Community Update – October 5, 2020
October 5, 2020
Our primary goal this season is to change the culture at Persephone. We are investigating our existing structures that have caused harm and are using this season to make a holistic systems-change within the organization.
The recent community town hall meetings have been vital for hearing specific feedback on Persephone’s past and recommendations for its future. We learned that things have happened in the building that shouldn’t have happened. To those who have been negatively impacted during your time, experiences, or encounters with anyone at Persephone: we are truly sorry. But an apology is not enough, we have to learn, grow and make changes.
Before we outline our commitments to change, we need to first acknowledge that our commitments will sound like lip service until we are all able to safely gather again. We know that until you are in the building to see these changes in action, you will be trusting us and our word.
We are working to develop a culture of proactive inclusion and harm-prevention. Staff and board members have participated in anti-racism training and will continue to participate in other training opportunities throughout the season. The goal is to empower ourselves and each other to make the necessary behavioural changes that create a safe, healthy, and inclusive workspace for each other and as hosts to our community, so that we aren’t solely relying on our HR policies as corrective measures.
HR policies are a vital partner in culture change, clarifying expectations of behaviour for our staff, artists, volunteers and patrons. We are in the process of revising our HR policies to better support all who enter our building. The board has revised these policies throughout the summer and they will be ready for community review and feedback very shortly. We will solicit feedback over a couple weeks and will integrate that valuable community feedback into the final versions of the policies. The last step will be for the board to formally adopt the policies, so we are operating under a shared understanding. We will continue to be open to feedback that will improve these new policies.
We are committed to diversifying our employee group in new hires and ensuring our recruitment practices encourage a more diverse group of applicants. Though Persephone is not currently hiring, this will be put into practice once we’re in a financial position to grow our staff and contractors as we gear up to put art on the stage again.
The board is proactively seeking more diverse membership and will also focus on embodying and establishing equity, diversity, and inclusion practices for the organization. The board is always open to any members who want to join, but we are reviewing our methods for soliciting new members and how we can better provide a welcoming, inclusive culture for all new members.
The board is reviewing its role in being a stronger steward in the local community, and the ways Persephone can structure itself to better support the local community. Together with GM Kristen Dion, we are reviewing how the board can play a more active role in community engagement and the ways that Persephone’s programming, structures, and/or staff can contribute to and support the local community in a meaningful and useful way.
The board is committed to having a more formal, ongoing, and direct relationship with the local theatre community. We want to find ways for the local artistic community to speak to, and collaborate with the board, independent of an Artistic Director or an artist liaison role. Though we’re currently exploring what form this will take, we plan for these to be seats filled through an open call to the community, with paid honorariums for artists’ time to participate in the conversations and provide their perspectives, thoughts, and recommendations. Board seats are always open to you, but this would be a separate entity where you can provide specific feedback without needing to uphold or agree to the more fulsome requirements of being a board member.
The structural changes we are undertaking also include our financial operating model. Persephone is still operating in a pandemic and has accumulated a $580,000 deficit. We will weather this and come out the other side of it, but we are reviewing the ways we can best produce in sustainable, financially-viable ways for the foreseeable future.
We are exploring what form our artistic leadership might take and we plan to include artists in those conversations. We will undergo a search once we have clearly identified, with input from artists, what Persephone is looking for in its new leadership. We hope to work with our new cohort of theatre community members in this process (as noted above), and possibly invite additional artists in this conversation on a separate, one-time basis. We intend to undergo this process this season.
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