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The Squad evolved from an experiment in 2020-2021 to add three part-time Associate Artists as supported by COVID relief grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Fund. Organizationally, Del Shakes wanted to ensure that funds it was eligible to receive at least in some ways supported artists and not just institutional overhead.
The initial purpose was for the Associate Artists to create new programming for COVID era (outdoor, socially-distanced, virtual, etc.) After the murder of George Floyd, the Associate Artists were involved in a major way in creating antiracism policies and action plans.
The impact of having artists, and specifically BILAM+ artists*, involved in the year-round thinking of the organization was transformative for Del Shakes. Board and staff leadership, along with current Associate Artists, discussed ways to make the Associate Artist structure permanent while also allowing Del Shakes to diversify its staff.
As a result of these discussions, the Associate Artists expanded to the Artistic Squad: a rotating, two-term collective, bringing ever-evolving points of view to the organization and allowing more artists to contribute to the long-term growth of Del Shakes.
Each year, Del Shakes will bring in two new members of the Artistic Squad. In the first of two years, the members would have reduced responsibilities – and a smaller monthly fee. In their second year, the members would step into increased duties and a larger monthly fee. After the second year, the two members would rotate off.
The Squad is a part of season planning, casting, and artistic oversight. Squad members also participate in Del Shakes artistic programming when appropriate.
Squad members are mid-career theatre professionals with past experience with Del Shakes and multiple creative skill sets. Potential Squad members are identified in a collaborative recommendation process between current Quad members and the Producing Artistic Director.
In its first years, a main duty of the Artistic Squad is to assist with implementation of Del Shakes’ Antiracism Policy and Action Plan. Initially, Squad member selection will be focused on BILAM+ artists.
One member of the Artistic Squad will serve as a voting Board member, on a rotating one-year term basis. All Squad members serve on Board committees as well.
* BILAM+ = Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Multiracial