Artist Trust Leadership’s Response to Our Community’s Open Letter

Published: July 10, 2020

Categories: Featured

For an update on this work, read our recent blog post here.

Artist Trust Leadership’s Response to Our Community’s Open Letter

We sincerely apologize to our community for the harm we have caused; we see how the patterns of our actions have cooperated with, or even reenacted, systems of oppression. We recognize inadequate communications, along with lack of transparency about internal processes, have caused hurt and confusion, particularly among the artists we are here to support. We sincerely regret we have treated members of our staff unfairly and without adequate support systems. We are sorry for the hurt we have caused. We understand our actions have led to a loss of confidence in our work, and we seek to be accountable to you, our community. 

We acknowledge your letter with gratitude and respect. With this collective action, you demonstrate extraordinary compassion and care. You have come together to uphold our community’s values and to demand that we, Artist Trust, do the same. We see the difficult work you are doing, and we thank you. We are ready to listen and learn. You are right; we can and should do better. 

To rebuild trust with our community, Artist Trust commits to the following actions and accountability: 

ACTION: We will convene a series of public forums responsive to our community’s concerns and questions. The forums will be led by appropriately compensated Black, Indigenous, and POC facilitators.
ACCOUNTABILITY: We will work with our community to prepare topics and announce the first forum in August 2020. These forums will inform a clear, actionable, community-approved plan and timeline for change, which will be published soon after the conclusion of the last public forum. 

ACTION: We will research and adopt anti-colonialist, anti-racist frameworks that center community stakeholders.
ACCOUNTABILITY: permanent Racial Equity Committee of the Board is slated to be established this month to lead this work. In August, we will initiate and open an application to the public for Board positionsprioritizing Black, Indigenous, and POC leaders and artists from across Washington State who can inform this work. In response to public forums, community conversations, and our racial equity audit, we will publicly announce the steps we are taking to adopt new anti-racist frameworks that center our community. 

ACTION: Our Racial Equity Committee will lead our engagement in an independent, community-vetted equity audit of internal and external cultures and structures (hiring practices, Board composition, procedures for redress, human resource policies, panel selection, award selection, internal decision-making processes), with the findings published publicly.
ACCOUNTABILITY: In collaboration with our community, staff, Board, and our Racial Equity Committee, we will develop action items, timeline, budget, and fundraising plan to engage in this audit. We will publicly share this plan by the end of November 2020We will publicly share the audit results and recommended actions to transform Artist Trust‘s structures, operations, and culture.      

ACTION: Artist Trust will revisit the 2020 Arts Innovator Award (AIA) with the following steps:
-A facilitated discussion convening panelists, finalists, Artist Trust Board, and staff for a dialogue about the 2020 selection process
-A third-party analysis of the AIA process and a public report of findings and recommendations
These actions are in direct response to requests from AIA finalists. At the conclusion of these steps, our Board will convene to review the outcomes and reconsider the February AIA Board decision.
ACCOUNTABILITY: We publicly acknowledge and apologize for the hurt we have caused in this panel process. Artist Trust will publish a transparent public report about this process and outcomes by the end of July 2020.  

ACTION: Fellowship Awards postponed in March 2020 due to COVID-19 have resumed. All applicants are still under consideration and no additional action is required. Please visit this link for more information about why merit-based awards were postponed, the new schedule for the Fellowship Award, and information on the community’s involvement in jury selection.
ACCOUNTABILITY: We publicly acknowledge and apologize for the hurt we have caused and our poor communications about the delay in these awards. We are working to establish panels now, and Fellowship Award recipients from the current pool will be announced publicly in early 2021. 

We commit to timely, transparent communications to our community about progress toward these demands. We acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis has made it difficult to predict the future. If unforeseen events impact our ability to complete these actions as planned, we will work with our communities to collaboratively evaluate and prioritize our efforts for the most impact.   

Artist Trust aims to eradicate institutional racism. We recognize how we’ve upheld historical and structural barriers to artist funding, resources, and leadership opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

We are grateful to our community for expressing concerns and keeping us accountable. Thank you for reminding us of our values. We care about the integrity of the arts community, and we are committed to learn, grow, and better serve our community. We will work to rebuild your trust.