KEN GASS RESPONSE TO FACTORY BOARD’S ‘OPEN LETTER’ OF JULY 30/12
[ED: Read the letter to which Mr. Gass is responding]
The Capital Committee took complete charge of the Trillium CCF grant last October, and has lead the capital planning/design/pre-construction process ever since.
We received the CCF grant to A) improve the Studio Theatre and B) to install an elevator and wheelchair accessible washrooms. Let’s call the decision to create the large new exterior lobby C).
So, we received the grant for A & B. In late March, the Committee then decided to build B & C and to postpone A until 2013, after the grant expires. … Nonetheless, the cost for A & B & C is roughly double the original budget of $900,000. Even to build B & C will cost at least $1.2 million, which is $300,000 beyond the combined grant totals of $525,000 plus $400k Line of Credit. To date, no private funds have been raised towards this project. Indeed there is not even a single concrete ‘ask’ out there that I am aware of. The decision to postpone A (or B) puts at least an additional $100-150k of the Trillium Grant at serious risk, thus, the amount needed to be fundraised beyond the Line of Credit is at least $400k.
I assure you, THERE IS NO WAY WE WOULD BE IN THIS SITUATION IF THE EXECUTIVE STAFF WERE DIRECTING THE PROJECT—WORKING, OF COURSE, IN CLOSE CONSULTATION WITH THE BOARD, BUT NONETHELESS DIRECTING IT. Can you imagine the Board allowing Executive Staff to do what the Capital Committee has done in terms of veering from the purpose of our CCF grant & extending ourselves beyond the designated budget and allowable timelines? Where is the accountability that this Board has so often talked about?
What’s wrong with the New Lobby Proposal:
(Aside from all the larger reasons of how it’s inconsistent with and negates the larger design…)
- It is far too costly for the limited benefits.
- It is adequate and utilitarian, but hardly inspiring architecture.
- The elevator only goes up one floor. Thus the third floor of the facility remains completely inaccessible to artists or for any public functions in our Rehearsal Hall.
- It also doesn’t allow for the possibility of digging down the Studio as per the master plan without re-doing the elevator and entranceway yet again
- Building a single story lobby is very cost-inefficient and thus not environmentally friendly.
- Ticketing is moving more and more towards online transactions, including printing one’s own tickets at home, thus gradually reducing the need for a large box office.
Revised Practical Approach: If the lobby were scaled back to literally one third of its size, or even less, it would be affordable, do-able within the time-frame and still serve the key elements of the project, leaving elevator where it is. Its cooling and heating would be an extension of the current structure. Future resources could be allocated to other pressing needs. (Essentially, this would become what was Phil Goldsmith’s Option B approach.) Much of the current architectural work & detail could still be retained in terms of permits, etc. Also much less would be wasted if we embark on a larger design in the next few years. Key is whether there is any willingness to discuss and explore other options.
(….) But Ron, Janet, Lynn & Co. fired me… in the most unceremonious and humiliating manner after 15½ fucking years, and it’s very curious that only in the last couple of days have I begun to feel genuine anger at that. George has been raging with fury from the beginning, as has Marian and many others, but I’ve approached it with an odd, almost upbeat philosophical detachment, for the most part, to the astonishment of many around me. I think it’s because I’ve been so absolutely clear on what the issues were, and if this board of nine, non-artist individuals were going to have to fire me for taking a stand, without even an attempt at mediation in which the issues and capital options could be publicly aired, then go ahead.
Really, could I imagine a future at Factory in which we would exhaust ourselves for two years to raise funds for Janet’s porch, where the costs kept spiraling upward, where we would lose the construction shop, and in the end still have the storm of constant challenges in the rest of the building, as well as severely limiting all our options for a larger plan? And if Janet’s committee could come along and arbitrarily upend two years of work WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC DISCUSSION, what would be the point of embarking on any such plan ever again, since this board would just do whatever it felt like anyway. So, no, in that case, just fire me.
OR, one word, one word would have changed all this: Negotiate. It happens in every other arena in life, get around a table, put all viewpoints out and openly debate, with mediation, if necessary, but bring all the stakeholders together and discuss the options. What is so hard or unreasonable about that?
(…..) Where we are now, there is only one question that is relevant. Was my firing appropriate and justified? The community of voices who believe it was simply wrong are the ones who are signing the petition, the boycott or otherwise protesting and demanding my reinstatement, whether publicly or via their future individual intentions to simply stay away if no change occurs. The other key question is this: Is it acceptable that this board of nine directors, who, no matter what their reasoning was at the time, has so completely alienated, angered and divided the community, including many major donors, continue to run Factory Theatre? At the end of the day, where is the accountability that was such a favourite Lynn Bevan topic of board conversation a year ago?
(….) I believe that each of the nine directors has seriously breached their fiduciary obligations to work in the best interests of the organization and to protect the assets of the charity, not to mention various irregularities of procedure and arbitrary by-law interpretation re conflicts of interest that each are responsible to uphold. …. Above all, they have breached their moral obligations to be responsive to the community that has supported Factory and that they, as directors, are bound to serve.
On one hand, a future without the weight of Factory on my back is a tantalizing prospect for me personally, but I don’t walk away lightly from more than 15 years of my life. If conditions were to change significantly so that I might in good conscience and optimism return, I believe all the community anger could be quickly re-channelled into a whole new wave of positive support and with new people on board, a new foundation for real growth and forward motion would be established in short order. Or, if this board stays firmly in the bunker of silence, as their intention clearly seems to be, Factory will continue to bleed both financially and in reputation and likely wither.
Founder and recent artistic director, Factory Theatre