Patrick’s Cabaret settles potential lawsuit with grantmaker following charge of discrimination

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 15th, 2017

Contact: Scott Artley

scott@patrickscabaret.org

Desk: 612-724-6273

 

Patrick’s Cabaret settles potential lawsuit with grantmaker following charge of discrimination

MINNEAPOLIS - Patrick’s Cabaret and the Laura Jane Musser Fund entered into a settlement agreement on Friday, August 4th, 2017, settling a case that Patrick’s Cabaret filed with the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights last November. The Department of Human Rights is responsible for enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act, a state law prohibiting discrimination in Minnesota.

Patrick’s Cabaret, a longstanding queer-led art organization, had applied for funding from the Musser Fund’s Intercultural Harmony grant program in 2015. The grant proposal included program plans highlighting an increasingly explicit focus on work with LGBTQ participants. The Musser Fund denied that funding request. In September 2016, Patrick’s Cabaret’s Executive Artistic Director, Scott Artley, sent an email to the Musser Fund seeking constructive feedback on the 2015 proposal because Patrick’s Cabaret intended to apply to the same program in 2016. In response, Mr. Artley received the following voicemail from the Musser Fund’s Grants Program Manager:

 

“Hi, Scott, this is [...] the Laura Jane Musser Fund, returning your email with a call. [...] What I want to tell you about Patrick’s Cabaret and being turned down with the Intercultural Harmony work, is a couple things. One is this is a pretty conservative board and they have grappled with the, whether they want to consider GLBT issues as something that they want to address with Intercultural Harmony and while it’s a moving conversation, it has not settled on it being inclusive to that. And so you may be throwing good energy against a brick wall in applying if your Intercultural Harmony work is addressing GLBT issues. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that there’s a different conversation around arts and where the Intercultural Harmony work is between the artists it has not had as much support on the board. Some projects have been funded, but they’re mainly looking for communities of people and their actual participation in work. So it has to do with often things like community gardens, or children working together around a curriculum, or interfaith groups working on community projects together. There’s been some stuff between the deaf community and the hearing community where there’s, you know, breaking down barriers and adding ability to communicate. And so it’s generally the thing that is a problem with artists is that sheer number of artists is just smaller for the size of the grant, and so then it’s always, when, when you’re comparing apples to another apple with more apples in the basket, the other one gets funded. So, that being said, you’re certainly welcome to apply and Patrick’s is a really valuable organization and I applaud your work. But it is a challenge. And so you may decide that it’s not worth your time, in something that is a competitive grant round. Feel free to give me a call back if you like. Thank you so much. Take care.” [call ends]

 

The highlighted portion of the above quote was particularly troubling to Mr. Artley. He then sent this follow-up email to the Musser Fund’s manager:

“I got your voicemail, thank you for the feedback. I appreciate your candor about your board's orientation toward LGBTQ+ organizations and causes, but I am obviously disappointed that this is a detriment to our proposal. I will not be re-applying this year. Please let me know when the board's orientation changes in the future, I'm confident it will.

--S” 

In her email response, the Musser Fund’s manager did not dispute Mr. Artley’s characterization of the voicemail:

“Thank you Scott.  And thank you for your good work.

“You may be correct about change over time.

“But the barrier of sheer numbers of people actively involved in exchange may also be a barrier in the future.

“The Fund is looking at their ICH guidelines over the next couple of years, and the guidelines are likely to change.  So keep an eye on the website for time to time.

“Take care,”

After a great deal of deliberation, Patrick’s Cabaret’s Board of Directors chose to file discrimination charges against the Musser Fund. In its filing with the Department of Human Rights, Patrick’s Cabaret charged that the Musser Fund “refused to accept its proposal and provide funding because [Patrick’s Cabaret] is associated with the gay, lesbian,  bisexual, and transgender community.” The Musser Fund denied liability but agreed to mediate the dispute. After two full days of mediation, the parties reached a mutually satisfactory resolution of this dispute.

In that settlement, the Musser Fund agreed to endorse and publish online a non-discrimination policy, and to coordinate periodic diversity trainings for its Board and staff members. The Musser Fund will also provide additional application assistance to grantseekers, and make changes to its grant intake procedures to emphasize the diversity component of any grant application. Finally, the Musser Fund made a one-time settlement payment of $12,000, which Patrick’s Cabaret sees as compensation for the time and energy spent in pursuit of this issue, and will be used to further the Cabaret’s artistic mission to support its multicultural artistic work. F. Chet Taylor of the Taylor Law Office represented Patrick’s Cabaret, while the Musser Fund was represented by Neal T. Buethe of the Briggs & Morgan law firm.

The settlement comes in the wake of a report from Access Philanthropy, “The Future of Funding: A Brief Look at LBGTQ Funding in Minnesota,” which reported that, “Despite its reputation for being a generously philanthropic state with a commitment to diversity, Minnesota is significantly behind in funding for our LGBTQ community.” The report found that funding for LGBTQ arts organizations, in particular, saw a notable decrease from 2014 to 2015. “While same-sex marriage was a big victory in the context of LGBTQ civil rights, it was not the same victory for all,” citing the continued challenges for LGBTQ people of color, transgender individuals, or those facing homelessness, joblessness, or with undocumented citizenship.

Patrick’s Cabaret is a queer-led performance art incubator supporting the growth and development of artists on the edge of culture. For over 30 years, the organization has built artistic platforms for artists of color, with disabilities, with queer and trans identities--and especially artists for whom those identities intersect. In the organization’s perspective, pursuing this matter was an important effort to not just build those safer spaces for artists, but to protect them. We view “queer” as a culture unto itself, not passed down through familial lines, and we see the making and sharing of artistic expression as a means for uniting our disparate community.

Patrick’s Cabaret hopes that the Musser Fund, and the philanthropic field at large, takes advantage of this learning moment to adopt and continuously improve an anti-discrimination stance that truly embraces the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, class, immigration status, disability, and other identities frequently subject to oppression.

 

TIMELINE

  • October 13th, 2015 - Patrick’s Cabaret submitted a proposal for funding in the Musser Fund’s Intercultural Harmony grant program.

  • December 10th, 2015 - The Musser Fund informed Patrick’s Cabaret its proposal would not be funded.

  • September 15th, 2016 - Patrick’s Cabaret Executive Artistic Director Scott Artley sent an email to Musser Fund Grants Program Manager requesting feedback on its 2015 proposal. The Fund’s manager responded by phone, leaving a voicemail. Scott Artley followed up the voicemail with an email, to which the Fund’s manager responded.

  • November 4th, 2016 - The Minnesota Department of Human Rights processed a charge of discrimination initiated by Patrick’s Cabaret against the Musser Fund.

  • July 14th, 2017 - The parties began mediation.

  • August 4th, 2017 - Patrick’s Cabaret and the Musser Fund entered into a settlement agreement.

 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS 

Q. The Musser Fund is a private family foundation, shouldn’t it be allowed NOT to support LGBTQ causes if it wishes?

A. Patrick’s Cabaret took the position that even private entities must not discriminate based on sexual orientation or any other protected class named in the Minnesota Human Rights Act. For example, if a private business wanted to redesign its website, and issued a Request for Proposals from website developers, our understanding is that it would be a violation of the Act to deny a developer’s proposal because the firm was run by queer people, or any other protected class (such as people of color, or people with disabilities). The business could deny the proposal because it was a bad fit for other reasons, but if the decision was based upon a protected status, the decision is likely a violation of the Act.

Additionally, we believe that grantmaking is a public service, which is supported by public tax exemption. Individuals with wealth are afforded significant tax benefits for depositing funds into a charitable trust or foundation. Those individuals do not need to pay taxes on that wealth because the fund or foundation promises to return at least some percent of that wealth back into the community to do good. Patrick’s Cabaret has taken the position that any practice that restricts the distribution of that public service is a violation of the public trust.

Q. Were you funded by the Musser Fund in the past?

A. We did receive a grant of $5,000 in 2011 to support our High School Cabarets program, an activity we no longer produce. We are not privy to the Musser Fund’s staff and Board conversations leading to funding decisions, but regardless of past grant decisions, discrimination can take place at any point. We feel confident, however, that the Musser Fund has sought to improve its practices because of our intervention.

Q. Were you provided with other reasons why this proposal was denied funding?

A. Yes, the second half of the voicemail in question included an additional reason why the proposal was denied. This point, although we disagree with its conclusion, was not in our eyes at issue. With so many proposals and a limited amount of funds to distribute, we understand a funder must evaluate applications on a whole host of factors, but those factors should never include an applicant’s identity as a member of a protected class.

Q. Why did you settle the charge rather than take it to court?

A. We considered a number of possible routes to address the issue. Ultimately we decided that bringing it to the Department of Human Rights would provide the best avenue to reflect the seriousness of the incident, to improve the Musser Fund’s practices, and to provide a degree of public accountability, which we believe is an important element to restorative justice. If the matter had been taken to court, it would have become solely about money, and our goal was to improve practices and promote systems change, not to win money.

Q. Does entering into a settlement mean that the Musser Fund has admitted to discrimination?

A. A settlement does not mean an admission of guilt. Instead, it means that both parties have come to a mutual decision to take particular actions, and the matter is thus considered closed, without a formal judgment, from a legal perspective.

Q. What will Patrick’s Cabaret do with the money it received from the settlement?

A. Patrick’s Cabaret did not pursue this charge for the money. However, we estimate that our costs related to the pursuit of this charge and improving the Musser Fund’s practices equate to approximately $6,000. (We should note that we did not incur any attorney fees on this case because Chet Taylor agreed to handle the matter on a pro bono basis.) We will use the remaining balance of settlement funds for our programming supporting artists on the edge of culture, representing a portion of the funds that could have been raised through other means if we had not been pursuing this matter.

Q. What should I do if I think any person or entity is practicing discrimination?

A. We suggest contacting the Minnesota Department of Human Rights directly.

 

ABOUT PATRICK’S CABARET

Mission

Patrick’s Cabaret is a queer-led performance art incubator supporting the growth and development of artists on the edge of culture.

Vision

Our work strives to center artists of color, with disabilities, and with queer and trans identities. We grow new art and new artists by encouraging artists of all experience levels to try new things, take risks, and present works-in-progress. We connect artists to education, performance platforms, tangible resources, and to each other, to put their talents to work. We build a diverse network of artists committed to forwarding a radically inclusive and progressive creative community where artists on the margins can thrive.

Why we exist

  • We believe artists are critical agents for broad community change.

  • We believe queer identity is a lens through which we fight for justice and liberation for all marginalized communities.

  • We believe our role in the Twin Cities arts ecology is to support artists who are doing challenging, experimental, subversive and community-driven work that might not otherwise find a home.

What we offer

  • Cabaret events - Professional performance events featuring multiple artists under a shared bill presenting their own short-form work, including training and mentorship on promotion

  • Curatorships - Artists are selected to produce their own Cabaret event, supporting the growth and development of emerging and experienced creative community builders

  • Raw Material - Artists present new works-in-progress, engage in an on-stage interview about their process, and participate in a critical conversation with the audience

  • Artist Education & Services - A range of services from documentation, fiscal sponsorship, 1-on-1 career counseling, peer-led professional development trainings, and mentorships focused on making a life as an artist on the edge of culture

  • Teaching Artist Residencies - Customized workshops and residencies, staffed from the Cabaret’s artist network, to help health/human service organizations empower their members to find and hone their creative voices

For more information about Patrick’s Cabaret, please visit patrickscabaret.org. The attorney for the Musser Fund, Neal T. Buethe, may be contacted at Briggs & Morgan, P.A., 2200 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 / (612) 977-8400 / nbuethe@briggs.com.

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