On behalf of the Board and staff of Artist Trust, this is a formal apology to the finalists and panelists of the 2020 Arts Innovator Award. It is with tremendous regret that we acknowledge our mishandling of the adjudication process related to this award.
In February 2020, when the Artist Trust Board voted to re-adjudicate the 2020 Arts Innovator Award, we did so without thoroughly investigating the accusations and internal processes that led to our decision. In so doing, we failed the artists and panelists of this year’s award. Furthermore, our lack of action to immediately correct our erroneous decision deepened the harm we caused and prolonged its damaging effects.
We incorrectly believed there was an undisclosed direct conflict of interest between one of the panelists and one of the finalists. Artist Trust wrongfully implicated panelist Anida Yoeu Ali and her husband. We believed this accusation as it was presented to us by staff, despite limited investigation on our part. Now, we take full responsibility and are attempting to right this wrong with a new deliberation.
We painfully recognize the amount of stress, labor, mental duress, and trauma that this unfortunate situation has caused the panelists and finalists throughout the last six months, and are deeply remorseful for the weight they have carried in doing the hard work required to bring this to light. We want to publicly recognize the amount of personal time they have each invested to pull the artist community together in collective action to hold Artist Trust accountable for our actions, in particular panelists Anida Yoeu Ali, Shin Yu Pai, and Chieko Phillips. Throughout this process, all the panelists have been forthright and acted with integrity. It is our hope that this accountability – and internal changes we are making – will provide us with an opportunity to grow and create positive change within the organization.
After receiving a letter from the panelists, finalists, and community members on July 6th, 2020, we opened a Board-led investigation into the 2020 Arts Innovator Award process. We have reviewed and verified new information and have decided to rescind our February decision and reinstate the recommendations made by the original award panelists.
We have also committed to engaging an independent third-party to complete a 360-degree review of our 2020 Artist Trust Arts Innovator Award process, which will result in a public report that provides an analysis of findings and recommendations for process and policy improvements. We are committed to making the necessary changes to ensure this situation does not happen again. Artist Trust is made stronger by living up to our values, being accountable to our artist community, and owning our mistakes.
Although it is long overdue, it is with relief and joy that we will announce the 2020 Arts Innovator Award recipients on August 17, 2020.