Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual to feel accepted, valued and safe(r). An inclusive community consciously evolves to meet the changing needs of its members. Artist producers can make conscious decisions to make safe(r), more inclusive spaces for themselves, their artists and their community.
What is a safe(r) space? A safe(r) space is a supportive, non-threatening environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental safety. The term “safe(r)” takes an intersectional approach to the term “safe,” acknowledging that what is “safe” shifts depending on one’s various identities and positionalities. It is a space that is critical of the power structures that affect our everyday lives, and where power dynamics, backgrounds, and the effects our behaviour has on others are all prioritized.
Some factors that create unsafe spaces include violence, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, lack of consent and unconscious bias. The Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code and/or the Criminal Code may apply in respect to some of this conduct in spaces and workplaces, depending on the place and region you are working in.
In order to create safe(r) spaces for all individuals, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the systems in place that continue to prevent people from participating, contributing, and leading in the live performance sector. A lack of representation on stage is only one way a lack of inclusion in the live performance sector can manifest. Lack of inclusion affects the types of stories told, who tells those stories, who feels welcome in a room, who is left out of conversations, who gets paid (and how much). On a larger scale, it affects artist and audience demographics, the distribution of arts funding in Canada, and pay inequities in our sector.
Inclusion starts on an individual level. It requires self-location, reflection and education. Self-location is the process of contextualizing your privilege, experience and relationship to others using all the aspects that inform who you are – race, family, gender, religion, ethnicity, education, social class, attitudes, interests, passions, responsibilities, beliefs, concerns and so on.
Self-location is a way of reflecting on what unconscious biases have affected your interactions and experiences in the live performance sector (and beyond). Unconscious biases are learned and deeply ingrained stereotypes about other people based on traits such as gender, social class, height, weight, race, education level, disability, sexuality, accent, social status, and job title. These biases influence behaviour and affect decision making. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences. Biases can also be unlearned, but in order to change behaviour, you have to be able to recognize your blindspots.
Educating yourself on allyship and advocacy and building a personal anti-racist, anti-oppression practice is an essential part of creating more inclusive spaces in and outside the workspace.
Play Equity and the Blindspots - SpiderWebShow article by Djanet Sears on the barriers to play equity in Canada following the #CanStageSoWhite response to Matthew Jocelyn's 2016/17 season programming.
Implicit Association Test (IAT) - Online test by Harvard University social psychologists Mazarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald that measures a person’s automatic or unconscious response to various social groups (based on race, ethnicity, gender sexual preference, age, weight, etc.). The test is enlightening, free, and participants are guaranteed anonymity.
This Collaborator Worksheet by Heidi Taylor at Playwrights Theatre Centre is a research tool for articulating your creative style and needs as you consider your creation process preferences and how to communicate these to your collaborators. Hosted by CADA West.
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.
White Supremacy Culture - An excellent article breaking down culture, cultural racism, and white supremacy culture. It also features a fantastic zine that names and identifies characteristics of white supremacy.
10 or So Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making Art About a Group You Don't Belong To by Montreal musician Hanorah, published by the CBC.
All In Resource Library, curated by PACT is a document drawn from many sources and is meant to act as a starting point to those trying to better understand issues of equity, diversity and inclusion in the interest of building a personal anti-oppression practice.
Arts organizations, companies and collectives engage a lot of people - from volunteers, artists, and audiences, to arts workers. All organizations have a responsibility to protect those in their workspaces. Many artists in the live performance sector are freelance workers, which means the communities they work with are constantly shifting. Organizations have a responsibility to establish ways of working with clarity, transparency and accountability. Below are a list of resources, toolkits, workbooks and webinars to help.
Work In Culture's Inclusion in the Creative Workplace Program provides free general inclusion and diversity training (E-Learning, Videos, HR Toolkit).
Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. provides Indigenous relations training, and their website contains resources and free eBooks.
This Arts Equity Toolkit provides practical tools and resources for artists and groups working towards equity in the arts. Generated by the Toronto Arts Foundation and the Neighbourhood Arts Network, with support from Manifesto Community Projects.
This document on White Supremacy Culture in Organizations by COCo (The Centre for Community Organizations) is a way for your organization to explore the day-to-day experience of working together and offer a path to imagining and implementing a different way of being. They recommend using the document in smaller chunks. You can choose a couple of sections at random or based on observations of the organizational culture.
ArtsBuild Ontario has developed a Webinar Series and a Toolkit for creative spaces aimed at increasing awareness of the Design of Public Spaces Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA)
TransformHarm.org is a resource hub about ending violence. It offers an introduction to transformative justice. The site includes selected articles, audio-visual resources, curricula, and more.
This Diversity Toolkit: A Guide to Discussing Identity, Power and Privilege is meant for anyone who feels there is a lack of productive discourse around issues of diversity and the role of identity in social relationships, both on a micro (individual) and macro (communal) level. Perhaps you are a teacher, youth group facilitator, student affairs personnel or manage a team that works with an under-served population. Training of this kind can provide historical context about the politics of identity and the dynamics of power and privilege and/or help build greater self-awareness. The activities included in the toolkit are intended for groups of 10 to 60 people. The diversity toolkit outlined here may be used as a guideline and can be modified to better fit your group’s unique needs.
Racial Equity Tools is a US-baed organization that offers many introductory learning tools specific to the arts & culture sectors.
A community agreement is a shared agreement formed by a group at the beginning of a process. These commitments can help to create a safe(r) space, they can be referred to if conflicts arise, and they can help set the tone and focus for your time together. A community agreement is an opportunity for a group to create a container that meets the needs of everyone in that group. The process of community agreement building invites artists to ask for what they need to learn and create as openly and securely as possible together. Community agreements can be referred to and adapted at any point of a creative process.
The Anti-Oppression Network Safer Space Policy is a great place to start learning about community agreements, and provides suggestions for group guidelines you can riff on for your own agreement.
Community Agreement Template created by Heidi Taylor of Playwrights Theatre Centre, hosted by CADA West.
Click here to download Generator's Community Agreement Template*.
*If the automatic download does not work, try right-clicking the link and opening it in a new tab.
Whether you are a one-person team or an incorporated non-profit with a board of directors, you have the capacity to create principles and commitments to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Personal commitments can include supporting organizations mandated towards social justice issues and BIPOC solidarity, attending productions and events by IBPOC artists, and working with more diverse creative teams. Organizational commitments can include curation and programming, gender equity, equity in artist hiring, a commitment to anti-racism, affordable pricing, and fair pay. A great example is this EDI statement from Roundhouse Theatre. Make long term and short term goals and include a timeline. Discuss accountability measures and check in regularly to see how you (and/or your organization) is doing. Consider how these commitments will affect your contracts, workplace safety and harassment policy, and artist engagements.
So you've made a commitment to inclusivity. Now it's time to do the work. ArtistProducerResource.com has extensive resources on Artist Accessibility, Audience Accessibility, Accessible Performances and Specialized Performances, Accessibility Statements, and Accessible Websites, Graphics and Documents to help you action your commitment to inclusivity in your producing practice.
Keep expanding your knowledge and network of diverse programming, companies and artists. Check out our resources page for Resources Promoting Plays by Women, Women of Colour, Trans, Non-Binary Artists; Databases for Queer and IBPOC Artists, and a list of Theatre Companies and Organizations with Culturally Specific Mandates. Check out the YouTube video "Build relationships with Indigenous artists", where Ruby Slippers Theatre discusses racism and diversity in the Canadian theatre industry with Nyla Carpentier; Director, Actor, Writer and Powwow Dancer.
And remember, this is a life-long, cyclical practice. "Doing the work" is not the end of this process - in fact, we could put locate and educate yourself at the bottom of this page again! The process of learning and un-learning requires constant checking in, re-affirmation, and re-calibration. This SurgeryReDesign.com diagram on Becoming an Anti-Racist shows it best: the final circle is a continuous, expanding circle of "growth".