Click the button to read the original letter to Calgary
The 35//50 Initiative began as a coalition of BIPOC artists across Alberta who believe in representation as an actionable plan. Over the years of 2020 to 2024, we are committed to seeing our civic landscape more equitably reflected in our professional landscape: a minimum of 35% BIPOC and 50% women and gender minorities in paid, professional positions. Hence the 35//50 Initiative. While our main focus is on BIPOC representation within our province, we firmly believe in intersectionality and that this work can also advance gender equity. Curiosity, risk, failure, bravery, truth, commitment. These are just a few of the values we bring into our art-making, and it is with these values we hope to continue sharing stories - just in a different context.
The initiative originally wrote and emailed out a letter asking Albertan theatre institutions to commit to equitable employment of 35% Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and 50% gender-variant folx and women by 2025. Now with the goal articulated and commitments being made, questions of intersectionality, accountability, and sustainability echo in conversations, and we are here to listen and offer curiosity in return.
We continuously work to encourage emergent processes, experimentation and failure as a learning tool. At this time we are focusing our time on the data collection and reporting from professional theatre communities to track the impact of our letter and find the gaps in our communities to work towards a more equitable and inclusive ecology.
We invite anyone in our community to fill in the survey below and let us know how we can help you along your journey to data collection and reporting!
Click the button to read the original letter to Edmonton
The Engagement Lab is Complete!
Picture from the Engagement Lab Retreat in Banff Dec 2021
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The Engagement Lab was a year+ program designed to address gaps in conversations regarding EDI within the theatre community. We sought to deeply consider patterns in current EDI work and test different solutions to prepare for when conflict appears in community. The program aimed to encourage curiosity and foster a space for collaboration and connection between 20 artists who identify as part of historically marginalized communities and 18 artistic leaders who operate under colonial structures.
We started with a three-day in-person retreat at Banff Centre and continued with six online sessions through February 2023. We also held regular online drop-ins, a book club for all participants, and a few additional in-person gatherings. The entire process was co-facilitated by JD Derbyshire and Adrienne Wong. Session highlights included:
December 2022: retreat at Banff Centre, Leadership with Knowledge Keepers Daryl Kootenay and Kyle Standingready-Snow
February 2022: Goal Setting and Getting to Know Each Other with JD and Adrienne
April 2022: Identity with Amy Thompson and Evren Salja
August 2022: Individual and Group Experiments with JD, Adrienne, Amy, and Evren
September/October 2022: in-person gatherings for further networking in both Edmonton and Calgary
October 2022: Panel Conversation with Cole Alvis, Shima Robinson, and Heidi Taylor
February 2023: Unlearning Power with Makram Ayache
March 2023: in-person gatherings for the launch of podcast Episode #1 in both Edmonton and Calgary
The Engagement Lab provided a space for open dialogue about the struggles of EDI work in the theatre industry. Participants built connections and relationships with others who share similar goals and challenges. We used emergent strategy values, featuring ongoing direct conversations with artists working in the community and individuals in positions of power that have the ability to change structural inequalities. JD Derbyshire and Adrienne Wong acted as consultants, present at every session to build a consistent relationship with participants, working to keep Theatre Alberta accountable, and to hold space when needed by participants.
In service of transparency and community, we recorded conversations with our facilitators after each online session. We launched “The Engagement Cast” now available on all streaming platforms!
Over the last year and a bit, The Engagement Lab dove into a soft scientific process looking at the question “What happens when we bring our communities together to explore conversations around community capacity, equity, sustainability and intentional change?”
Along the way we began to document our process through a podcast, including conversations with instructors, mentors and the administrative team around the challenges, the process and the successes of our endeavour.
The Engagement Lab Cast is possible with the initial support from three local foundations to transition our ALL IN Program to the 35//50 initiative and The Engagement Lab, the foundations were The Edmonton Community Foundation, Calgary Foundation, and the Rozsa Foundation.
We’re thrilled to announce that The Engagement Lab is supported by both Alberta’s Ministry of Culture: Community Initiatives Program and the Canada Council for the Arts. Theatre Alberta is grateful to our operating funders, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Edmonton Arts Council, and Calgary Arts Development.