When the call for applicants went out for the first ever Local Arts Classroom (LAC) program with Americans for the Arts I didn’t hesitate to apply.
I had attended the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in 2011 and returned to work thinking, “I need more.”
I felt the need to stay connected to what’s happening on a national level, but had a desire to learn more about what I should be doing as a Program Director of a local arts agency. I read blogs, followed @Americans4Arts on Twitter, and was connected on a surface level, but missed the sense of camaraderie the convention facilitated.
Enter the LAC and a chance to learn about cultural planning, making space for art, advocacy, board and staff development, fundraising, and making the case for the arts; a chance to learn with arts administrators from all over the country; a chance to absorb different perspectives and experiences of those who know what it’s like to be an arts administrator.
I say “absorb” because that was how I approached the class: to be a sponge, and absorb every concept, idea, and piece of advice I could possibly take in.
One concept that I’ve applied frequently since I graduated from LAC is one about fundraising, planning, and community:
When planning for an event or fundraiser, organizations typically take this approach:
- Name the activity/goal/event
- Ask: What is a success for the organization?
- Ask: Was it a success for the community?
Local Arts Agencies that use the arts to facilitate community development should be putting their community first, thereby using this approach instead of the above:
- Ask: What kind of event/activity does your community need/want?
- Ask: How does it fit the mission of your organization?
- Ask: Should we do this again?
I’ve been using this same approach when evaluating our programs or when we’ve been asked to take on a new program.
Is it something our community needs? Does it fit our mission?
Those two questions have been my favorite tools over the last six months.
It seems obvious. But somewhere along the way, between the budgets, events, catalogs, programs, meetings, and everything else we do, the obvious is buried. LAC unearths the obvious to reveal a much needed foundation that this Art History major never had.
LAC helped me step outside my local bubble, interact with others facing similar problems and versatile solutions, and understand what it really means to be a local arts agency.
For those of you who have the chance to apply for LAC 2013, don’t procrastinate, don’t hesitate.
Drink the Kool-Aid and join the club!
Feel free to email me with any questions or Tweet questions to @JennaJoHartzell.
The Local Arts Classroom (LAC) is a five-month virtual leadership development series that provides an opportunity for local arts leaders to master foundational concepts and build skills through exposure to current practice in the core areas of local arts development. The LAC is accepting applications for the 2013 session (running January—May 2013) through November 16. Find out more at AmericansfortheArts.org.