The Future of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat

Dear friends and colleagues, 

On behalf of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, I am writing to share with you important news regarding our organization. Our Board of Directors, resident company and community partners are collectively deciding to cease operations as a non-profit organization at the end of this fiscal year ending June 30th, 2024 and proceed with a responsible closure and wind-down. 

This decision has been made following several challenges within our non-profit which I will share with you as our organization’s founder and leader. This news does not mean that Kyoung’s Pacific Beat will cease to exist. We are simply in the process of undoing this legal structure under which we’ve been operating since 2021 as we have learned this legal form does not serve us. 

STRUCTURAL LIMITATIONS 

KPB incorporated and functioned as an unincorporated entity for 9 years due to my evolving legal status as an immigrant artist in America. As a small arts collective, I cobbled together our financial resources and volunteered free administrative labor to produce TALA and PILLOWTALK, following years of graduate and practical field research in alternate, political theater models. 

Given the success of PILLOWTALK, we decided to embark on our most ambitious project to date – NERO. At the same time, we began executing a multi-year strategic plan based on a 10-year visioning document I developed over the course of several leadership development programs between 2015-2020. The first step in our strategic plan was to build a founding Board composed primarily of women of color, trans and gender non-conforming leaders within our community, which were invited to hold our work accountable to the community we serve. 

During this time, we grew 400% thanks in large part to pandemic-era opportunities. We used our funding to invest in staff development, increase artist compensation to union-rate wages to support over 50 artists, and provide mutual aid to hundreds of community members. Despite our efforts to raise investment for our strategic growth starting the spring of 2021, private funding began to dwindle by the summer of 2022 and our organization began to experience chronic cash flow issues starting the spring of 2023. 

Reliant on public funds and restricted private investment for capacity-building growth, we embarked on our first season of year-long activities between 2023-2024, hoping the investment we sought would be attained by the end of last year. Instead, 2023 ended with the loss of state funding for general operating support just a month before we finally returned to live programming since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition, delays and eventual loss of city funding for the spring 2024 season led our company to make the unfortunate decision to lay off staff in December and cancel both our programming and terminate my position as Executive Director at the end of January of this year. This was the only way we could balance a deficit which surpassed $30,000.

Ongoing efforts to secure our sustainability through touring became limited due to the hybrid nature of NERO, as this kind of work seemed less likely to garner interest post-COVID. As NERO struggled to find its place in the marketplace, our financial downward spiral also restricted our eligibility for direct institutional funding as our budget was shrinking below the floor most foundations require for funding. Even worse, our ambitious growth and commitment to QTPOC communities, artists and young leaders of color was criticized by our peers in public funding panels, making it clear that our strategic plan, business model, leadership and pursuit of infrastructure investment had failed.

Despite being encouraged to hang-on and focus on increased productivity and efficiency, we simply ran out of time and resources to do so. Instead, KPB’s Board and I faced relentless financial crises over the past 18 months, leading us to decide to cease operations and wind-down KPB as the constant rejection, ignoring, and de-funding of our work created a culture of scarcity and debting which we did not want to perpetuate.  

BURNOUT
As leader of the organization, I found myself challenged to execute our programs, lead robust fundraising, train and nurture staff development, while leading our programs and creating our artistic projects. I was overworking and experiencing health-degrading burnout.

This January, the need to cancel programming and terminate my position became a financially responsible solution to balance both our budget and my mental health care needs as I became the sole administrator of the organization once again. 

Legally closing our non-profit will take months and during this time, we will conclude NERO, which we began developing during the summer of 2020. We are committed to ensuring free, public access to this new media series through a virtual premiere that will be featured on a new website we’ve been working on since last fall. 

We have also been in touch with our funders since last November, recently canceling multiple grant contracts to allow me to take the rest I need to recover. Our resident artists and partners have been fully informed of these decisions. Following the premiere of NERO, dissolution, and proper recovery time, we will restructure our organization in ways that will be healthier for us all. 

A NEW HOPE 

In 2023, I officially became an American citizen. I have been an immigrant since 2000 living in survival mode, experiencing deportation after the loss of my first non-profit job in 2003. I was fired and almost deported a second time after receiving my Artist Visa in 2013. Between 2013-2020 I worked primarily outside the non-profit theater sector and I only started receiving a salary in 2021 as Executive Director of KPB. Sadly, this year I had to let myself go from the non-profit I founded and decided that this was enough. 

Another way to look at this change is through Howard Gardrner’s studies of creative cycles, which he argues undergo peaks and valleys every 10 years. Through this lens, it might be possible to say that I have simply reached the pinnacle of what our organization could have achieved before its inevitable downturn and future re-emergence. After all, theaters both big and small are struggling with sustainability – this is an endemic problem within our field and KPB is perhaps not exempt from this problem. 

I want to thank you for being part of this journey with us so far. As a peacemaking theater company, our work has focused on the legacies of Cold War histories (the Korean War, Chile’s dictatorship), US anti-Black and anti-immigrant violence, and most importantly, the War on Terror and imperialism which have greatly shaped the lives of the artists and community members who came of age with us. 

As the United States embarks on new wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and American cities see a rise of militarization, police state and curtailment of civil rights, it is obvious that we are entering a new chapter in American politics that gravely concerns us, particularly those committed to civil resistance and social justice. Deep structural changes are necessary, but at the same time, I recognize as an artist that the changes we seek must begin within. 

In order to dismantle institutionalized as well as internalized white supremacy culture, our decision to divest from the non-profit industrial complex and seek new forms of being is part of our enduring commitment to being an experimental, peacemaking theater company investigating new forms artistically, communally, and now legally. 

This change is necessary to prevent us from being exposed to harm and retaliation, particularly in underfunded circumstances that are engendering fear, anger, resentments and continuous self-harm stemming from chronic (self) neglect, trauma and scarcity.

Healing is collective and my healing is not possible without yours. I thank you, our Board, artists, artistic and community partners for your support of this decision and our work. This is a great privilege and I am grateful. 

As we embark on this change, I hope you’ll join us for the virtual premiere of NERO in June as it’ll be our non-profit’s final hurrah. Meanwhile, I thank you for granting us the grace to conclude our operations and begin this transformation. 

We will return anew. The time for change has come upon us.

Peace, 

Kyoung H. Park