What we learned. What you can do. What we can do together.

To register for this free event go to:

Great Barrington, Mass.—Equity includes arts and culture workers being able to support themselves and their families. Passion is not a substitute for livable wages, but it is a common tale told by nonprofit employers, and employees too, as they try to make ends meet doing what they love. 

On Wednesday, June 14 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, a cohort of cultural nonprofits from Berkshire and Columbia Counties will hold a FREE event to release the findings, analysis, and recommendations of the Berkshire/Columbia Counties Pay Equity Project.

The collaborators in this compensation equity project, who represent the executive leadership of their organizations, strongly believe that the local arts sector cannot make good on its commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion without addressing head-on the issue of compensation. Entry- and mid-level jobs that pay adequately are key to creating an on-ramp for people of diverse socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds to pursue a career in the arts, and ultimately strengthening the sector as a result.

Launched during the 2021 Multicultural BRIDGE Inclusive Leadership Cohort, the Pay Equity Project has been working for over a year to gather first-hand perspectives from entry- and mid-level workers, collect original employer data, and benchmark results nationally. The findings were striking–and more so in a region known for bucolic landscapes, progressive ideals, and world class arts. 

Consistent with the basic values of the project, current and former entry- and mid-level arts and culture workers themselves were incorporated into the design, implementation, and reporting of results.

Janis Martinson, Executive Director of the Mahaiwe, host of the event on June 14 and cohort member, shares, “We asked entry- and mid-level arts and culture employees about their experience of current compensation models. We asked arts and culture organizations how they are striving to do their best to make arts and culture work livable. And we asked ourselves to imagine a future that recognizes that passion doesn’t pay the rent. Now we can share the data, the stories, and a menu of offerings for a path forward together.” 

“All of us who care about the nonprofit sector and its future have the opportunity to come together to make this change. At this event, you’ll learn about pay equity initiatives being implemented at our arts and culture organizations, hear what the ongoing barriers are for the arts and culture workers who are essential to our counties, and explore recommendations about how to move forward together. Only if we all join together can we make significant change around this urgent issue.” adds Margaret Keller, Executive Director of CATA and cohort member. “We invite regional arts and culture organizations, nonprofit leaders and board members, press, entry- and mid-level workers, area creatives, funders, policy makers, researchers, and equity activists and experts to join us for the public release of regional cultural employee compensation data, findings, and collective recommendations for regional change.”

“By all of us embracing the recommendations in this report, which includes many initiatives our arts and culture organizations are already doing around pay equity,  our sector as a whole can improve access to careers in local nonprofit arts organizations for candidates from diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, improving our organizations, extending our artistic breadth, and better serving our community.” shares cohort member Kristen van Ginhoven, Producing Artistic Director of WAM Theatre.

As of June 2023, Berkshire/Columbia Counties Compensation Equity Project includes: Art Omi, Berkshire Art Center (formerly IS183), Community Access to the Arts (CATA), Flying Cloud Institute, Jacob’s Pillow, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, WAM Theatre, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. The Project is funded in part by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. The Project was launched during the 2021 Multicultural BRIDGE Inclusive Leadership Cohort, and is informed by local and national equity initiatives.  

“Over the last four years, BRIDGE has served as a consulting partner and coach to the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Arts Build Community (ABC) in their efforts to develop capacity and accountability within local arts institutions, identifying barriers to access in our cultural sector. We’ve done this primarily through a combination of BRIDGE training, executive coaching, and more recently, our timely and bold Inclusive Leadership Cohort for Social Change (ILC) program.

Through ILC, I’ve witnessed earnest effort in identifying how these cultural institutions have made progress on equity issues like pay equity for arts professionals in this initiative; a need for more diverse leadership and audience participation; and culturally relevant presentations and programs. These are some of the highest priorities we’ve identified in our arts community here to create new pathways to solutions. I am proud to see the fruits of ILC leaders’ dedicated efforts to make real change. This is the result of leaders authentically listening to concerns raised by a much wider set of arts professionals in our community.” – Gwendolyn VanSant, CEO and Founding Director of Multicultural BRIDGE

“New cultural offerings in our region are attracting growing numbers of homebuyers and visitors, while underfunded compensation models for arts professionals, especially entry- and mid-level workers, sustain outdated and elitist notions that working in the arts is a privilege that justifies sacrifice. The problem with that assumption is that it reserves work in the arts for individuals who have other forms of financial security or are willing to sacrifice financial security for work in the non-profit sector, limiting the voices and perspectives represented within our sector.” – Gavin Berger, Board Member at Art Omi  

“Berkshire Taconic is grateful for the committed arts and culture organizations that have taken on this important project to critically examine compensation levels to better ensure equity. This information will help retain and recruit skilled staff who are vital to the region’s workforce and our neighbors.” – Emily Bronson, Senior Community Engagement Officer at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

To register for this free event go to: https://mahaiwe.org/event/berkshire-columbia-counties-pay-equity-project-data-release-recommendations/

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