About PAHRTS: In 2014, the Minnesota Theater Alliance (MTA) received support from the Mardag Foundation to create and implement The Performing Arts Human Resources Toolkit Series (PAHRTS). The goal was for PAHRTS to be a catalyst for our performing arts community to evaluate our HR practices, discover systemic barriers, design innovative approaches for improvement; to help provide organizations with tools they need to evaluate their values, culture, structure; and to implement meaningful change.
From January 2015 to July 2016, a collaborative team led by former MTA Executive Director Leah Cooper and consisting of MTA staff, a Steering Committee, a Workshop Planning Committee, and consultants, worked together to:
- Measure performing arts HR practices through a community designed survey;
- Educate performing arts leaders and artists on compliance rules and best practices in HR management through a workshop series and peer-to-peer learning; and
- Provide resources for improving HR practices in all Minnesota performing arts organizations through an online toolkit.
The PAHRTS Survey: The PAHRTS (Performing Arts Human Resources Toolkit Series) survey was conducted in August 2015. Over 400 people who work in MN theaters – in production, creation, and administration roles—responded to the 34-question survey. This pilot study gathered responses from only a small percentage of the aggregate, but was a useful starting point for discussion and more research.
Two primary questions were explored through the survey:
- What are the characteristics and demographics of the people who work in and for theaters in Minnesota?
- What are their experiences with the human resources management practices of theaters in Minnesota, particularly related to the key topics of the workshop series? (see topic list below)
Data from this survey were used for three key purposes:
- To provide context and data to inform shared learning at the PAHRTS workshops;
- To serve as workshop “take-away” and PAHRTS Toolkit products (see the Data Worksheets) that people can use for reflection and change in their own organizations; and,
- To serve as a pilot study for future studies, such as a census of people working in Minnesota theaters or a study of particular human resources management issues in the community.
The PAHRTS Workshops: Over 60 people attended the six half-day workshops that ran September 2015 – March 2016. Of these, many people attended more than one workshop or sent other members of their organization in their place. The topics were:
- Hiring and recruiting talented, diverse artists and staff
- Determining compensation and classification of employees and contractors
- Effective management and staff retention
- Health workplace culture and diversity
- Managing conflict and termination
- The art of collaboration
The format of the workshops varied with topic and sub-topic, but all included presentations, structured group or small-group discussions, and lively, interactive work, including reading aloud quotes from the survey, re-enacting scenes with role playing, a “choose your own adventure” activity, all-group social mapping, self-assessments, interactive games, being data on the move, and even a puppet show. Plus we wore party hats.
The PAHRTS Toolkit: Emerging Arts Leadership Fellows have gathered content from the workshops, supplemental readings, data sets, assessment tools, and other resources into this website, intended to be accessible to anyone in the Minnesota performing arts community. It includes various navigation routes to help people find quick answers, make new discoveries, and delve into deeper research and learning.
The People: It seems particularly fitting that the last of the workshops addressed collaboration — the development and delivery of the PAHRTS survey, workshops and toolkit was a lively and evolving process that put the core principles of collaboration into action at every step along the way. The table below lists all who were involved and the various components to which they contributed. Affiliations listed were at the time of their work on the project.
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