Where we Draw the Line as “Partners”
Over the past few years there have been multiple instances in helping to refine and grow the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC) in which issues have arisen while working with and alongside institutions. This short write up is to briefly outline why we started the ACC’s Institutional Membership Program and what we hope to accomplish through it. We hope that institutional leaders and representatives will read and sit with this before asking us to partner or share a job posting.
For years the ACC has been labelled as an organization that arts institutions look towards in order to connect with our large network of Indigenous arts professionals. We are often asked to “Partner” on a job call or professional opportunity where it is expected that we not only read the job/opportunity description but also offer suggestions on how to be more inclusive and equitable, and then share this call with our network.
We will no longer be accepting “partnerships” or work like this for many reasons:
- We are rarely financially compensated for this FREE LABOUR involved in doing all of the things mentioned above;
- We want our members to see that the only opportunities we share come from institutions we have long-term, ongoing relationships with based in reciprocity and trust;
- These requests are not based in earning and maintaining trust between us and institutions, but are inherently transactional.
A trend that we have noticed is that more established BIPOC arts professionals are no longer applying for positions at institutions due to the significant amount of labour they know they will need to do simply to make their day-to-day easier as they inevitably work towards decolonizing the institution. The work to decolonize often sits outside of the job description and BIPOC employees are rarely paid additionally in their work to consult, offer advice, or give opinions on how the institution functions as a colonial space. This is not to mention that work like this, paid or otherwise, is also emotionally draining.
Many emerging professionals are applying to these calls who may not yet have the tools to know when to say no or when something is outside of the agreement of their contract. Emerging professionals are also less likely to assert their boundaries or feel supported enough to turn down these unprofessional asks. As a result, we are seeing low retention rates of BIPOC folks in institutions and this is not a good thing. It is easy to hire people, but it is hard to make a space where someone wants to stay, let alone grow and take lead.
We created the Institutional Membership Program because we, more often than not, do not trust institutions. While we do want to see more BIPOC arts professionals receive opportunities and take on leadership roles in major arts spaces, we know that there are many steps needed to be taken before this can be realized in a sustainable and meaningful way.
What we need to see:
- That there are ongoing concerted efforts being made to create a safer, more equitable space to work;
- More BIPOC in leadership positions and roles that influence and make major decisions;
- Updated HR policies that reflect diverse groups of people with different cultural practices, needs, and protocols;
- Commitments from institutions that they are actively doing the work to “decolonize” their space and systems on all levels and that each staff member of that organization knows that this is the goal and have tangible actions they can do to help achieve this goal;
- That the institution does not host BIPOC programming or events without paying BIPOC professionals as staff or contractors to be leaders and instigators of this event. “Nothing about us without us” is a good framework for thinking about this moving forward.
“Simply sharing” a job call is no longer something that we will do for you. The Institutional Membership Program insists that if we do share an opportunity it is because we have been in deep conversation with that institution, that we want our members to know that we have a relationship built in trust and reciprocity, and that working in this space is something that we can vouch for.
Friends of the ACC ($250)
Through this membership level, Friends of the ACC, we will share resources with you that we create or find and you will be invited to ACC events, but this is the extent of what we will offer you.
We see this level as a place to start if you have few tools put in place and are needing to start learning on your own, but we will not vouch for you and we will not share your opportunities.
ACC Allies ($500)
ACC Allies will receive both of the benefits of the entry membership level, but at this level we expect to work with you to do an “Annual review of commitments towards best practices of working with Indigenous professionals.” What we mean by this is that we want to hear from a leader or leaders in your institution about the steps you are taking to build a space that is better for BIPOC professionals to work and thrive.
In this level we will not share a job call or opportunity for you in the first year that you are an institutional member, we will take this initial year to get to know you and your institution in order to build trust and reciprocal frameworks for an ongoing relationship.
ACC Star Allies ($1,000)
This final membership level, ACC Star Allies, receives all benefits from previous member levels, but in this level we add: Optional quarterly calls with the ACC to ask questions and get suggestions on best practices, job calls and position development; and the Ability to have jobs and other opportunities posted on the ACC’s website.
We see this membership level, and we want everyone else to see this level, as your institution making a public commitment to do this work.
Where we see the Institutional Membership Program going in the future.
2020 marks the first year that we have implemented the Institutional Membership Program. As it is in its earliest stage of development, we will be the first to admit that it is not yet perfect and know that it will absolutely change and grow to ensure that we at the ACC are always listening to and doing the work for BIPOC arts professionals who want equal and ethical professional opportunities. This program also aims to provide a space for Institutions to ask questions where there might be no space to ask otherwise, to help in the process of building a more equitable future for the arts.
This program will grow as our relationships with institutions grow and it will change as institutions change, and institutions will change.
Partnership means a lot to us and is a relationship that we take very seriously. Currently, the way we are being asked to partner or work with or alongside institutions is neither sustainable or reciprocal for us, and we will no longer be used as a stamp of approval unless trust is earned.