Dear Open Space Community,
As you are all aware, artist-run centres are places of flux and dynamism. Unlike large institutions, we are driven by a community of artists who do paid work and who volunteer, and in accordance with the Societies Act we are governed by a Board of Directors. Part of our responsibility as artists is to express both circumstances and possibilities in the world, and the board is currently working on three areas to address concerns recently raised by our community: anti-oppression/cultural agility training, an equity audit, and an examination of board diversity.
Anti-Oppression/Cultural Agility Training: Based upon the important suggestion of cultural safety training and the ensuing discussion at the first transition planning meeting with the staff and board in October 2017, and in emails and discussions with the Executive Director we have begun to pursue anti-oppression/cultural agility training for board and staff members. In our most recent board meeting (21 February 2018), the plan for cultural safety training was ratified through a motion to create a Cultural Safety Working Group, who will seek outside guidance as we work to make our space safer for everyone.
Equity: Our Executive Director and the Board have been working together to address issues around human resources that have arisen as the organization has grown into its current shape. Already we have been working to make permanent and non-precarious positions for the Open Space to address structural conditions (such as contract work) that can make working at an ARC unsustainable for employees and hence led to some of the transitional flux in our organization. We have enhanced the Indigenous curator position from part-time to full-time with commensurate salary adjustment as an indication of our desire to support Indigenous curators — not to dismantle the work of what so many have done. This new full-time position will carry a culturally designated title that reflects self-determination and agency.
We are grateful for the work of France Trépanier, Peter Morin, Gerry Ambers, and Sarah Hunt and the many others who have developed and shaped the Indigenous presence at Open Space. We are deeply appreciative for the support of the Canada Council and BC Arts Council for recognizing this need and for making it possible.
We wish to better understand our blind spots at Open Space and to do better in our hiring processes and based on advice from our community, we will be conducting an equity audit. This process is also being researched and organized by the Cultural Safety Working Group.
Board Diversity: Our board has recently felt the ripple of transition, including the loss of our incoming president (due to relocation out of province) and two board members: Two of these three people identified as Indigenous or people of colour. The board can be improved along lines of diversity and is inquiring into how we can better connect to the communities Open Space serves and wishes to serve. The board needs to be grounded in these communities and is committed to doing the work to create a diverse board.
Going into the transition process in Fall 2016, the Executive Director at the time created a strategic planning process that the Open Space community participated in (staff, curators, board, membership, and other invited community members). Out of that collective process came the criteria for our new Executive Director and hiring process. After an extensive circulation of the call for applications, the list of candidates included Indigenous people and people of colour. Our selection process, based on the collectively generated strategic plan identified the current Executive Director as the best person to move our mandate forward. We are grateful for the current Executive Director’s vision and hard work for the organization. We will also be revisiting our strategic plan to make sure it accurately reflects our subsequent important discussions about Indigenization and the process of decolonization at Open Space.
We feel the issues currently being raised presents us with an opportunity to resist and challenge “business as usual” and will continue to actively work to make Open Space a place of thriving for artists, staff, and community members who are Indigenous, Black, and people of colour, queer, and trans. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn, and we are committed to transforming structures of white supremacy, colonialism, binary-cis-heteronormativity, ableism, classism, and ageism. Going forward, we wish to build a better community through the training and changes to the organization that we outline above. We wish to create a welcoming space for the community and for the new Indigenous curator in the community.
We have identified these initiatives to ensure Open Space is truly open. Addressing these issues is neither comfortable nor easy. We acknowledge that there may be missteps along the way. We are grateful to a community that both supports us and identifies these missteps, allowing us to continue to grow.
We realize this is a difficult time for the organization, but we feel hopeful as it presents an opportunity to do better.