Message from the Garden Theatre Board of Directors

April 27, 2023

It’s an understatement to say that the past year has been remarkably difficult for former and current staff, the board and the community. Looking back, clearly our communication channels and practices were broken. The key to successful communication is listening, and we realize we could have and should have done a much better job of listening. Had we done so, we could have addressed issues sooner and directly and possibly avoided hurt feelings. It can be difficult to see and hear clearly while in the middle of a storm.

Hindsight is helpful for understanding the past as well as for looking ahead in order to make real change and mend relationships. Over the past few months, the board has worked closely to have multiple conversations about approaches to healing. Sometimes the easiest way to begin is to identify commonalities and shared values.

In our discussions, we continue to solidify what has always been fundamentally true — we all share a love of theatre and specifically Garden Theatre. We all want this theater to continue and thrive as a special venue for audiences as well as a creative and inclusive center for artists and production teams as it had been for so very long.

But time does not heal all wounds. While words are extremely important, especially in a healing process, actions are critical.  We want you to know what actions we have taken and will continue to take in order to re-establish a positive, trusting and creative work culture at Garden Theatre. In fact, some of the steps we have taken were suggested by staff. Here is an overview:

The Board engaged with several subject matter experts to perform an organization-wide evaluation of our mission, culture, leadership, and operations supported by surveys of current and former board, staff, artists and community members.  Highlights of that work, much of which is still in progress is below:

Edyth Bush Institute

  • Presented a complete organizational assessment, including recommendations to achieve greater success at both board and operational levels.
  • On April 11, Edyth Bush facilitated board governance education and training with board and staff.
  • Ongoing post assessment coaching and education on effective board governance for leadership, board and staff.
  • Support for development and implementation of DEI learning and strategy.

Arts Consulting Group (ACG)

  • Executive leadership support through an interim Managing Director – (since March 2022)
  • Established a Strategic Alignment workgroup comprised of current and former staff, board and community partners.
  • As of March 8, completed 4 work group sessions and 2 staff sessions to gain input and facilitate open dialogue on Garden Theatre’s Mission, Vision and Values.
  • ACG facilitated a meeting with the full Strategic Alignment cohort to present a draft Mission, Vision, Values, DEI statement, operating structure and staffing model. ACG collected feedback and provided to the Strategic Alignment Committee for further review and refinement before presenting to the board.
  • On April 18, ACG presented to the full board recommendations and insights on the tactical strategies to infuse the work of the advisory cohorts into the ongoing life and culture of the organization.

Activating Five Standing Committees

Compromised of Board and Staff to advance on aligned work:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Finance
  • Board Governance
  • Resource Development
  • Production Partnerships

Focused interaction between Board & Staff

Through shared work sessions, open meeting forums and monthly, in-person updates.

Onboarding a Professional Employer Organization

To streamline and support employee onboarding, benefits, payroll, time off, and more.

Victory Productions Partnership

  • Production partner for 2023 Season
  • Producing four main season shows
  • Supporting additional performances and content

So how does all this affect the artists and performing arts community at large? This effort was started because we are committed to creating a fresh culture where staff as well as artists feel relevant, heard and seen. We share this update to make clear our ongoing commitment to taking these actions and to change. We understand and acknowledge that feelings have been hurt; we are intent on effectively running an organization where arts professionals have a positive experience.

The Garden Theatre is currently driven and committed to ensuring:

  • The board of directors and staff are aligned on the organization’s strategy.
  • Organizational structure and role needs are evaluated and positioned to best serve its mission.
  • Advancement of culture and engagement to enhance a sense of belonging.

It’s no cliché to say that change doesn’t happen overnight; we have a good deal of work ahead to accomplish our goals. Our sincere hope is that you will join us in moving forward. We can and will be better together.

– Garden Theatre Board of Directors

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