Story by Carrie Beth Wallace
Images courtesy of Springer Opera House
Social justice continues to be an essential topic across the nation, and the arts industry is no exception. Locally, multiple organizations are working on ways to address and improve their diversity and inclusion policies, but Springer Opera House has been the first to communicate they've put policy into action.
In a recent interview, Tate LeClair, Director of Development at Springer Opera House, explained the necessity Springer's staff felt to take active steps in the right direction.
"We have been tracking many of the ongoing discussions surrounding the important topic of diversity and inclusion in our industry," said LeClair. "One initiative that gripped us was "We See You White American Theatre which has brought an incredible amount of attention to the important issues and shortcomings of the theatre industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion across the board."
LeClair shared the initiative with his staff and they took time to study and educate themselves on We See You's many points of contention with the way American Theaters have historically approached representation, inclusion, and diversity.
"We were struck by so many of the stories," LeClair explained. "We See You really drove home the point to us that things were worse than any of us fathomed. We had several meetings and addressed our concerns with the Board. Everyone agreed that we needed to address some things, and not just in policy, but in action."
This led to a sincere move for the Springer staff to continue educating themselves on how their organization could better support those in the BIPOC communities.
"At first, we couldn't process information fast enough to be satisfied," said LeClair of the Springer staff's insatiable desire to better understand. "We were all reading, taking webinars, and signing up for as many virtual educational opportunities on the subject as we could. We also reached out to our BIPOC members of the Springer family to help us begin to understand real and vital ways we could begin to take steps in the right direction."
Enter Springer Opera House's new Diversity and Inclusion Council.
"One of the very first things we discovered as a team was that we needed and wanted to bring in people from our community who could help us navigate the issues at hand," explained LeClair. "It didn't take us long to recognize that most of our staff and our Board are not members of that community. It was very important to us to build a team of people we knew and respected who would help us diversify the voices represented in our organization."
Within just a few weeks, Springer developed The Springer Diversity and Inclusion Council. The Council's mission? To illustrate, encourage and strengthen the inclusive nature of the Springer Opera House through culturally relevant programming, artistic diversity, volunteer involvement, board, staff and volunteer representation, employee engagement and community access.
Springer's Diversity and Inclusion Council is currently made up of ten members of the Columbus community who are BIPOC individuals with ties to the Springer Opera House. They are:
Clockwise from top left:
Ty Manns - Veteran Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Producer, and Springer Board Member
Shari Perry - Springer Stage veteran, and professional TV, Film, and Stage actor
Keith McCoy - Veteran Springer Actor, Director, Choreographer, and Academy Teacher
Alvaro Francisco - Frequent Springer Guest Artist from NYC
Beth Reeves - Director of Educational Outreach, Springer Opera House
Zoe Helke-Pierce - Box Office Manager at Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Academy Alumni
Aileen Fowler - Community Outreach Director, Springer Opera House
William Morgan - Aflac executive, experienced HR diversity officer, and Springer Board Member
Lauren Chambers - Academy Alumni and Springer Board Member
Sean Myers - Academy Alumni and former Board of Directors Representative
"Our new Council's role will be trifold as they assist Springer's growth in the area of diversity and inclusion," discussed LeClair. "First, they will advise the Springer Opera House Board of Directors and Producing Artistic Director on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Second, they will act as a resource in building an audience that reflects the community the Springer serves. And third, the Council will work to encourage a safe environment where diverse employees, volunteers and patrons feel welcome and included."
Springer's Diversity and Inclusion Council is an important step forward, but LeClair said it's not the only one. "We're making other moves to ensure Springer Opera House is paving the way as a leader in our community and our region for these extremely important changes in our industry. In addition to working with our Council, we'll announce some new exciting initiatives about our staff in the next week as well." ◼︎