Letter from Executive Director, Corrie Zoll

In this time of metamorphosis for HOBT, people have been asking about Sandy Spieler’s transition out of her leadership role. And people have been asking Sandy, too. Included here are a letter from Sandy about her transition, as well as a letter from Dan Newman who has been a co-creator with Sandy of HOBT’s MayDay Celebration since that first year in 1975. 

Explaining what has happened at HOBT in recent years is a complicated thing, and while we published reams of documents at hobt.org/imagine in an effort to be transparent, I want to acknowledge that appropriately acknowledging Sandy’s transition was lost in a sea of information. I would like here to begin to address that lapse and to assure you all that the work of honoring Sandy’s contributions to the world through HOBT will be an ongoing process that does not end here.

After more than forty years as HOBT’s Artistic Director, Sandy stepped away from that role four years ago in 2015. That transition happened shortly after Sandy was named the McKnight Foundation’s Distinguished Artist for 2014. This was another time of big transitions for HOBT, and Sandy’s transition from that role was another shift that did not receive the recognition it was due. 

And this year in 2019 Sandy stepped aside from her role as Artistic Director of HOBTs MayDay after leading that process for 45 years. Again when the announcement was made in January it was in the context of other giant shifts for HOBT, and the impact of Sandy’s transition was lost in the noise. People may not have noted that Sandy had made that decision a full year earlier in early 2018, and that she acknowledged this as the best way to make room for new leaders to step up and carry forward her important work.

These two transitions were planned. What was not planful was the end of Sandy’s employment in May with the organization she shaped more than any other single person over 46 years.  Once again during an emergency restructuring, HOBT ended Sandy’s employment with the organization. Her position was terminated along with more than half of HOBT staff positions between the end of January and the end of May. Sandy had six months notice to prepare for this transition, that six months also included her last MayDay in a leadership position. Though an artist of Sandy’s stature and history with HOBT more than deserves an Emerita position, the nonprofit model for arts organizations does not seem to support this. 

And Sandy’s stature is recognized beyond her role at HOBT. Over the summer, Sandy received the President’s Award from Puppeteers of America.  Puppeteers of America describes this award as the only honor in the field of Puppetry in the United States of America that recognizes a body of work or entire career in puppetry. In receiving this lifetime achievement award, Sandy joins the ranks of Jim Henson, Bil Baird, Burr Tillstrom, Julie Taymor, Peter Schumann, Frank Ballard, and Rufus and Margo Rose. Her placement among the most prominent of her peers is thoroughly deserved and we celebrate Sandy in this remarkable accomplishment. 

HOBT will continue to work with Sandy. In October Sandy will lead an HOBT residency with Mayflower UCC. Sandy will have a key role in archiving HOBT puppets and visual materials.  And of course Sandy will be part of conversations about the future of HOBT and MayDay. 

As both Sandy and Dan have shared with me over the years, I share with you the notion from Dag Hammarskjold that we say THANKS! to all that has been and say YES! to all that will be.


Corrie Zoll, Executive Director