Another school year draws to a close and I feel like I’m out of control spinning all over the boroughs of New York City from one commitment to the other with “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” playing in my head. Is anyone else out there spinning round like a record, baby? Okay, that makes me sound old.
Next month I’ll be leading a Career360 Roundtable session at the 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. The topic: Community Involvement: Taking the “I Shoulds” Out of Your Life.
I chuckled upon my realization at how perfect the topic of overcommitment is for me; hence, the spinning-out-of-control vertigo I’m now experiencing.
Many arts administrators are expected to serve on panels, boards, and committees in addition to joining advocacy-related campaigns and other volunteer activities outside of the day-to-day full time job.
I’d like to explore this “I should or I shouldn’t” conversation a bit. Are arts administrators volunteer-driven because of their love for the field? Because there seems to be unspoken expectations? Out of necessity? Or a combination of all three?
I volunteer my time and energy mainly because I am passionate about arts education. I enjoy being connected to networks outside of my job, learning new things, traveling, and meeting some really interesting people…but sometimes it can feel overwhelming.
Locally, I’m involved with the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable as a former board member currently seeking reelection and a Teaching Artist Affairs committee member. Through Roundtable connections I’ve become more engaged with advocacy at the local and state levels. My involvement with the organization continues to inform me of relevant issues I face each day through my work in New York. (Hint: Common Core, evaluation, and testing).
How about sitting on a grant review panel?
Recently I thought I had lost my mind after receiving less than a week’s deadline to review and rank 35 grant applications (over 300 pages) from a cultural agency. I was however, pleasantly surprised to find the dialogue incredibly engaging and enlightening. I not only walked away with a greater sense of pride for the arts in my community, I learned what makes for a strong and fundable grant proposal—a critical lesson.
Interested in joining a school board? Why, sure!
Through a charter school board mixer hosted by Link Education earlier this year, I was introduced to an arts focused charter school where after going through a nominating and vetting process, last month I was elected to join the VOICE Charter School Board in Queens. I will see first-hand how a dedicated school board, a principal, and his staff collaboratively work together on building and governing a school that uses vocal music as its common curricular thread.
One of my favorite volunteer responsibilities is doing cool things like writing ARTSblog posts as an Arts Education Council member with Americans for the Arts (and then Tweeting about it). My service on the council has connected me to people from all over the country and engaged me in conversations about arts and education advocacy at the national level. How often do you get a chance to lobby for the arts in-person on Capitol Hill and sit next to Alec Baldwin?
I see these activities as an extension of my workday, which by choice leaves little time for anything else. Did I mention the five-month old Labrador puppy I’ve got sitting at my feet, licking my toes, and whining to go outside and play as I write?
I’m not sure we, as arts administrators, can make a clear divide between work and everything else.
How do expectations to volunteer and serve in addition to your normal work and life obligations (i.e. the puppy) change how you organize your time outside of the office?
I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation in San Antonio.
Maybe during times of crazy as an alternative to thinking “You Spin Me Round” I’ll start envisioning myself spinning into a happier, more attractive Wonder Woman instead.
Which brings me to the next step on my volunteer “I should” list—volunteer for a campaign and eventually run for public office.
Just wait America; I have so much more to give!