RENEWING OUR COMMITMENT TO ANTI-RACISM, INCLUSION, DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND ACCESS
September 9, 2021
Dear VG Community,
Today, alongside our 2021/2022 season announcement, we are sharing the steps we have taken to strengthen Anti-Racism, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access as the guiding principles of our organization.
We recognize that this statement is long overdue. To our Black, Latine, Indigenous, SWANASA, AAPI and all People of Color, former and current staff members, colleagues, and collaborators, thank you for your patience, advice, and support. You have called us out at the expense of your own well-being. For all the harm we individually and as an institution have caused, we are sorry. We also know an apology is not enough: we must change, and do our part to create an industry that does not center on white voices, tastes, and money.
Thank you also to the We See You White American Theatre movement, Design Action, On Our Team, and all the groups driving equity in the performing arts: your demands and calls for accountability are a gift, and we are grateful for your labor in providing clear, actionable steps for us to take. Our changes below are just the beginning of the work to be done this season. As we secure funding, revise our processes, and hire new staff members, we will continue to share our progress on the page below, in a spirit of transparency, accountability, and a true desire to create lasting change.
We must also acknowledge that Victory Gardens Theater has been without permanent leadership since the spring of 2020, until the appointment of Ken-Matt Martin as Artistic Director in March 2021. Thank you to our staff and board members of color who stepped in during a tumultuous time to lead us: Board President Charles E. Harris II, Acting Managing Director Roxanna Conner, AD Search Committee Chairs E. Patrick Johnson and Sidney Lee, and Board IDEAA Committee Co-Chair Regina Cross and former Co-Chair Jaime Viteri. You have brought VG through a difficult year and started an organizational transformation towards equity.
Inclusion, diversity, equity, anti-racism, and access are the cornerstones of Victory Gardens and its work. Despite an external reputation in the industry as a leader in these areas for years, we have still made mistakes, and still have much work to do. We will hold ourselves accountable and strive every day to build a truly equitable, anti-racist institution. We are committed to creating a new model for IDEAA practice in the performing arts, and making the Biograph Theater a place where all feel welcome and celebrated.
Victory Gardens Theater Board of Directors and Staff
A Timeline on Our IDEAA Process
- After the departure of our Executive and Artistic Directors in June 2020 and following months of protest from our artistic community, the Staff and Board of Directors announced an open search for a new Artistic Director, and reached out to begin repairing relationships with those who had been harmed by our actions.
- Over the summer of 2020, Theater leadership began examining our current operations, identifying where we were failing in the areas of anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.
- From September to December 2020, Theater leadership identified a list of issues, and began prioritizing items to address by the end of June 2021. Many of the changes needed the input and consideration of the Artistic and Executive Director positions, which were still vacant. However, changes that could be addressed without permanent leadership were shared with the full staff for weekly discussion in early 2021, and implementation plans were drafted.
- During the spring of 2021, after Ken-Matt Martin began his tenure and plans for next season began to finalize, a volunteer writing team of staff members created this document to share our work to date. We will post updates periodically on our website.
CHANGES TO OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
- We created a Board Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Anti-Racism (IDEAA) committee in July 2020, composed of VG Board and staff members, with a demonstrated commitment to and expertise in IDEA work. This committee meets periodically, and works with the existing staff IDEAA committee to identify and implement IDEAA projects and priorities, to ensure IDEAA principles are centered as part of all the work we do, and to provide regular updates on IDEAA work to the VG community.
- We will continue to list Board members’ professional titles and employers on our website, along with headshots for all officers, in the interest of providing transparency in Theater leadership.
- We are working to repair relationships that were damaged through Victory Gardens’ actions during the leadership transition in 2020, and recognize this will take time and ongoing commitment to change on the Theater’s part. The Board of Directors and theater leadership has engaged in continuing conversations with many members of the artistic community and former VG Staff members to better understand and fix our harmful practices.
- We reviewed and adjusted our Board Director requirements, including clarifying that candidates who demonstrate their personal commitment to VG’s mission in other ways will not be precluded from Board membership if they are unable to meet the minimum annual financial commitment (a “give or get” of services or support).
CHANGES TO OUR ARTISTIC WORK
- We will continue our commitment to telling diverse, new stories and supporting them equitably across the VG Mainstage season, in terms of both budget and staffing. We will evaluate the unique needs of each production in close consultation with the artistic team when setting production budgets.
- We recognize the need to continually evaluate and adjust our financial support of productions based on the artistic vision for each, and we have increased budgets for all productions, including raising design and consultant fees. These fees will be listed on job postings.
- We will add land acknowledgements to the Richard Christiansen Theater Lobby and the Prince Charitable Trusts Event & Rehearsal Room, in addition to the existing acknowledgement in the Seigle Lobby. These acknowledgements will be read before the start of the first rehearsal for each show and shared with all artists. They will also be added to all Victory Gardens show programs and curtain speeches beginning with the 2021/2022 Season.
- Effective immediately, we will no longer schedule 10-out-of-12 rehearsals during the tech process. This change will not reduce the number of overall hours of technical rehearsal, but will redistribute hours to create a healthier schedule for all involved.
- We will continue to provide dedicated hair and make-up support for VG productions, and ensure that those hired have the necessary experience in care and styling for all hair types and complexions represented in the cast.
CHANGES TO OUR ADMINISTRATIVE WORK
- We have created and ratified an anti-racism statement, which is posted on the Victory Gardens website, along with this statement. The anti-racism statement has been included in all onboarding materials for full-time, part-time, temporary, contract, and overhire staff, and will be shared and communicated with all those working in Board, volunteer or vendor roles on VG’s behalf.
- We have reviewed the harassment and complaint reporting policies, and are in the process of updating them and adding support and resources for complainants. This policy will be applied to and shared with all who work with Victory Gardens Theater in full-time, part-time, internship, seasonal, contract, overhire, Board, and volunteer roles once hired, and every year thereafter.
- We have reviewed and overhauled our staff hiring process and job descriptions, including:
- Removing years of experience requirements for entry-level positions.
- Removing degree and education requirements wherever possible, focusing on the skills needed to be successful in each role rather than credentials from a particular institution or program.
- Listing compensation ranges and benefits information for each position.
- Creating a new outreach plan to expand our job postings to as wide a community as possible, with emphasis on diverse organizations and artists, as well as individuals who were formerly incarcerated.
- Emphasizing that other measures of diversity, such as gender or sexual orientation, are not a substitute for racial diversity. We aim to have a staff that reflects the city we live in, in all ways.
- Prioritizing candidates with interest or experience in IDEA and anti-racism work and practices.
- Standardizing the application and interview process across all Victory Gardens departments based on job classification (full-time, part-time, contract, temporary, or overhire) to ensure every candidate is given the same level of consideration.
- We will continue marketing through an inclusive lens, with input and direction from the artists involved in each production. Advertising for productions will not solely focus on mainstream platforms with a traditionally white audience, recognizing that where we spend our money often determines who attends our shows.
- We will compensate all artists and practitioners for additional appearances not listed in their production contracts, such as fundraising events and photo and video shoots.
- We will review and update our press contacts before every mainstage production, to ensure regular representation from Black, Indigenous, Latine, SWANSA, AAPI, and all People of Color reviewers and organizations, new and established. Mainstage opening night invitations will be extended to all contacts in our press pool, and seating will be assigned based on accessibility needs first, and equitably thereafter.