WAM continues to deepen our exploration of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. We are grateful to all those we continue to learn from, including Gwendolyn VanSant and BRIDGE, a valued community partner that is a vital part of our cultural competency learning, as well as Nicole Brewer, anti-racist theatre consultant who works with our leadership team, Heather Bruegl, Director of Cultural Affairs for the Stockbridge- Munsee Community, who partnered with us in 2020 on The Thanksgiving Play, and Trenda Loftin, who works with us as our BIPOC Staff Advocate.
OUR ACCOUNTABILITY JOURNEY:
In January, 2021, after approximately six months of work following the release of our July 2020 statement, our organization released a public statement of accountability that addresses WAM’s intention that people across race, gender, sexual orientation, location, age and ability, feel seen, heard and valued at WAM.
This living-document itemizes how the WAM board and Team are working towards being an anti-racist organization, through harm repair, harm reduction and harm prevention actions. Throughout the document we name the practices and actions we are now aware of that excluded, exploited, and misrepresented our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), WAM artists and community members in our first decade, and we share the accountability actions we are putting in place, now and in the upcoming months.
The document and specific action steps can be read and downloaded here:
In July 2020, working in service of the list of demands from We See You White American Theatre and in alignment with the cultural competency work WAM started with BRIDGE in 2016, and started with Nicole Brewer in 2019, we released a statement sharing what our accountability process would be.
In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, WAM Theatre’s board and team spent ten days working with an Anti-Racism Theatre coach, Nicole Brewer, who had been Kristen’s (WAM’s Producing Artistic Director) Anti-Racism Theatre coach for a year, and in consultation of some of our BIPOC colleagues (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), to share the following solidarity statement:
This interview with Kristen van Ginhoven, Gwendolyn VanSant, CEO of BRIDGE, Lee Mikeska Gardner, Artistic Director of The Nora and PIPELINE director Dawn Simmons shares what it was like to make an intentional effort to prioritize cultural competence and equity for our PIPELINE cast and audience members alike.
In July, 2019, WAM Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven started working with Nicole Brewer, doing one-on-one coaching.
In February, 2019, WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, gave a TEDx Talk at the North Adams TEDx titled ‘The Discomfort of Community”. In the talk, Kristen shares how the more she works at the intersection of arts and activism, the more she recognizes how being part of the white, cisgender, able-bodied, middle class, heterosexual community is a privilege in which she can no longer afford to be comfortable. If we truly want to be change-makers and contribute to a community of empathy, equity, and belonging, we must learn how to tolerate our discomfort.
In January 2018, the WAM Board released this Diversity Statement:
In March 2016 WAM actively began exploring the intersection of gender and racial justice through our FACING OUR TRUTH project with local Berkshire social justice organization BRIDGE. That project began a journey that continues around WAM’s exploration of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.