EQUITY & ACCESS

EQUITY & ACCESS

This page is designed to transparently share information with the public about Shawl-Anderson Dance Center’s work around equity and access related to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, national origin, age, religion, economic status and more. We welcome your feedback and want to be in dialogue with you. Please reach out to us at info@shawl-anderson.org to connect and communicate or find contact information for specific staff members or the board here.

 

HISTORY & CONTEXT

Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (SADC) is one of the oldest community arts organizations in the Bay Area. It was co-founded in 1958 by Frank Shawl and Victor Anderson. From the beginning the ethos of SADC was about being warm, welcoming and inclusive. However, the organization historically did not foster open conversations about race, gender identity, sexual orientation and more. We recognize that this way of being was and is antithetical to the organization’s values and desire to make space for everyone to feel welcome, fully seen and able to show up as their whole selves in the process of dancing, teaching, learning and creating.

 

With the passing of the founders in 2017 and 2019, SADC has fully transitioned from a co-founder led to a community-led organization. In the past several years, we have started to openly discuss identity and how it is integral to dance education, art making, choreography, performance and service as a community arts organization. Some examples of how this exploration has brought about change include:  the founding our annual Queering Dance Festival; inclusion of a gender neutral restroom; revamping of the Artist in Residence program and panel process to increase equitable access; race equity work launched in 2020 (see more below); fee-free fiscal sponsorship for BIPOC artists on our roster established in 2020; and commitments from our leadership as shared below to ensure that structures, systems, policies, procedures and programming continue to evolve to support increased equity, access and inclusion over time.

 

The information here addresses work started by SADC in 2020 regarding race equity specifically. The commitments from leadership address our aims regarding equity overall. These plans will be supplemented with an internal plan that is part of a larger strategic plan established in 2021. We commit to updating the public by sharing information on a regular basis on this page and welcoming your input, questions, feedback, ideas and dialogue.

RECENT WORK

RACE EQUITY TRAININGS

Sarah Crowell, co-founder of Destiny Arts Center, led two race equity trainings in October 2020 alongside Karen Bouris, the Destiny Board Vice Chair, who is also a race equity consultant. These were attended by staff, faculty and board members. Each meeting was 2.5 hours in length. Staff and faculty were compensated to prepare for the trainings with reading materials, video and podcasts provided by the facilitators. The training sessions engaged the SADC staff, faculty and board in creating shared understandings of racism and its impacts; engaging in dialogue about dance and systemic racism; understanding where systemic racism has been built into SADC’s practices, programs and infrastructure; and generating dialogue around ways that SADC can both dismantle racism and take steps that will open up paths towards becoming an actively anti-racist organization.

 

In the board training, also in October, our facilitators pushed leadership to own what’s possible, rethink financial models, spotlight the organization’s current limitations and name next steps that will lead to more equitable programs, staffing, decision-making and governance. The facilitators pushed the board to understand ways that it can facilitate increased representation amongst those the organization hires, serves and supports, but also understand the need to change the structures that frame the work and support the people. It was agreed that structural change must go hand in hand with the interpersonal in order to effect real change around race equity in the community, culture, and communications at SADC.

 

EQUITY PRACTICE ADVISOR

In summer 2020, Piper Thomasson stepped up to take on our first internal equity staff role. Piper had also been holding the position of full-time Administrative Manager prior to the pandemic closure. We established the Equity Practice Advisor (EPA) role as a temporary three-month position to facilitate the start of intentional work at SADC around racial equity. Piper was integral to the interview process for the selection of Racial Equity Training facilitators. She brought together faculty and staff to reflect upon and discuss what it means to bring an equity lens to the organization’s systems and policies. Piper encouraged and supported a reflective period so that actions taken by the organization going forward are developed and well thought out, rather than performative in nature.

COMMITMENTS & AIMS

None of our words hold any meaning without a continued plan of action. The following commitments came as the result of staff and faculty feedback, the work of the Equity Practice Advisor in 2020, work by a team of representatives from across our organization, and through guidance from race equity facilitators Sarah Crowell and Karen Bouris.

 

This a draft that will be reviewed and refined as new board members join in early 2021. The commitments will be finalized and shared with the broader community in the first quarter of 2021 alongside a race equity statement and renewed mission, vision, and values statements developed with community engagement.

 

Statement of Commitment

As a result of our deep concern over injustice and racial violence and our collective inquiry, SADC is committed to embedding race equity into all aspects of our organization and the long term work of justice and the arts. Effective immediately, we are taking the following actions and developing plans to achieve the following results:

 

  • Expanding our board, evolving our governance, and sharing power: including staff and teaching artists, caregivers and parents, and representation from East Bay communities. We will question the longtime models of nonprofit governance and ask ourselves if these models bring equity, transparency and shared leadership to the fore. If not, we commit to evolving and experimenting with new models, learning from other organizations and continued education in how a board can fulfill its legal duties and create a strong partnership with staff, faculty and the community members we serve.
     

  • Committing to an antiracist financial model: shifting our revenue structure and practices, including fee structure, reparations and a new development strategy. SADC currently operates with a budget comprising 85% earned revenue and 15% contributed revenue. This commitment includes increasing contributed revenue and articulating the impact of earned revenue reliance on our programming opportunities and our capacity to serve a truly diverse constituency in terms of race, age, income, ability and more. We will seek community input and feedback throughout the process. SADC is using its Winter Dance 2021 workshop (December 28-January 3) to pilot the idea of sliding scale for the first time.

 

  • Programming expansion and evaluation: assess our educational curricula for systemic bias and cultural appropriation; provide staff and faculty with professional development to build more inclusive teaching practices; engage with dance organizations locally and nationally in a dialogue to increase overall accountability around race equity in the field.

    • Dance scholar Nyama McCarthy-Brown is a prominent voice in the national conversation about anti-racist dance classes, culturally responsive teaching, and critical dance pedagogy. Nyama has led discussions with our staff two times in the past two years and we convened a group of faculty members to read her book together and engage in discussion. Several youth staff members are signed up to participate in Nyama’s January 2021 workshop through the 92nd Street Y’s Dance Education Laboratory (DEL). SADC has also been invited to be a part of a cohort of dance educators in the winter/spring where Nyama will lead discussions every few weeks about developing anti-racist dance classes.

 

  • Building and Location of Services: develop a plan to expand who we are serving and bring SADC out into the community, to schools, and beyond the walls of 2704 Alcatraz Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood. This includes a 10-year plan for a renovation of the existing facility and/or rental/acquisition of a facility that is fully ADA accessible. Currently, SADC has committed to holding all off-site programs in studios and theaters that are fully ADA accessible. This has included classes at Temescal Arts Center and Shotgun Studios; annual performances and events at Laney College, Mills College, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, the Waterfront Theatre, Neyborly Poet’s Corner and Longfellow Middle School.

 

  • Race & Equity Staff Position: commit to building a staff role in the organization dedicated to race equity and equity issues. We aim to begin by hiring an outside consultant in 2021 who can help us establish an internal staff position by 2022. The three-month Equity Practice Advisor role revealed a need for Human Resources and Organizational Development (as outlined below) to support an internal staff position. As we work on strengthening these areas, we will engage a consultant to inform the immediate work of dialogue, learning, reflection, community engagement and education to dismantle white supremacy practices within SADC.
     

  • Human Resources: commit to building a staff role in the organization dedicated to human resources. In the short term, we are building and rebuilding employee policies with an equity lens that will support current faculty and staff in engaging in feedback to leadership and spotlighting any systemic issues around equity.
     

  • Organizational Development: as resources are gathered in 2021, SADC will plan to engage in a broader organizational development project with an outside consultant in order to examine and make critical changes to hierarchy, infrastructure, leadership, direction, decision-making, pay equity, and our alignment to mission/vision/values at every layer of operations and programming.

    • MISSION, VISION, VALUES: SADC is in the process of revising its mission, vision, and values statements to examine equity in the guiding principles and reasons for our work. We will also develop a racial equity statement to inform every aspect of our operations and programming. As we begin year 63, we are seeking to hear what the community wants and needs and how SADC can activate its legacy and history to ensure that the mission and work reflects both the beauty of SADC’s beginnings, its work through the decades and the contemporary needs of today’s dancers, artists and audiences.

    • LEADERSHIP: Systemic change will truly happen at SADC as we shift the leadership structure to ensure that BIPOC arts administrators are a part of the team. In 2021, we will embark upon an organizational development and strategic planning process. A key part of this process will be to identify ways in which we can evolve the leadership model, support our BIPOC faculty and staff in their professional development, and ensure that available positions are posted and shared publicly so that the broadest array of candidates can apply for leadership roles.

 
 
 

SHAWL-ANDERSON DANCE CENTER 

510-654-5921 | info@shawl-anderson.org

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2704 Alcatraz Ave

Berkeley, CA 94705

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Oakland, CA 94609

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