Call to Action: Accountability and oversight at Pottery Northwest

Call to Action: Accountability and oversight at Pottery Northwest

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Krista Smith started this petition to Board of Directors at Pottery Northwest

The clay community of Seattle and the greater clay community nationally is calling for action to be taken by the Board of Directors at Pottery Northwest for their negligence in providing a safe and inclusive space. What we are calling for is a forgiving and direct way to move forward.

We are calling for a new BIPOC Executive Director, with a commitment to transparent leadership, to engage in conversations with the community and staff. We are calling for a leader that is invested in systemic change for the healing of both Pottery Northwest and the larger clay community. We are calling for the Board of Directors at PNW to support this new Executive Director, to stand in solidarity with the community, and to show their support in swift and supportive action. Clay is for everyone. We have added the Call to Action below which outlines a clear path forward. Please sign your name in solidarity.

 

To the Board of Directors at Pottery Northwest,                             

We write to you today because of the alarming accounts of racism, sexism, classism, elitism, misogyny and threats while working at or with Pottery Northwest over the last six years, specifically with the Executive Director, James Lobb. We write as current, former and future residents, instructors, collaborators, students, volunteers, staff, and curators out of concern for the continued safety and well being for all those involved with Pottery Northwest.

We write to you in the current context of a mass, country-wide uprising against structural and institutionally established white supremacy which continues to disenfranchise our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. We are demanding accountability for the harm that has been afflicted on those working with James Lobb at PNW and through events affiliated with PNW. We find the current response and gestures connected to your public statement for reconciliation made on February 25th, 2021 empty and performative, considering our voices have been silenced on the topic of your organization and its leadership. The few apologies that have been received have not clearly taken responsibility for the harm done, fail to hold the perpetrator accountable with any consequence or oversight, and do not demonstrate a plan forward for change or reparations. The accumulation of abusive power stemming from the intersectionality of classism, elitism, misogyny, racism, sexism and ableism is excluding our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities and even further, causing them harm. James Lobb’s numerous infractions have been communicated to the Board President and repeatedly dismissed with no consequences or accountability for the person responsible. This pattern of inaction from the board is clear. It sends the message to anyone suffering: nothing will be done if they speak up. Instead of being helped, they will be dismissed and discouraged from speaking up at all. How many more lives will be negatively impacted? How much longer will we have to wait for you, the Board, to hold the toxic individual accountable?

We implore you to look back and see how this organization has operated, where you have fallen short, whether you are seeking true change or are simply existing in a space of white conformity, where all other identities are silenced, pushed out, mistreated or forced to assimilate. We urge you to ask yourselves if you can indeed operate as a governing body without bias and let go of board members should their decision making impede your progress towards genuine equity and inclusion. PNW has failed to address concerns raised in the recent years regarding racism, classism, elitism, sexism, violent communication and transparency. PNW has also failed to recognize and listen to the voices that have spoken out, and has even gone to the extent to engage in behavior that has silenced those voices. In the last six years, these behaviors and actions include:

Basic Safety

1. failing to be present for, intervene in, mediate, or protect residents, students, guests, instructors and collaborators against a culture of violent white dominance.

2. violent threats resulting in residents feeling unsafe to work in their spaces and ultimately silenced and pushed out of the program and a refusal to show their work in the permanent gallery after their exit. 

3. physically confronting residents on property and creating a generally hostile and unsafe environment.

4. a reported history of actively ignoring and disregarding reports of aggression against residents in the LGBTQIA+, BIPOC community, and persons with disabilities.

Human Decency

5. failure to intentionally create an inclusive and safe space for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC community and inability to communicate respectfully with students, staff, and residents.

6. violent, racially-charged, and misgendering language toward or about residents, curators, and collaborators.  

Access to Opportunities

7.       withholding and terminating artists shows with no communication or compensation and failure to allocate funding and time to DEI planning.

8. lack of transparency with the Resident application and application process, resulting in fewer BIPOC and people without formal education an opportunity to participate and exist within PNW.

9.  failure to avoid nepotism.

Failure of Leadership

10. failure to have a Board of Directors that can operate without bias - this Board has consistently acted with blatant bias in favor of the Executive Director. 

11. gaslighting of students, residents, and collaborators who expressed anxiety and distress in regards to the conditions at PNW.

The governance and culture of PNW as it currently stands puts the well-being and livelihood of its BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ community at jeopardy and does not live up to the “diverse and inclusive community of makers, learners and people who appreciate art and culture” as stated on your website. Failure to foster a safe environment for everyone involved at PNW and failure to make changes and terminate staff members when they have repeatedly abused power and people have led us to create a list of demands to implement accountability and oversight. PNW runs off of donations from the people as a non-profit, and we are calling for an explanation to our community about this gross misuse of power and neglect of responsibility and how you will begin to regain the trust of the community. 

We would like to address the longstanding systemic issues being perpetuated by the current administration in a list of specific demands below:

HR

1. Immediately terminate the employment of Executive Director James Lobb for his repeated pattern of mistreatment, discrimination and violent behavior that has harbored a hostile environment at PNW and with their collaborative events. 

2. Implement an annual 360 review of the Executive Director to evaluate performance and honor multiple perspectives on their performance, leadership and conflict resolution to encourage positive growth and community trust. 

3. Implement a zero tolerance anti-harassment and discrimination policy with specific consequences for the party involved for staff and residents. 

Commitment to Reconciliation

4. Issue a formal apology as an organization acknowledging and demonstrating an understanding of  your harmful behavior and a commitment to keep an open, regular line of communication from staff to the Board of Directors. 

5. Assume real accountability to reckon with how you have handled policing of staff: All PNW staff and members of the PNW governing bodies must go through anti-racism, anti-classism, nonviolent communication training, and institutional reform training, including anti-bias training and ADA compliance as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act, annually. 

Economic Opportunities

6. Establish the presence of a diverse educational background that accepts people without collegiate and formal education; actively eliminate barriers to equality, increase diversity and equity, and build trust with all communities.

7. Implement an initiative for equity. Review and match national fair wages according to the cost of living in Seattle to reduce the barriers of entry based on racial economic disparities. Residents, employees and collaborators need a fair, livable stipend to allow for a more accessible workplace that does not discriminate against those who can not afford to live off of unfair wage practices. 

8. Diversify contracted work, at least 50% of outside hires should be BIPOC, for example PR firms. 

9. Reimagine the structure of unpaid labor of your work study participants to create an equitable culture at PNW that aims to reduce income disparities. 

10.  Non-male, LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC employees should be paid no less than their counterparts. 

Organizational Transformation

11. Implement a system of support and oversight for the BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ persons involved to ensure their safety and success

12. Establish a culture of transparency by having a body of governance oversee the Resident application process and curated shows at PNW.

13. Create a supportive committee/system that includes a dispute resolution guideline for people to share their concerns about mistreatment and discrimination without fear of retaliation. 

14. Replace the Executive Director with a person of color (preferably a woman) with leadership experience. 

15. Put more BIPOC in leadership positions, including the Board of Directors. 

We ask that you, the Board of Directors at Pottery Northwest offer an official response no later than one week following the receipt of this letter. We ask each of you to hold yourselves accountable and to hold the toxic individuals accountable to create a more joyous, safe and inclusive space for our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. You are in a moment to challenge that behavior and remove this destructive energy from PNW. You have the power to make a positive change today.


Signed,

Phi Nguyen,

Amanda Barr,

Jessica Cheng, 

John Brooks, Jordan Jones, Coco Spadoni, CJ Carter, Jamie Bates Slone, Isaac Scott, Katharine Stiteler, Taylor Callaway, Christy Weatherall, Megan DeNinno, Gerald Brown, Bryan Hopkins, Jennifer Adams, Ann Marie Cooper, Gabo Martinez, Casey Taylor, Kenneth Hopper, Cate Be, Theresa Choi, Eliane Medina, Darcy Delgado, Amelia Butcher, Jerome Mehrman, Bean Yogi, Laura Casas, Megan Sarraf, Didem Mert, Alex Bailey, Angela Larsen, Jeanette Zeis, Annie Chrietzberg, Sage Morgan, Osa Atoe, Dagne Rueda, Lou Daprile, Jess Faulk, Joey Veltkamp, Annie Ryan, Mariella Luz, Melissa Weiss, Ben Gannon, Jaime White, Kristina Batiste, Jonie Broecker, Laurie Caffery, Sarah D Woodson, Ashley Campbell, Deanna Steinborn, Emily Facci, Kaelyn Handsel, Brooke Felix, Ti Dinh, Alexandra FitzGerald, Tamara Turner, Doug Peltzman, Janet Ng, Ellison Fidler, Katie Marks, Nhi Vo, Teal Stannard, Sam Block, Lily Lund, Devin Ball, Mike Cinelli, Anika Major, Heather Hitt, Amanda Barron, Yuko Miki, Hien Hong, Rayna Pazmiño, Krista (Cortese) Smith, Breana Hendricks, Catherine Cougan, Sara Morales-Morgan, S Lantz, Ximena Perez Rivero, Phuong Pham, Rebecca Schwartzman, Shruti Kataria, Jenna Isbell, Jasmine Magdaleno, Kai Vongsa, Sean Anisoglu, Jessica Obenauf, Ian Bassett, Siera Matsuo, Brethan Wentz, Dani Clauson, Hayley Reed, Lien Sayers, Madeline Williams, Katelyn Marion, Shelsea Dodd, Addison Woolsey, Bridget Briscione, Nolan Parker, Xia Zhang, William Passmore, Clovy Tsuchiya, Amanda Dobbratz, Sarah Bates, Grace Chai, Daniel Goodman, Tracie Lievense, Liv Morgenstern, Cara Larson, Miel Paredes, Anny Chen, Molly White, Mimi Logothetis, Esther Mech, Brian R Jones, Brandon Schnur, David Shearer, Hannah Gierke, Nikki Lau, Kendra Harvey, Hannah Cameron, Sara Catapano, Jennifer Datchuk, Adrienne Eliades, Nicole Pepper, Jamy Daily Herman, Yinka Orafidiya, Natasha Alphonse

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