Equity Goals & Progress

Thank you to the community members, volunteers, staff, and Board who recognized the need for transformational change at The Z and pushed us to reflect on our practices, policies, and perception in the community.

In 2018, The Z was welcomed into the Barr-Klarman Massachusetts Arts Initiative (BKMAI) where we began a six-year journey of learning, collaboration, and growth. In 2020, we started our Anti-Racist Task Force to do our part in addressing systemic racism. In 2023, we expanded it to become the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) Committee to broaden our action and accountability. The IDEA Committee is a collaborative of staff and Board members committed to transforming the feedback we have collected from our community, both internal and external, into recommendations and concrete action steps that the organization, as a whole, can take.

The building’s 100th birthday and renovation/restoration project have compelled us to think critically about the legacy we want to build in our community. It has reminded us that we want to be more than a building. We want to be a place where all facets of our community see themselves reflected and have a sense of agency and belonging, but in order to do so we know we have a lot of work to do.

The following equity goals are based on our Theory of Change plan, our Organizational Equity Self-Assessment, and Wolf Brown's Community Marketing Research Report. Immediately following each goal are the next steps toward reaching that goal, followed by what we’ve done and continue to do to be a performing arts center that our entire community can be proud to call their own. It is a living document, and it will be updated with the future actions we take.

We want to hear from you! Following the seven goals, we’ve included a feedback form where we welcome you to share your thoughts. 

Goal 1

Expand programming beyond the stage and ensure it reflects New Bedford’s specific demographics and the new audiences we want to build.

What we’re doing:

  • Hired local talent to perform, teach, and make administrative and programmatic decisions, with an emphasis on highlighting people whose identities reflect New Bedford - youth, immigrants and refugees, senior citizens, Black and indigenous people of color (i.e.: Decades Dance Party teachers, muralist and DJ).
  • Offered more free or low-cost events (including tours, giveaways, block parties, films, panel discussions, concerts, and jam sessions) and offer events in different parts of the city (including piloting Mobile Creative Classroom in the New Bedford Housing Authority).
  • Invested in Audio Description equipment to enhance experience for patrons who are blind or visually impaired thanks to a Mass Cultural Council Universal Participation Grant.
  • Restructured our website (Zeiterion.org) to highlight free events and discounts in one place (Card to Culture, scholarships etc.) and expanded $5 Card to Culture ticket price to our Creative Classroom.

Next steps:

  • Support local non-profits, organizations, and restaurants owned by underrepresented groups through our programming. Offer performances, town hall meetings, open mics, and conversations with The Z.
  • Translate marketing and other materials to reach non-English speakers.
  • Reimagine Teen Ambassador program to enable young people to curate youth centered programs.

Goal 2:

Diversify hiring and VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES AND create pipelines for local hiring.

What we’re doing:

  • Established a Human Resources Department and shifted to a focus on People & Culture.
  • Changed our job application and interview process to remove unnecessary barriers to entry, like adding salary transparency, omitting educational requirements when not necessary, removing cover letter, and explicitly encouraging those who may experience imposter syndrome to apply.
  • Added new staff and Board members and worked with community partners like the YWCA’s Board Leadership Institute to ensure our Board better reflects the community.

Next steps:

  • Highlight The Z’s positions that are remote/hybrid/part-time and offer flexible opportunities.  
  • Incentivize interest in job, Board, and volunteer positions.
  • Add “People with Portuguese, Spanish, Kriolu, K’iche’, or Haitian Creole language proficiency strongly encouraged to apply” to job descriptions.

Goal 3:

Articulate clear metrics and system to evaluate our policies and practices through an equity lens.

What we’re doing:

  • Created a new Strategic Plan where an equal number of representatives from staff, Board, and the community had a seat at the table from the beginning and relaunched our Anti-racist Task Force as the IDEA Committee.
  • Added an equity clause to Artist Offers to ensure a safe space for all patrons and staff, where racist acts or acts of harm against any person committed by the artist will result in a full investigation and possible dissolvement of the agreement. 
  • Revised scholarship application and tracked scholarship spending to ensure it’s spread across different schools/districts with the greatest need.
  • Distributed credit cards to department heads to track departmental spending and allow for us to more easily make purchases from local vendors.
  • Created a document of questions for staff to use when generating and evaluating policies, practices and events through an equity lens.

Next steps:

  • Determine goals of demographics for staff, partners, vendors and audience.
  • Solicit feedback on equity work directly from our community using various methods to be determined.
  • Update policies and practices in Employee Handbook and circulate to staff.

Goal 4:

Expand training to all departments and incorporate learning from multiple sources into decision making.

What we’re doing:

  • Participated in the BKMAI Theory of Change training workshop series with Angela Park, an independent consultant, researcher, and writer dedicated to making social justice and equity hallmarks of progressive institutions.
  • Hosted a training with Arts for the Aging for teaching artists and ArtNet artists not yet affiliated with The Z to grow their skills in working with older populations.
  • Integrated community-centric fundraising models into our membership strategy.

Next steps:

  • Engage in community-centric fundraising training internally to build capacity and share learning with other local non-profits.
  • Research grants to host/convene workshops/trainings for Z and other organizations working to improve accessibility for people with physical and cognitive disabilities (i.e. MCC’s     Universal Participation Initiative).
  • Evaluate the departments and positions who receive training and address gaps to expand training to include front-of-house, part-time staff, volunteers, crew, etc.

Goal 5:

Increase our visibility in the community outside of our building or programming.

What we’re doing:

  • Participated in numerous community and cultural organizations and events, including NB Creative Consortium, NB Economic Development Council, NBEDC’s Regeneration Committee, NB Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, NB Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee, AHA! Night partners group, Greater NB Youth Alliance, Women’s Alliance, Birth - 3 Coalition, P.A.C.E. Family Fest, Cape Verdean Recognition Parade, International Women’s Day, opening of Abolition Row Park, and the groundbreaking of Island Park.
  • Offered free events off stage, including AHA night! Free Stuff Giveaway, Come as You Are Jam Sessions, building tours, pre-show workshops and lectures, and the Decades Dance Party
  • Offered space to various community groups to hold partner and annual meetings, such as Women’s Alliance, Arts and Culture Partners Meeting and the Cape Verdean Association annual meeting.
  • Launched a Faces of the Z social media campaign to share our own stories and make visible the people who work/volunteer behind the scenes at The Z.

Next steps:

  • Empower more staff to take the lead on external Zeiterion events and partnerships so folks can see faces, know names, build relationships.  
  • Welcome new staff and touring artists with a guide to acquaint them with the local community. When possible, give artists a gift basket of local goods.
  • Encourage staff, Board, and volunteers to frequent local businesses to build personal relationships.

Goal 6:

Create clear incoming and outgoing channels of communication so people in our community know what we offer/are doing and how they can engage with us.

What we’re doing:

  • Highlighted milestones in the Annual Report and Annual Appeal, hosted free tours for the public and school groups, and have begun translating marketing materials for several events into Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Requested feedback via email communications following most mainstage and Schooltime shows and classes and solicited the community’s stories in honor of the building turning 100.

Next steps:

  • Determine the best way to share staff contact information with the public.
  • Streamline how we share information about rental spaces and how we receive rental requests. 
  • Create a Z events calendar to inform the community about how/when the building is being used and how/when it can be used.

Goal 7:

Develop long term, reciprocal partnerships with New Bedford-based organizations and individuals.

What we’re doing:

  • Worked with organizations such as NB Housing Authority, Immigrants Assistance Center, Community Economic Development Center and MLK Day Community Program Planning Committee to offer tickets to groups who don’t already come to The Z, shared the stage with STEAM the Streets during The Z’s 2023 Educator Appreciation event, and collaborated with cultural organizations like The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament and the Cape Verdean Recognition Parade Committee to put on events like Viva Portugal and Tavares, funneling a portion of the proceeds back to those organizations to support their mission.
  • Shared local mission-aligned events and organizations on social media and promoted nearby restaurants in pre-show emails to patrons. 

Next steps:

  • Continue to partner with satellite/ “on the road” locations and expand into new neighborhoods after we re-open.
  • Build capacity by sharing knowledge with local artists and nonprofits, like negotiating contracts, building a capital campaign, connecting with officials, etc.
  • Create space for local performing artists to promote their art and merchandise in the new building.