On Thursday April 9th, Paul Sacaridiz, Executive Director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, joined us for a #ResidenciesConnect online affinity group session, Seasonal Residency Programs.
Residency practitioners took part in the discussed the impact and implications of postponement/cancellation on their residency programs. The conversation was moderated by Lisa Funderburke Hoffman, Executive Director of the Alliance of Artists Communities (AAC). The following is an excerpted version of the conversation. (The full recording of this session is available to AAC members upon request.)
This session is part of our #ResidenciesConnect series – member share-outs that foster small-group exchanges around a variety of topics.
RESOURCES FROM THIS SESSION
- Harvard Business Review Lessons from Italy's Response to Coronavirus
- Haystack Mountain School of Crafts COVID-19 Page
- Blue Mountain Center COVID-19 Update
- SeaChange COVID-19 Nonprofit Decision Framework for Nonprofit Leaders and Boards
- National Employment Law Project Rights & Resources for Worker Safety & Health Amidst COVID-19
- US Department of Labor Safety and Health Topics | COVID-19 - Control and Prevention
- National Law Review FAQ on Employee Safety and COVID-19
Lisa Funderburke Hoffman (LH): Paul, can you lead us off by talking about where you are on this journey?
Paul Sacaridiz (PS): As a bit of background, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is in a fairly remote community on the coast of Maine. We run May through October (but have staff working year-round) and bring 1200 people to the school each year. We run everything from open studio residencies to two week craft workshops.
As the crisis started we had been watching the news, listening to the CDC, and trying to remain optimistic – but it started to become very clear that running the summer season was not going to be the right decision. We gathered a sub-committee of staff and board to explore what would it mean if we had to delay programming. It became a two-step process - we initially closed all programs through May, and then as more data emerged, we brought a recommendation to the full board and announced that we would officially suspend programs until 2021.
LH: Can you talk about the refund policy?
PS: We refunded all the dollars that were coming in from cancelled programs with no penalties at all. For programs [that were initially] moving forward, we said, we will give you a full refund if we or you have to cancel because of COVID19. We were clear with those terms.
LH: Can you speak more to the social responsibility aspect of this decision-making process?
PS: We talked about making this decision not from a financial point of view, but from a values point of view. What does it mean to bring people to a remote community during, or immediately following, a public health crisis? The school is on an island, with a significant older population – a very dangerous place for an outbreak. The thought of bringing folks here from hotspots around the country took on very grave implications. The logistical implications were all secondary.
LH: Thank you, Paul. One of the questions that keeps coming up in the field is: How might we stagger another small group program? Or can we still do x y z? I think that acknowledgement of physical location, capacity and context or your organization, as well as consideration of the supply chain and potential impact on the greater community is so important. Any action you take can have community health impacts. You have a responsibility to consider that.
LH: Talk to me a little about the consideration of the financial implications of the decision for Haystack?
PS: In a nutshell, we made the decision that we would move as much programming as possible to 2021. Artists are being offered the same slots from 2020 as 2021. We tried to cover and respect people that way. We were able to retain all most of our core staff, and we are being very clear on language – we are not closing, we are suspending programs. We are privileged to have an endowment (even though most of the funds are restricted). It will cost us at least 1.1 million to get through this year. We had to let two core employees that run the kitchen and store go, we paid them severance and covered their insurance for three months, including PTO and unemployment resources.
LH: What about your faculty? Other considerations?
PS: We invited them all to teach again next season. Haystack covers all the travel through a travel agent – which has come to mean that all expenses incurred for cancellations are ours, not theirs.
When we made our decision, we really had to say, we have no idea how big this is or what’s coming. Artists can wait a season. The only responsible decision for us was to close. There is no knowledge that this won’t get worse, or return – this is life and death. Someone asked, how will people feel if we cancel? And I said – they’ll be disappointed, but they will be safe. I would encourage all of us to keep that view. We have a lot of fiscal privilege in making that decision, but I would encourage you to realize this is a safety matter.
Following Paul's remarks we heard from residency leaders from around the country about board engagement during thier own decision-making processes, how to plan using a social responsible lens (with special consideration of the impact on the host community.) The group also discussed the kindness of not dragging out cancelations and mitigating that risk. Leaders discussed shifting their fundraising strategies and shared out on how their communications with funders were going.
Leaders shared how they are pivoting their programming, while taking on long overdue administration and facilities projects. Programs were looking at how they were supporting their community by writing grants for (small, local social services organizations) and building up systems for going forward. Leaders shared how they are directly supporting artists by paying them the stipends they would have received, in addition to creating new opportunities for them to share their work virtually with their respective communities.
- Liz Engelman, Tofte Lake Center, Ely, MN
- Nat May, Hewnoaks Artist Colony, Lovell, ME
- Lesley Williamson, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, Ithaca, NY
- Allyson Davis, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Brewster, NY
- Ben Strader, Blue Mountain Center, Blue Mountain Lake, NY
- Benjamin Cheney, The Croft Residency, Horton Bay, MI
- Heather Ohlson, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, NY
Paul Sacaridiz is the executive director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. He has more than 16 years of experience in higher education, and prior to leading Haystack, he served as professor and chair of the department of art at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Paul has been a fellow with the National Council of Arts Administrators and has served on the boards of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) and the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+). His work as an artist has been included in exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, among others.