After seven years of steadfast service, we are farewelling the amazing Wendy Youens who is finishing up as Basement’s board chair. An experienced executive leader, Wendy was the founder and Chief Executive of Able, a not-for-profit organisation that provides accessible media services. Now a mother of two beautiful young children, Wendy is turning her focus to her family, and will be coaching emerging leaders through her own leadership programme.
During her time here, Wendy led Basement’s governance with bravery, diligence and pragmatism. In 2020, she navigated Basement through a significant change in leadership and strategic direction, and went on to play a huge role in supporting the delivery of Basement’s Covid response activities. A values-led leader and true to her word, Wendy has always centred the needs of independent artists in her governance decision-making. Her contribution to Basement Theatre will become an important moment in our history, and we will miss her hugely. We cannot thank you enough Wendy for the endless hours and energy you have gifted to Basement.
The next wahine toa to fill this important role for us needs no introduction, and for those of you that have been graced with working with her, you’ll know that Basement will continue to have an excellent future under her guidance. We are beyond privileged to welcome to the role Tongan mother, theatre-maker, educator and all-round G.O.A.T. of the Pacific arts education communities, Dr. Michelle Johansson. Michelle currently serves as Kaitiaki at Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ, where she and her team grow exceptional people to teach in low-decile schools. She is also Kaiwhakahaere at Māia Centre for Social Justice and Education, and the Creative Director of the Black Friars.
Our Executive Director Cat Ruka says, “It has been such a beautiful experience helping to facilitate and nurture the transition between these two highly talented, kind and spirited leaders. Working with Wendy has been the biggest blessing, and I cannot thank her enough for the endless support, guidance, trust and solidarity she has granted me through some very challenging years. Thanks to Wendy I can say that I know what exceptional governance leadership looks like.
Having had the privilege of working closely with Michelle in the past, I know the good times are only going to continue. The deep respect that Michelle’s communities have for her speaks so resoundingly to her authentic heart-led work, and I cannot wait to see what she will bring to Basement. I know that her undying commitment to social justice, and to Māori and Pasifika storytelling, will rub off on Basement’s kaupapa in the most exciting and dynamic ways. What an honour it is to have this queen in the building.”
Over the last two months, Wendy and Michelle have been working closely to ensure a smooth transition in Basement’s governance leadership. We look forward to celebrating Wendy’s immense contribution, and ushering Michelle into the role formally next month.