Open Letter from Members of the Arts Community to the Arts Board

Last March, one of the province’s most well respected arts administrators: Jeremy Morgan resigned as interim CEO of Saskatchewan Arts Board (SAB) – just three months after his appointment. SAB Board Member Ranjan Thakre quickly resigned and stepped in as Interim CEO until a qualified CEO could be found. These events sent a chill throughout the arts community so the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance invited the SAB to two very well attended public forums to clear the air. People care deeply about the health of the SAB and the leadership role it plays in the arts ecology of Saskatchewan. A letter, signed by prominent members of the arts community, was sent to the SAB and relevant government and elected officials. It articulates the concerns and hopes of the arts community as the SAB conducts its search for a new CEO. We agreed to publish it here.

To:  Pamella Acton, Chair, and the Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Arts Board: Lorna Zatlyn, Gwendolyn Arthur, Ken Azzopardi, Jasmine Calix, Michelle Hunter, William Klebeck, Peggy L'Hoir, Lionel Peyachew, and Judy Yungwirth

CC: The Honourable Mark Docherty, Minister of Parks, Culture, and Sport; Lin Gallagher, Deputy Minister of Parks, Culture; and Sport; Cathy Sproule, Opposition Critic for Parks, Culture, and Sport

June 12, 2015

Dear Madams and Sirs,

We, the undersigned, are more than 30 Saskatchewan artists, writers, actors, musicians, filmmakers, university professors, college instructors, teachers, curators, directors of arts organizations, and arts volunteers concerned about the state of operations at the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Recent events have revealed the organization to be struggling in its efforts to strategize effectively in the face of political change and to build the necessary capacity to serve the myriad and diverse artists and arts organizations of this province.

At meetings organized in May by the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance, board members and the newly appointed Interim CEO confirmed that “communication” has been identified as a major problem for the organization. Efforts were made at these meetings to minimize this problem, and to portray it as an easily solvable communication breakdown between the Saskatchewan Arts Board and its external stakeholders. However, the turnover of CEOs during the past year, visible low morale of staff, and hasty hiring of a Board member to assume the Interim CEO position, strongly suggest that “communication” problems have created an internal crisis and are affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of the Board, management, and staff in their day-to-day operations.

The Board is now in the process of hiring a new CEO for the Saskatchewan Arts Board. As a community, we remain optimistic that the current conditions of the organization have not deterred many excellent candidates from applying for this position. Furthermore, we fervently hope that the successful candidate is someone possessing the qualities and experience that will satisfy the arts community of the legitimacy of the hire.

To that end, we urge the hiring committee to pay particular attention to certain necessary qualifications and attributes for the CEO of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, not all of which were clearly articulated in the Position Profile that circulated.

  1. It is our hope that the new CEO possesses a demonstrated understanding of the arts ecosystem and the implications for arts funders, and a knowledge of arts funding issues.
  2. It is vital to the arts community that the new CEO also possesses experience in the field as an artist, arts administrator, arts educator, or other professional in the arts.
  3. S/he will need to possess a range of skills and experience in organizational and management areas, including a significant understanding of the relationship between a board of directors and its CEO, and experience working with boards.
  4. The new CEO will need to have a demonstrated ability to articulate and build a true community vision that inspires and is inspired by key stakeholders.
  5. Given a politically uncertain climate, s/he will need to have a readiness to “speak truth to power” in achieving organizational goals, and a multi-faceted leadership ability that adapts to meet the needs of every situation.
  6. For the same reasons, s/he must be able to work in ambiguity.
  7. The CEO of the Sask Arts Board must have the ability to inspire and empower staff. 
  8. And finally, s/he must have a demonstrated ability to develop and build partnerships with key stakeholders, including the Indigenous community, and to build strong relationships with all segments of the arts community.

Artists, arts professionals, and arts lovers across the province care deeply about the Saskatchewan Arts Board and are paying very close attention to the organization as it attempts to transition back into the leadership position it once so rightly enjoyed. With our province’s growth and increasingly diverse population, a vibrant, progressive Arts Board can play a vital role in the social and economic well-being of the people of our province.

Yours truly,

Jen Budney; Kent Allen; Michel Boutin; Brenda Baker; Clint Neufeld; Chris Campbell Gardiner; Leesa Streifler; Heather Benning; Thirza Cuthand; Eagleclaw Thom; Betsy Rosenwald; John Penner; Monique Blom; Odette Nicholson; Adrian Stimson; David Garneau; Joan Borsa; Tasha Hubbard; June Jacob; Ellen Moffat; Honor Kever; Mindy Yan Miller; Marie Lannoo; Grant McConnell; Zachari Logan; Charley Farrero; James Hodges; Brenda Cleniuk; Michael Hosaluk; Miranda Jones; Tammi Campbell; Yann Martel; Alice Kuipers; Ruth Cuthand; Alyssha Larsen; Richard Swain; Pierre Lhéritier; Sandra Meryl Ledingham; Amalie Atkins; Candace Savage; Kent Archer; Keith Bell.