The following is an official announcement from the HOBT board concering MayDay going forward. It reflects explanation and context to the board's decision, announced March 15, 20223, to release MayDay to the community. This page will update when we have more to share about the transition.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH MAYDAY?
In February 2023, the Board of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) decided to release MayDay Celebrations to the community. Following our announcement on March 15, 2023, future MayDay events or actions will be independently produced by community groups, and not part of official HOBT programming.
A BOARD DECISION
After years of evaluations and consultation with artists, staff, MayDay Council (MDC), and community members, the HOBT Board of Directors voted unanimously to release MayDay, as part of our responsibility to the long-term financial health of the organization and alignment with our shared values. This means MayDay will no longer be hosted by HOBT. This was a difficult decision to make; we hope the information below helps explain why this choice was necessary.
HOBT’S NEXT STEP: A CLOSING FORWARD DOCUMENT
With the funds raised at the 2022 MayDay, HOBT will invite MDC, MayDay Artists, and others to collaborate in crafting a “closing forward” document to share online. It will include the MayDay Councils’ Values and Affirmations, stories, reflections and insights from community artists, staff and board members, and other intellectual property that has been created. This will be available online as an offering for those doing similar work or those continuing the momentum of MayDay Celebrations.
A FINANCIAL HISTORY OF MAYDAY
The MayDay Parade and Festival began with a small group of artists in 1975. By 2018, it had grown into a giant annual festival attracting 50-75,000 people, costing $250K to produce. It was a fabulous and inspiring event, internationally-known, and a part of the cultural fabric of South Minneapolis. However, HOBT struggled year to year to sustain the cost and energy it took to produce MayDay. Artists were underpaid and overworked. MayDay has never been financially sustainable. It was a drain on the budget every year… as much as $50,000 short. This annual loss had to be absorbed by HOBT. For decades, despite our best fundraising efforts, we couldn’t break even. If the weather wasn’t good on MayDay, we raised even fewer funds. Currently, there are very limited funding opportunities for public festivals and events. Attempts to get support from the city of Minneapolis were unsuccessful.
Artistically and culturally, there was a certain “Traditional” way of creating the MayDay parade and ceremony. This was partly out of necessity; the only way to hold something this big was to do it more or less the same every year. There were also internal power dynamics that were resistant to change. Artists with different cultural practices or personal aesthetics felt their ideas were not welcomed and included. Conflicts and misunderstandings piled up; and the burden of addressing them fell on those most harmed. The culture of urgency and overwork created reasons for avoidance and postponement. The calendar at HOBT tumbled relentlessly forward, and there was never the time or resources needed to fully address these dynamics, or envision solutions. BIPOC artists identified patterns of White Supremacy Culture in the creation process of MayDay, and this was acknowledged by the staff and board of HOBT as a priority to change.
ABOUT MAYDAY COUNCIL AND RE-IMAGINING MAYDAY:
In 2019, HOBT announced this would be the last MayDay-as-it-was, and that the organization would be taking time off from producing MayDay to reimagine ways this celebration could be more decentralized, inclusive, accessible, and sustainable. The 2019 MayDay received record donations. These funds enabled HOBT to engage with Free Black Dirt to select and facilitate a MayDay Council, through a process of community-nominations. In its first year, the MDC discussed the dynamics and patterns of the MayDay Parade and Festival creation process. They developed a set of Values and Affirmations to guide future MayDay creation-processes. These Values include: Reparations, Intergenerational Experiences, Decolonizing and Decentralizing, Accessibility, Accountability, and Abolition.
Despite financial hardship with the onset of the pandemic, HOBT kept the 2019 MayDay funds carefully earmarked for re-envisioning MayDay. The last of these funds went towards MayDay Council and community partners in creating a 2022 MayDay celebration. Three BIPOC-led community groups received funds to create artwork for MayDay celebrations: Roosevelt High School, MIGIZI, and Kalpulli Ketzalcoatlicue. HOBT staff and board are so grateful for the work of these partners, and the MDC. We value the relationships that were built during this process, and hope to continue growing these connections in other ways.
A MATTER OF FINANCES AND VALUES
After evaluations and discussions with the MayDay Council, updating our Mission, Vision, and Values, and completing a 3-year Strategic Plan, the board unanimously decided it was wisest to focus our resources and attention on helping HOBT thrive as a puppet and mask theater and educational institution. We agreed that HOBT doesn’t have the energy or financial capacity to sustain itself as a community-based theater and produce MayDay.
FUTURE MAYDAYS: DECENTRALIZED AND FOR ALL
One of the MayDay Council’s Affirmations is “Decentralize, and remember that MayDay is bigger than any one organization or neighborhood.” The Board of HOBT hopes that all those co-creating future celebrations for MayDay will work together, and that the MDC’s Values and Affirmations are read, shared, and taken to heart.