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California Shakespeare Theater Announces The Artist Circle

Launched in January the Artist Circle provides a $500 monthly stipend to five artists and activists for a year.

California Shakespeare Theater announces the inaugural Artist Circle-a pilot program inspired by the principles of universal basic income (UBI) that provides a $500 monthly stipend to five artist/activists for one year without the reciprocal programmatic deliverables often associated with institutional support. Intended as supplemental income to support the ongoing work of these individuals, the Artist Circle also offers an invitation to participate in Cal Shakes' artistic vision across the organization.

The inaugural Artist Circle includes: Tatiana Chaterji (youth organizer, liberation arts educator, restorative justice practitioner), Shannon R. Davis (director, actor, teaching artist), Mia Mingus (writer, educator, organizer for disability justice & transformative justice), Sarita Ocón (actor, producing artist, community activist), and Lauren Spencer (actor, director, writer, teaching artist).

"The idea of our Artist Circle came out of a conversation I had with Mina Morita (Artistic Director, Crowded Fire) who has been a staunch proponent of UBI for artists," says Artistic Director Eric Ting. "How could our institutions contribute more directly-and sustainably-to the dynamic arts ecosystem of the Bay Area, and help disrupt the transactional nature of artist relationships at the root of the project-to-project business model that has driven so much of our industry."

"After a few months of receiving the UBI from Cal Shakes, I realized it covers my health and car insurance expenses," says Artist Circle member Shannon R. Davis. "Knowing that these costs are paid for, in one of the most dangerous times to be uninsured, has given me a real sense of freedom. Freedom to fearlessly seek better employment, and to work towards the future I want to see in theatre. Partial UBI has opened doors for me to think differently about my financial future, circumstances, and what I can achieve. That potential is worth infinitely more than the money alone."

As part of the Season of Shared Light and an institutional commitment to be in sustained relationship with the local community, Cal Shakes launched the year long pilot program in January to further support individuals that have had a meaningful impact on Cal Shakes' development. Cal Shakes commits to support these artists / activists as an artistic home-providing resources, space, and grant opportunities to support their continued work as cultural and social change agents.

"For my part, the gift has been the opportunity to recognize the impact that these five artist/activists have had on how Cal Shakes thinks of our responsibility as a cultural institution," says Ting. "Since we launched, their presence has already proved invaluable as we imagine our return, not just to stage, but to a changed world."

The Artistic Circle was initiated with funds received through an NEA CARES Act grant and sustained with the generous support of The Tournesol Project.


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