In 2019, we activated an organizational-wide commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and the transformation of our company. In fall of 2019, we connected with Keryl McCord and her team at Equity Quotient, whose insight and expertise has guided our processes. We developed a staff committee to work with Keryl’s team to bring a learning lab to a 2-day staff retreat and 1-day board retreat in early 2020.
Our first scope of work with Keryl and her team focused on the genesis of race, connection, and self-reflection in the context of exclusivity, inequity, and white supremacy in our company and industry. In this work we began to envision a transformed Portland Opera. After initial discussions about urgently needed changes, we also formed a staff and board committee, chaired by David Salerno Owens, that meets every other week to keep the conversation going.
“Portland Opera's Equity Task Force strives to create a culture for the staff, Board, artists, collaborators, patrons, and community members that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We are currently developing Cultural Equity Plan for Portland Opera."
This group is developing recommendations and accountability systems in drafting a longer-term Cultural Equity Plan for Portland Opera. Our work is focused on Governance, Policies and Practices; Company Culture; and Artistic Programming and Production areas. The amazing team at Equity Quotient continues to guide our progress and process. They have also worked with the company in brand equity review, adding insight and expertise to our vision, mission, and values for the future. You can learn more about our vision, mission, and values here.
We continue next steps: ongoing learning, changes, updates, and sustained focus. In February of 2021, we completed a company-wide assessment in order to help identify our recommendations for transformation based on feedback from staff, orchestra, chorus, board, and production team members. The insights gained from this assessment will continue to guide the formulation of our plan.
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.
Our aim is to publish our Cultural Equity Plan in June of 2021, launched in tandem with institutional practices for accountability, sustainability, and transparency about our commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion. The core priority of this plan is to empower systemic and institutional change at Portland Opera.