ART | VALUES STATEMENT

a radical embracing of somatic personhood

all people (human and non-) are of equal worth
(equity: moving towards equality may need unequal means)
all are vital to the greater ecosystem we all share
beauty means seeing one loved or lovable
all people are lovable and therefore all are beautiful

body is vital

we are here to be bodies together
in vulnerability and power
in shared space
in shared experience

art is vital

we are here to make and share art
(aesthetics: how values show up in the work)
to expand our collective sense of the possible
to create worlds, detailed and nuanced, with rigor
that finely focus attention
(sloughing assumptions, the quotidian, our normative burdens)
on the abstract, non-linear, non-narrative
so as to empower audience agency

crafting safe(r)/brave(r) spaces and experiences

to invite those entering in with informed consent
to plunge into the painful as well as the joyous
so as to offer pathways out of patterns that no longer serve
and strengthen our intersubjective bonds

we mean all to feel welcome and wanted at our work

while knowing that individuals
have different tastes and interests in art

reclaim “morality”

it is just this:
making choices
based on compassion and love

ANTI-BIGOTRY ETHICS

Businesses operate as they do today in the United States for a complex set of interconnected reasons, including past traumas and ongoing inequities. We are asking, how can we take regular action now, and also consider these questions not finished, so that we don’t shelve them as “solved”? We are building a continually evolving set of practices that can make redress a part of doing business.

This includes a budget line offset to offer redress in recognition of:

– The Unites States’ genocide, ethnic cleansing, and land theft of the many Indigenous American Indian tribes (as businesses cannot operate without using that land)

– The structure of economic wealth in the United States that was built upon the institution of slavery and the institutionalized racism that grew out of that (as businesses operate within that economic framework)

– The invisible appropriated labor of women both in and out of the dance field (as the entire capitalist framework has been premised upon that)

– Exploitation of fossil fuels and an economic structure premised on disposability and pollution (because businesses cannot operate without environmental detriment)

ACCESSIBILITY

We welcome all people with disabilities to our events. If you require a specific access service to fully participate or have any questions about accessibility, contact Julia Antonick at julia@khecari.org. Please be in touch as soon as you know you would like to join us so we can make sure we have the accommodations ready for you on the day you will attend. We look forward to meeting you.

LAND

Khecari is based in Chicago/Zhigaagoong and is an Arts Partner in Residence at Indian Boundary Park. The region was historically a crossroads whose inhabitants included the Sauk, Fox, Miami, Illinois, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Wea, Delaware, Winnebago, Menominee, Mesquakie, Ho-Chunk, and particularly the Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomie, collectively referred to as the Council of Three Fires.

Through military invasion and subsequent treaties, these Indigenous Peoples were made to cede the land. The name “Indian Boundary” references a line drawn by the 1816 Treaty of St. Louis, which ethnically cleansed the lands southward. The state of Illinois has had no reservations nor official tribes since the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, but some Native people continued to live in Illinois as original inhabitants and countless others immigrated here from elsewhere. Chicago is now the home of people representing many different tribes and nations.

We recognize with grief that our use of this land is premised on that colonialist tragedy, and with gratitude the ongoing presence of native people in Chicago. We are grateful to you and to this land that continues to sustain us all.

In 2016 we initiated an ongoing dialogue on how best to name and speak to honor the history of the peoples who lived here, to recognize the colonialist tragedy that befell them, and to recognize the ongoing presence of native people in Chicago. We welcome and invite dialogue and debate about this issue in general and about how we are seeking to address it. If you or someone you know would like to be a part of this conversation, please let us know or send them our way. For more information about the movement we referenced when creating this statement, visit U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. #HonorNativeLand

PLACE / IBCC

In addition to the fact that the name “Indian Boundary” denotes a line created to ethnically cleanse the area, there is also imagery within the fieldhouse that may be triggering to many, in particular to Native Americans and Jews. We want to notify people in advance as a trigger warning, and to affirm Khecari’s anti-racist stance.

The Indian Boundary Cultural Center fieldhouse was created in the height of the 1920s whitewashing that romanticized and appropriated American Indian cultures. Ostensibly Native images and symbols abound in the building but were designed by the architect, Clarence Hatzfeld, a second generation American of German ancestry. There is no evidence that Hatzfeld’s choices of these images came from any particular knowledge of any Native cultures. We understand also that Native peoples did not choose these representations or participate in the design of the fieldhouse.

Included in this decor are symbols called whirling logs in some Native nations, which look almost identical to the Nazi hakenkreuz, more commonly referred to as swastikas. There is also no evidence that this choice came from sympathy with the Nazi movement, which had at that point been established but had not yet accrued mainstream power in Germany. We have been told that Hatzfeld included this symbols in the decor based on his assumption of Native American decorative symbology. We recognize that many people in the Western world see these markings as hakenkreuz/swastikas and not whirling logs due to the appropriation of this symbol based on the atrocities committed by the Nazis, a feeling we understand and share. We understand that this symbol has a rich and positive history for many traditions around the world, though some people have now eschewed their continued use out of solidarity with Jews, Roma, and others who suffered under the Nazis. Other people have chosen to try and reclaim the symbol from the abuse that is has suffered and return it to its sacred meanings for their cultures. The fieldhouse itself has been designated a Chicago Landmark, so the symbols are unable to be removed or altered by the park’s supervisor, staff, or resident artists. We are currently engaged in a daily practice at the beginning of each rehearsal we have at the space to engage in advocacy, spend time learning, and creating permanent/semi-permanent pieces to display in the space to give more context about the history of the land theft from the original inhabitants. If you would like to be in touch with us and join our continued work around this topic or have some questions on how we can accommodate your visit to the space, please reach out.

AGE

We welcome people of all ages and their caregivers to our events.  In our spaces we practice a combination of beliefs in regards to people who are not able to follow the narrow needs of dominant culture’s socially acceptable behavior in young & middle adult-assumed spaces. We understand that infants, children, and elders can have age-specific needs and behavioral norms. We are here to support the full developmental stages of all bodies and create some clear rules to limit the shaming that happens commonly around age in performance spaces and classes.

  • People of all ages are wanted here.
  • People of all ages are of equal value.
  • People of different ages might need different kinds of physical support. Some options if you witness this are:
    • Be willing to help out with things like taking off shoes, holding a small child, assisting an elder up from sitting on the ground, speaking slower, louder or repeating things.
  • People of different ages might not be able to be silent or as quiet as others in the space feel is appropriate. Some options in this event are:
    • Let them make sounds and enjoy the diversity and human texture of the space.
    • If something spoken was missed and can be repeated, ask the speaker to repeat themself. If it cannot be repeated, trust the nonverbal richness of the experience.
    • The loudness or interruption may be an expression of a clear need such as a break from the space or a different person paying attention to them or holding them. You can offer to take turns with the caregiver. Also know that the caregiver might turn you down, and that’s ok.
  • People of different ages may not be able to sense bodily or spatial boundaries as others do. If you feel your physical boundaries being invaded, you may:
    • Shift your task, intent, or attention in such a way as to welcome the unexpected visit.
    • Move yourself to another location.
    • Communicate to the caregiver or person your preferred boundaries.

BEAUTY

We disavow beauty standards. The dance world has typically enshrined the lookism rife in culture at large. The body is the person, all people are lovable, therefore our work is to see all people as beautiful. Individuals’ relationships to their own body are complex, historically laden, and oftentimes tied to trauma. Somatics, body positivity, and body neutrality can all be useful tools in healing, and all have a place in our practice as dancemakers.

EQUAL PAY POLICY

Dancers often work for free, or receive stipends that amount to less than minimum wage. Jobs paying $10-$20 per hour are quite rare and highly sought after. We recognize that dance, and the arts in general, suffer from poor and declining funding. However, there are many in the dance industry who get paid much more: lighting or costume designers, administrators or consultants. Dancers or choreographers may have as much or more training, experience, or expertise as higher-paid members of the dance community, and often give more time to the development of the work.

Khecari has an equal pay policy and is committed to paying a living wage. Directors, admin staff, dancers, designers, consultants; everyone who works with us receives the same pay rate (currently $18/hr). This is both to practice fairness and equally honor the time, energy, and commitment of those with whom we work, and also to educate and advocate. We’ve found that often people are unaware of this situation. Audience members or donors may have no idea, and are often grateful to know how their support is being utilized toward equity.

Khecari’s financial reality is that we cannot afford to pay anyone more than this rate without paying someone else less, and we do not feel that anyone we hire deserves less than this rate (in fact, we all deserve more). We also recognize that people’s situations are different. Some are able to fully subsidize or sustain their art career through personal resources like spousal income, generational wealth, general good health, or another income stream; others are unable to take work at $18/hr due to financial obligations such as responsibilities for dependents, health concerns, long commutes, or housing insecurity. We are choosing to address these realities individually, in conversation with artists and others with whom we work, as blanket categorical solutions such as raises or bonuses due to age or duration with the company can fail to address these individual and idiosyncratic differences. Our intention is that we weave pay equity into our pay equality and have them be complementary practices that center transparency and dignity. We are currently creating emergency funds for collaborators that can be accessed when in need of immediate support for medical, transportation, housing, food, and dependent care.

“This 75-year study concludes the strongest predictor of well-being is not income or class: it is income equality, and good relationships.” (from Giorgos Kallis‘ Degrowth)

TICKETING PHILOSOPHY

We feel it is crucial to pay all our artists equally and to keep shows financially accessible. In truth, dance ticket sales cover roughly 20% of production costs. The rest is realized through individual donations and grants.

In order to advocate for the true worth of live performance, we created a ticketing structure to demonstrate the actual costs:

TOTAL PROJECT EXPENSES ÷ TOTAL AVAILABLE SEATS = FULL PRICE TICKET

In this way a full price ticket shows the price at which no fundraising would be needed. While we encourage those who can afford it to support live performance at this level, we also are active in our grant writing and fundraising efforts in order to offer subsidized tickets to the public. Therefore a given show might have tickets available for $10, $25, $75, $150, and $300.

INTERPERSONAL CARE

We have created a Care Contact role that functions within each project, and also for Khecari as a whole. The function of this role in the group is an active and evolving work-in-progress. It was first developed in 2022 through collaborative conversation and practice between Julia Antonick and Gina Hoch-Stall, who also served as the first Care Contact in that year. 2023 Care Contacts are Gina Hoch-Stall and Max Pope.

Here’s how it works: When the quotidian frustrations that are natural and inevitable to any work environment become too much for an individual’s coping mechanisms and transition into resentments, they may reach out to the Care Contact to unload frustrations that have transformed into hurt, discuss hurt that needs a next step of talking to another person involved, or uncover occurrences of harm that need to be addressed with the entire group. The Care Contact will steward the appropriate response to the individual’s distress, including listening, affirming, and allowing the artist to express frustrations, recommending resources to address frustrations outside of the process, and bringing the situation to discussion with the director to help find a solution/apology/shift in process. This role is not meant to replace coming directly to the directors to talk; it is our hope that this will always feel like a welcomed and safe thing to do. This role is both for cases in which that doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, and also to more equally distribute emotional labor and support the directors’ emotional health.

our effort is to be anti-bigots in all ways
to undo stereotypic thinking at its core, in ourselves, our language, our practices
this means taking each individual as an individual
for who they are in and of themself, not as a specimen of a demographic
this includes being anti-caste, anti-racist, feminist, pro-queer, pro-trans, anti-classist, anti-ablist, anti-lookist, body positive &/or body neutral, pro immigration, anti-agist, non-binary, non-discriminatory with regards to religion, culture, and ethnic heritage
there are more kinds of bigotry than we can name here
we do not mean to hierarchize bigotries
we are imperfect but working hard
we want to hear where we fail and attend to this
caring critique and conversation are critical to our art-making
as they are to our collective anti-bigotry efforts
how we address each thing on this page
points also to our privileges and shortcomings
all these statements and policies are works in progress
that want ongoing conversation and improvement