Over the past few weeks, the Baltimore Improv Group’s Board has re-evaluated our programming and administrative structure through multiple lenses to better support our community. It is clear that institutional changes need to be made to the art of improvisation in order for all participants to grow artistically, feel safe and have their contributions valued.
The Board and the community are devoting time, energy and talent to the theater free of charge. Still, there are things we can do to build a better community. As an organization, we are a creative resource for Baltimore, providing a structured educational curriculum, artistic feedback for house performers and shows that are free to the public. We believe that improvisation is a tool that can help individuals gain self-efficacy, communication skills and joy. We believe this artform should be accessible to all. The essence of what we do can be found in our mission;
“The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) advances the art and appreciation of comedy improv in the Baltimore region through enthusiastic participation and education. BIG enhances the quality of, expands participation in, and fosters the appreciation for improv throughout Baltimore.”
BIG is an organization that can only thrive if every student, performer, staff, teacher and board member is given the opportunity and space to change, grow and develop. We know BIG community members are hopeful that education, communication and a willingness to do the tough work will produce a community where all are welcome, supported and elevated in their craft. BIG echoes those sentiments and supports our community as we all do the honest reflection and work necessary to hold our peers accountable and advance improv.
In an effort to increase transparency and collaboration and work towards creating a community that champions equity and inclusion, the board is launching the initiatives outlined below. While additional details will be communicated in the upcoming weeks, we are currently initiating the following action steps:
BIG’s Artistic Director will engage in intensive education, training and conversations to educate herself on cultural humility. Additional work will include:
Individual training with a paid racial justice organization that has expertise on cultural humility
Ongoing evaluations with Baltimore area diversity leaders from outside of the organization
Completing the Anti-Racist Theatre: A Foundational Course with Nicole Monique Brewer as well as other forthcoming courses throughout the year
Planning the development of an Artistic Council to work in partnership with the Artistic Director, to inform the artistic direction of programming.
Development of a Hiring Committee to lead the search for the new Managing Director. The committee will be composed of staff, board members, performers and students.
Rolling out programming that creates a safe space and highlights all dimensions of our community.
Develop a pool to create a pipeline of and for Black and POC community members to become BIG teachers.
Expanding our diversity scholarship program, with the goal of removing barriers for those who wish to continue with the curriculum.
Appoint a Board member liaison to meet with the diversity committee once a month to communicate concerns and follow up on action items.
Working to create a safer space and developing targeted outreach strategies that will result in attracting and providing continued support to diverse students, performers and other community members.
Launching a digital library of free educational resources that speak to a wide variety of topics relating to improv, diversity and inclusion, cultural competence, and combatting discrimination in improv, and improv theaters.
Planning a diversity and inclusion curriculum which all BIG coaches will be required to complete. Following completion of the diversity training coaches will have quarterly assessments designed to ensure that BIG is a continuous safe space for performers.
Updating BIG’s Anti-Discrimination/Anti-Harrassment policies and procedures. Once the AD/AH procedures have been updated, they will be posted to the BIG website and include a portal for easy access and confidential reporting.
Requiring all Staff and Board members to go through diversity and inclusivity training with regular annual recertification.
Following each class, community members will have the opportunity to complete a post-class survey regarding classroom experience and any incidents that may have occurred. The survey is open to both students and teachers.
Quarterly review of case studies to identify and recontextualize notes
Creating an auditing program to ensure our classes explore improv landscape without fear of discrimination.
Editing the current BIG Curriculum to ensure it supports diversity and inclusivity. The updated curriculum will be reviewed by outside consultants.
Quarterly Board updates to the community to discuss operations, strategic planning progress, and the status of diversity, inclusivity, and equity initiatives. Board completing outside educational courses to learn about racial relations throughout history to practice cultural humility.
Scheduled series of formalized listening sessions to create spaces for historically marginalized communities to voice their concerns without fear of retribution.
Developing a portal to allow community messaging, discussion and accountability on BIG website.
The Board is self-educating. Several will take the online Yale African American Studies 165 class, it is free and if you are interested in taking the course here is a link.
We are proud to be a non-profit theater in Baltimore and are committed to ensuring BIG has a more diverse and inclusive atmosphere.