest Voices program.
  • Beginning with our 21-22 Season we will eliminate 10/12s and create rehearsal schedules specific to the needs of the project and the people working on it.
  • We know we have a long way to go to ensure our complete accessibility to differently abled artists and audiences.  We will continue to identify these barriers and weave solutions into our Strategic Plan.  Our Strategic Plan will be published on our website.
  • We will ensure competent, proficient and accessible walkthroughs of inventory and spatial configurations for new directors and creative team members.
  • The traditional demand for hard copy headshots will no longer be a requirement to audition at ArtsWest.  We also recognize that not having access to a practice piano track for auditions can be a disadvantage. To that end, we will offer biannual free headshot sessions and quarterly audition piano recording sessions prioritizing the needs of historically excluded populations beginning in 2021.

How will we ensure that people can show up and be their authentic selves?

RESPECT

  • ArtsWest will center BIPOC artists in the telling of their own stories by supporting their artistic choices and not allowing for organizational overrides.
  • We will ensure all artists are compensated for appearances at donor events, talkbacks, etc., and are not asked to volunteer their time, beginning with our first production of the 2021-2022 season.

CULTURAL COMPETENCY

  • We recognize that artists are called upon to represent intersecting identities on stage and in the room.  To that end, we will provide funding in every production for a consultant to support exploration of the intersecting identities and issues in the play.
  • We will create and publish anti-racist production practices, including casting, design, rehearsal, production and beyond.  These practices focus on a people-first approach, agency in the creation of the art, and a balance of working with new artists and fostering ongoing artistic relationships, to be published on June 15, 2021.
  • We will hire culturally competent facilitators that are fluent in bystander intervention techniques for all talkbacks beginning in 2021.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A key component of on-boarding across the organization will be anti-racism training. 

We require anti-racism training of staff, actors, crew, board, volunteers and hourly over-hires and encourage the same training to creatives, over-hires, donors and patrons provided free-of-charge to all.

HARM PREVENTION AND REPAIR

  • We will develop and disseminate intervention and disruption protocols for harmful moments throughout all levels of the work we do across the organization as we re-open in the Fall of 2021.
  • ArtsWest is on the occupied lands of the Duwamish and the Coast Salish peoples.  We will begin to develop relationships with our Indigenous community and partner with them on the recognition and caretaking of the land.
  • A land acknowledgement will be posted in our building, on our website, in our programs, and given voice to it at every rehearsal, performance, donor event, and meeting. 
  • A reciprocal relationship with SOUND, a mental health organization, will begin in the Fall of 2021 to make available therapists when producing content that deals with racialized and other forms of trauma.
  • By June 15, 2021 we will publish inclusive and anti-racist policies for hiring, casting, and the contracting of designers, directors and vendors.
  • In our Gallery a permanent artistic installation and education space that speaks to anti-racist ideology, education, practices, and policies will be created by the end of 2022.
  • We will create a statement of inclusion for BIPOC audience cultural practices and support this in the onboarding of volunteers and staff beginning with our first production of the 2021-2022 season.

How will we hold ourselves accountable?

  • As an organization committed to anti-racism we will commit a growing percentage of our budget to support this work.
  • As a standing agenda item at every staff and board meeting, we will hold space for an EDI/anti-racism check-in.
  • We will create a statement of values to be read at every first rehearsal, and posted on callboards and throughout the building 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 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.  In collaboration with our community, we will publish where we fall on the continuum at the end of every calendar year, and use this as a tool in our post-mortem processes.
  • We will publish a listing of board member affiliations including corporations and other non-profits.
  • We will conduct and publish a vendor audit investigating the ratio of dollars spent with BIPOC-owned businesses and white-owned businesses by the end of 2022.

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