Friday, August 8, 2008

A real way to get involved.

The Southern Theatre in Minneapolis has had some leadership problems of late. Basically the board fired the director of nearly 35 years. Here is an Minnesota Public Radio story.

You can get active now by emailing the following petition letter to the mentioned email.

Members of the Southern's community met on Monday night. Much was
discussed but the primary outcome was that everyone present voted to
send a letter to the Southern Board requesting an outside, independent
evaluator to comprehensively examine the situation at the Southern.
More specifics on what this will entail is detailed in the letter
below. The Jerome Foundation has agreed to help pay for it,
Springboard for the Arts has agreed to help coordinate the logistics.
We have spoken with many current and former staff and they support it.

This is a major step towards transparency and accountability but we
need your voice to make it happen.

The letter below needs to go out ASAP with ALL OF OUR NAMES ON IT.
Time is of the essence!

Here's what to do:

Read it, then do the following:

- Send an email to Karen Sherman with your name
and your title/affiliation/company/no company/etc., if you so choose.
Do this so that I can easily cut and paste and add your name to the
list of supporters of this action.

- Next, forward to your colleagues, your own board if you have one,
friends, supporters -- even if they don't live in the Twin Cities.
The Board is hearing from people across the country and it does
matter! They did not anticipate that there are national interests at

This really is urgent -- in part because the 2008-2009 season artists
need this process underway before the season is too far along and that
is right around the corner. So please, do this right now.

If you have any questions about this, please email Karen Sherman at, or Carl Flink at, or John
Munger at

Thank you for your continued attention and concern,
The Southern Community Working Group

P.S. -- Apologies if you are getting this twice...

August 6, 2008

To the Southern Theater Board:

We write to you as concerned members of the Southern Theater's

We share a deep concern for the future of the Southern Theater; for
the fair and respectful treatment of its staff, including 30 years plus
Artistic Director Jeff Bartlett; for the artistic integrity of its
programming; for a system of structure and leadership that upholds the
theater's organizational mission; and for the preservation of the
Southern Theater as an artist-centered and driven institution.

Large segments of the Twin Cities performing arts community are
clearly up in arms over the Southern Board and interim management's
handling of this situation, and the ongoing lack of clear communication
about what Jeff's "indefinite leave" and other changes mean to the
direction of the Southern and its commitment to fostering artistic
exploration and risk-taking.

We propose that an outside, independent evaluator be brought in to
examine the situation and report its findings to the Southern and the
community. This evaluator, agreed upon by the Board and representatives
from the constituency of the Southern Theater, would interview all
parties (including the staff, artist community, and Board), to offer an
evaluation of recent events and the current status of and future plans
for the organization - e.g., the relationship of the organization to
the artist constituency, the sudden dismissal of the founding artistic
director, the lack of an articulated plan for continuity of artistic
leadership and transition, staff concerns and structure - and suggest
strategies for moving forward based on an assessment of the needs of

We believe that funding can be identified to support a focused,
time-limited assessment and we will be responsible for securing that
funding. The Jerome Foundation has made a commitment and other funders
will be asked for contributions. Springboard for the Arts, a
nationally-respected arts organization based in St Paul that provides
consulting services to arts organizations and independent artists, has
agreed to serve as a neutral conduit for the funding process and to
facilitate identification of an evaluator acceptable to both the
Southern Board and the artistic community.

The community stands behind it. We have spoken with several current
and former staff and they support it. We hope that you will make a
gesture of reconciliation with your artistic constituency and inroads
towards organizational health by agreeing to participate in this
mediated, neutral evaluation.

We believe this is urgent because:

It has been almost four weeks since Jeff Bartlett was put on
"indefinite leave."

It has been over two weeks since the public meeting called by the
community, at which the Southern Board provided no clear answers as to
the status of artistic leadership or organizational structure at this
beloved theater.

The Southern Theater's website continues to list no artistic leader
and a host of Interim positions:
Interim Executive Director; Interim Development Director; Interim
Technical Director; Interim Production Manager.

To date, only a handful of artists and community members have received
proactive phone calls or emails from the Board or Executive staff.

Finally, The Southern risks a potential exodus by its current and
future season artists, and a general boycott by the community. To
quell this potential disaster and out of deference to artists with
unsigned contracts, this evaluation needs to be conducted before the
2008-2009 season is well underway and we propose it be completed by
September 15, 2008.

In order to secure funding and identify potential evaluators, we need
the Board to confirm its willingness to act on this proposal by August
. Please email Laura Zabel at Springboard for the Arts
( and Karen Sherman
( with your response. Laura will then coordinate
recommendations for evaluators and serve as a liaison between the
Southern Board and the arts community around this issue.


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