Cultural Equity & Accessibility

Our work relies on being an ensemble, and our ensemble only thrives with diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect. We commit to actively confronting and dismantling white supremacy, patriarchy, and exclusion in our company, field, and community.

We commit to being inclusive, and strive every day to be an anti-racist organization.

Accessibility Services for Patrons at Portland Opera

Every Sunday matinee in our season includes audio description services for patrons who are blind or have low vision. Listening devices are also available for all performances at the Newmark Theatre and Keller Auditorium.  

If you need wheelchair, ADA, ample, or companion seating, or have any additional accommodation questions or requests, please give us a call at 503.241.1802 so that we can access our full inventory of seats for you. 

Performances include live English captions. We perform at three different venues, and so planning your visit to each one will include different circumstances. At each venue, we offer quiet places in the lobby or other areas to regroup or spend some quiet time, and our patron concierge team members are onsite in the lobby throughout the performance to support you. 

We want to ensure that your opera adventure is an excellent one, so please contact our team to talk through your needs. You can also learn more here. 

When We Gather

Our commitment to cultural equity continues to inform our audience policies and experiences. When we gather, it must be with respect and with care for the entire community.  

Let us be clear: there is no place for bigotry, discrimination, hate, harassment, or intolerance at Portland Opera.  

Behaviors that are disrespectful, discriminatory, or not aligned with our policies for attendance (including health and safety and firearm policies) will not be tolerated, and audience members may be asked to leave the premises and/or be prohibited from returning in the future. 

Do you feel welcomed? Did you experience discrimination? If you have experienced our values in action; or if you have experienced a failure of our commitment to cultural equity, please tell us.  

Use the form below to anonymously (or not) share your message with our Cultural Equity staff working group. Your feedback will be taken to heart at our next monthly meeting, and will prompt corrective action, discussion, company feedback, or adjustments.

Thank you for joining us in creating a safe and welcoming Portland Opera space for everyone.  

Your comment

Where it started & how it is going

During the 18/19 season, the Portland Opera Board of Directors and Metropolitan Group led the company through the process of creating a strategic plan for the company, resulting in an exciting set of ideas for Portland Opera’s next chapter. Strategy Three of the plan specifically outlined fundamental progress to activate an organizational commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, in order to create the opera of the future. Our journey and outcomes with this work impacts every strategy outlined in the plan: from our mission, vision, and values articulations, to our civic practice, community connections, and more. 

In the two plus years since developing our goals, we’ve pursued change and began our journey to transform our company.  Below you will find updates and specific progress details (some of which occurred concurrently) about Portland Opera's transformation thus far. 

Our 2023 / Current Staff Working Group

In summer of 2022, Portland Opera's staff decided to relaunch a self-directed working group, comprised of folks from all departments at various levels of the organization, to discuss incidents, opportunities, policy updates, new recommendations, and accountability for transformation and cultural equity at Portland Opera. 

This working group is currently scheduled for rotation in conjunction with our new fiscal year, and will begin again in fall, 2023.  Check back soon for more information about staff members' participation for the 23/24 season. 

In the meantime, you can contact us by emailing, or using the form on this page. 

Accountability Partners & Learning Labs
  • Through our extended network, we were introduced to Keryl McCord and her company, Equity Quotient.
    • In 2019 we established a staff working committee for the first scope of work with Keryl: a 2-day learning lab for staff members about the genesis of race and dismantling privilege; and a one-day board retreat. These workshops resulted in shared vocabulary, learning, and the initial synthesis of our challenges (and solutions) as a company.

  • During this time we also began work with an agency to lead us through the process of refreshing our mission, vision, values, and brand platform.
    • The conversations intersected, and the process unfolded in unforeseen ways as we navigated COVID-19 with increased intensity for the international Black Lives Matter movement.

  • This process clarified immediate actions that we could take as a company in order to begin our transformation.
    • This immediate impact meant action within our ongoing future season planning process, our community programs, the creation of artistic advisor roles, and our COVID-19 programming.

  • Portland Opera is committed to ongoing learning and professional development specifically in relation to inclusion, equity, and diversity.  The company has created an annual budgeted line item for ongoing learning activities and employee engagement, with the expectation that it will be used in full each year.

  • In the 22/23 season (beginning July, 2022) Portland Opera continued our commitment to full-company learning labs and ongoing trainings to assess our transformation thus far. Most recently, a 2-day all staff learning lab and retreat was held with our partners at Equity Quotient, to asses our progress in implementing immediate, near, and long-term strategies for transformation; and to identify and prioritize our next steps as a company. 

  • Beginning in July of 2022, the staff opted to rekindle a working group that meets monthly to review and propose changes to our policies, practices, and accountability standards in order to continue our measurable progress, outside of regular departmental activities, towards our company's transformation. This group meets regularly, and will rotate in the new fiscal year for the 23/24 season. 
Our 2021 Committee

As a result of our initial learning labs, we developed a staff and board member working group for the 20/21 season, with the goal of building sustainable and institutional change together.  This group is charged withdeveloping a Cultural Equity Plan for Portland Opera, in consultation with ongoing work with Equity Quotient.

  • Members of Portland Opera's Cultural Equity planning taskforce include Portland Opera board members: Sona Andrews, Linda Brown, Christine Lewis, David Salerno Owens (chair), and William Sweat. Staff members include Sue Dixon, Damien Geter, Celeste Miller, Christine A. RichardsonEthan Cope Richter, and Andrea Tichy (staff and consultant liaison). 

    The Cultural Equity Planning committee held working meetings on:

    November 5, 2020

    November 19, 2020

    December 3, 2020

    January 14, 2021

    January 28, 2021

    February 11, 2021

    March 11, 2021

    The committee held working sessions as a full group at times, and created three working groups with areas of focus including:

    1. Governance, Policies, and Practices
    2. Artistic/Production and Programming
    3. Organizational Culture

    Each working group created a charter with specific deliverables that would tie into the development of our combined Cultural Equity Plan.

    These taskforces were created in consultation with our partners at Equity Quotient; who continued to meet with chair David Salerno Owens, staff liaison Andrea Tichy, and general director Sue Dixon in between committee working sessions.

    When our vision, mission, and values statements were being refined for adoption, the committee worked to edit and build consensus around our core value of Cultural Equity and Ensemble. 

    • These articulations were sent to external stakeholders, community members, orchestra and chorus, full staff, and board for evaluation and consideration.
    • The staff voted to adopt them in December of 2020; the Board at their next regular meeting in February, 2021.
    • These articulations were made public in March 2021.
Company-wide Assessment

In February of 2021, Equity Quotient conducted a company-wide anonymous assessment regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.


The survey was sent to 303 individuals, including the Portland Opera Board of Directors, the staff and administration of Portland Opera, 20/21 Portland Opera Resident Artists, the Portland Opera Chorus, Orchestra, and stagehands.

The responses resulted in a 95% confidence level with an 8% margin of error overall. As we segment populations of responses, we report that:

63% of the Board of Directors participated

85% of the Portland Opera staff and administration participated

21% of Portland Opera Chorus, Orchestra, and stagehands participated

Confidence & Acknowledgements

Despite some segments’ low participation, we feel confident in putting forward our understanding of key findings. This assessment was intended to gather depth of information in a qualitative manner; and will be a starting part for pulse surveys and ongoing assessments in order to chart progress over time.

The administration wishes to acknowledge that orchestra, chorus, and stagehands were invited to complete the assessment on a voluntary basis, during a work closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, we wish to acknowledge voices missing from the administrative/staff responses due to COVID-19 furloughs and layoffs. We recognize the timing for this was not ideal,  but did want to shelf the process for a more opportune time.

The committee also wishes to acknowledge that because of segmented participation levels, the key findings of this survey are skewed towards the feelings, responses, and data collected by participating members of staff, administration, and the Board of Directors. 

We are grateful to everyone who shared their feedback.

Key Findings

The results of our company-wide assessment are five key findings that are centered in the strength of our ensemble and teaming, power dynamics, inclusive decision-making, and empowerment. We also learned that different segments require nuanced paths forward in order for us to achieve our intended transformations. 

Since our initial understanding of the key findings, we've pivoted to work in smaller departmental and leadership teams to address policies and practices that impact power, communication, decision-making, and workflows.  We continue this work. 

Our Equity, Financial & Strategic Plan Lens

The Governance, Policies & Practices subcommittee of the Cultural Equity Planning taskforce was led by Sona Andrews (now a former member of the Board of Directors). 

The charter of this subcommittee expanded upon the role of our subcommittee's activities of creating recommendations, to include the additional purposes of:

  1. Developing an equity, financial, and strategic planning lens (EFS lens)
  2. Suggesting a process(es) that the Portland Opera Board and Portland Opera will use to assess policies and practices through an EFS lens
  3. Suggesting prioritization for policy and practice review (found in recommendations)
  4. Propose how to codify those processes into board and management operations. 

The development of a lens/toolkit that incorporates equity, as well as strategic planning and financial wellness is a reflection of the multifaceted challenges and opportunities facing the organization. Each decision impacts our values; and this unique tool is meant specifically for the growth and support of Portland Opera.

The testing and development of the EFS lens began within the Governance, Policies & Practices working group; then expanded to include testing within the full Cultural Equity Planning team, and within Portland Opera’s Board of Directors Governance Committee, who utilized the lens in the process of updating the organization’s bylaws. 

The result of these processes, changes, and testing is reflected in this current version of the company's EFS lens, which is now being fully activated as a resource. 

Since the development of the EFS lens, we've adopted it departmentally and within our leadership structures. We strive in activate this lens in all decisions and planning departmentally and strategically. Some notable outcomes thus far include activating the EFS lens to update policies including our company bylaws, our donor benefits, our gift acceptance policies, our leadership development activities, our season and artistic planning for 22/23 and beyond, our audience and ticketing policies, our HR and hiring workflows, and much more. 

Our Cultural Equity Plan

Originally we stated that our aim was to publish a full Cultural Equity Plan in June of 2021,  in tandem with institutional practices for accountability, sustainability, and transparency about our commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

While our goal still remains to empower systemic and institutional change at Portland Opera, we are digging deeper into some of the systemic issues we've identified in order to get it right. 

  • We continue internal and stakeholder working sessions and are continuing to identify recommendations through our assessment findings.
  • In April of 2021, the Cultural Equity Taskforce compiled a list of 85 commitments and recommendations for change at Portland Opera, based on working sessions in staff and board retreats, committee meetings, and in response to our commitment to Black Opera Alliance, and other accountability partners. 
    • These recommendations and commitments continue to evolve and are activated and adjusted as we deepen our work with the EFS lens, and explore power dynamics at the company. 
    • This doesn't mean that we are waiting.  We are actively pursuing many of them now, while we continue to work on the big picture context for our company-wide plan. 
  • We continue to compile resources and toolkits for company-wide activation, based on feedback from all segments. We are listening to what is really needed for lasting and meaningful change. 
  • We continue to activate our mission, vision, and values to plan for programming outcomes and goals that align with our EDI commitments. 
  • Our team is also currently developing an accountability action statement for Portland Opera that recognizes that "the Portland Metro area rests on traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin, Kalapuya, Molalla and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River creating communities and summer encampments to harvest and use the plentiful natural resources of the area" (Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable, 2018), and articulates actions that Portland Opera will take to respectfully support and celebrate Indigenous knowledge and culture—particularly in traditions of stories, teachings, and songs. 
The Black Opera Alliance Pledge

Signed by Sue Dixon, General Director, on behalf of Portland Opera; the Black Opera Alliance pledge consists of 8 commitments for racial equity and systemic change in opera. 

The mission of the Black Opera Alliance is to empower Black classical artists and administrators by exposing systems of racial inequity and under-representation of the African Diaspora in all facets of the industry and challenging institutions to implement drastic reform. 

Portland Opera takes our pledge seriously, and the eight commitments were discussed and workshopped in our Cultural Equity Planning taskforce meetings, resulting in specific additions to our list of Recommendations and Commitments that address specifically how Portland Opera will achieve our pledge. 

Learn more about the Black Opera Alliance

Community Voices: