The Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Network works to identify and cultivate the next generation of arts leaders in America. It is an ideal way for new leaders to share their interests with others as they continue to develop their skills and their commitment to the arts. The Emerging Leader Network targets professionals who are either new to the field, with up to five years of experience, or are 35 years of age or younger. Visit AmericansForTheArts.org for more information on the Emerging Leader Network.
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? Read the rest of this entry »
For decades, the arts industry has chased new audiences, especially younger audiences. Today, that chase is directed at the largest population under 30 years old in human history. It’s little wonder that Gen Y (born 1981–2001) is a hot topic for arts marketers.
As a data-informed member of Gen Y, here’s a take on my generation of arts consumers.
We curate our lives. For as long as we’ve been consumers, we have always had access to Google and Amazon. Search is our way of finding out anything and everything we want to know. We are the generation of the long-tail. This means we have had access to more variety of art, music, performances, and consumer products than any other generation in history.
Because we have access to virtually everything, we take pleasure in exploring the original and local and not just mass-market products and experiences. The data backs this up; an Edelman Digital study found that 40% of Gen Y participants preferred buying local, even if it meant paying more than a mass-market product.
Beyond buying local, the exploration of everything available in the marketplace has led to a culture where we curate our lives. The rise of personal curation—selection of exactly what we want from all that’s available—is evident in the recent popularity of Pinterest.
We spend on what we value. Gen Y is often characterized as cheap. There’s good reason for our cost-consciousness. Gen Y paid much more for college than previous generations and now has record levels of student debt. We face an unprecedented labor market that has offered us more unemployment and underemployment than under-30s of nearly any previous generation.
In light of our generation’s thriftiness, the Edelman study’s spending metric suggest that a cheap price is not our only motivation to buy. Warren Buffet once said, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” Price and value are connected for Gen Y. Read the rest of this entry »
I used to believe that my role, and that of my teaching colleagues, was to ensure that we gave to our art majors our full measure of knowledge, skills, and understanding. I like to think that we took every opportunity to sharpen their critical eyes and guide them to more enriched sensibilities as they aspired to be artists, art teachers, and art historians.
That was what college was all about, and I thought that if they worked hard and gave it their “all,” then we’d applaud them at commencement and wish them well (while, among ourselves, we knew full well that many, perhaps most would not “make it”).
While I don’t think I ever said it straight out, I do believe that my message to graduates at every commencement was, “We’ve done our part; now it is up to you.” I now am embarrassed to say that implicit in this thinking was the notion that we in higher education need not assume any responsibility for what happens later, after our students leave. After all, we gave 100 percent to all of our students—so we thought—who were with us for those four, five, or six years. What they did after graduation was unquestionably up to them.
The national discourse about the value (or lack of value) of higher education is making it quite clear that there is a greater (or new) expectation that we in higher education now provide a bit more—perhaps a lot more—than a “discover yourself” curriculum that results in nearly half of arts graduates dropping out of the field before the second anniversary of their commencement (see Strategic National Arts Alumni Project that has been tracking the lives and careers of arts graduates in America). This, of course, is not a desirable result; therefore, we must change the way we’re doing things or we will continue to get the same result in years to come.
What has become obvious to me is that artists are entrepreneurs too. Artists have to network, have to market themselves as well as their work, they have to take risks and have to profit from failure not unlike those we recognize as the most successful entrepreneurs. Whether a designer or painter or sculptor or even art historian and art educator, there is a benefit to being additionally prepared with the tools to manage one’s career and apply one’s creativity to ensuring success. Read the rest of this entry »
At her 1985 retirement, after 20 years as founding director of the Arts & Business Council (ABC), Sybil Simon chose as her legacy a program which helped diversify the nonprofit arts sector. This program took the form of The Multicultural Arts Management Internship Program. It became an overwhelming annual success, attracting hundreds of applicants from across the United States, thanks to ABC’s partnership with Con Edison.
This summer, 11 interns were selected to work in areas such as fundraising, marketing, programming, audience development, and finance for ten weeks. Based upon their personal interests, the interns are paired with theater and dance companies, arts service organizations, music festivals, museums, etc. Organizations chosen to participate entrust the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) to interview all intern candidates and conduct the placement.
Supervisors at the arts organizations provide support in terms of creating an interns project (examples: assigning them to spearhead a marketing initiative for a festival or research prospective donors for a new capital campaign) and providing professional guidance for the eager students. Con Edison’s generous support lavishes interns with a $2,500 stipend (a rarity in the arts sector!).
The internship is not only unique because it promotes cultural diversity while empowering interns to take a significant role in their organizations, but also because business mentors are granted to the interns. Con Edison doesn’t just bestow financial support to our organization—they are personally involved by assigning staff as mentors. The mentors collectively represent alternative involvement in the arts, should the interns choose to work in business—they are patrons, donors, and board members—all excellent examples of our sector’s desired audience.
The business mentors attend events, take interns to coffee, visit their organizations, invite interns to their office, and attend site visits (where students lead a tour of their organization and present the results of their summer project). Con Edison also hosts the entire program for an opening breakfast and closing dinner ceremony, where the host supervisors, business mentors, interns, and Arts & Business Council staff come together to celebrate the program and reflect upon the summer.
Here’s a video of some of the interns and mentors in action: Read the rest of this entry »
The old saying goes, “The only thing constant in life is change.” And with the current pace of change in the workplace, there is a demand for businesses to be ready for anything and everything. In order for business leaders to thrive in today’s market, they must be receptive, responsive, and adaptive. But how can business leaders prepare themselves for the unexpected?
Frank J. Barrett, professor of management and global public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, suggests that business leaders take a cue from jazz musicians and practice improvisation.
In his article featured in Fast Company, Barrett explains how the skills jazz musicians develop while improvising can also be helpful working in the office. Through improvisation, one nurtures spontaneity, cultivates creativity, encourages experimentation, and facilitates dynamic synchronization—all traits that are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. By harnessing these qualities, businesses will be better equipped to tackle challenges that come their way.
Barrett proposes the following practices to help business leaders replicate the environment of a jazz band jam session:
Treat each task as an experiment
Every time a jazz musician improvises with a band, he/she tries different combinations of notes and rhythms over the chord changes of a song. As the musician performs, he or she is aware of his or her actions, listens to what works musically, and is receptive to others’ responses. Each spontaneous composition, therefore, becomes a learning process.
By adopting this experimental approach for the office, Barrett believes you will obtain a mindset focused on discovery. Because you are constantly proposing new ideas and testing new hypotheses, you are more receptive to different ways of thinking and encourage breaking the routine. By consistently approaching projects through this process of trial and error, you become more aware of yourself and your own experiences, and you consequently learn more. Read the rest of this entry »
My summer internship with Americans for the Arts has regrettably come to an end. If I knew an inch about marriage, I’d say this feels a lot like the ride back from the honeymoon. Which I mention only to suggest how uneasy I feel saying farewell to ten weeks worth of swimming through everything art. With people who love it so tremendously, they fight for it each day.
It’s times like this when every instruction kneaded into my writing toolbox knocks on my door and offers itself to me—mostly to make sure each emotional simile this blog post doesn’t need can be prevented, like overlooked leaks beneath the kitchen sink (they persist, nonetheless).
At any rate, the advice knocking today is this: “Kiss the beginning.” And I think it’s only right to revisit the very first question I posed this summer (presented to you in the title), to see what many experiences I’m able to offer at its side.
As I mull everything over now, though, I’ll present just a couple. These two ideas, I hope, should suffice.
So to begin with a lesson I’ve learned on this journey, which is less about art and more about being human: I am small. This is not a commentary on my physical stature, but more on my existence and each of our lives. We are unfathomably small.
It’s hard for me to grapple with this truth, because since conception we’ve been taught and treated otherwise. The idea of our singular importance persists by way of talent shows, academic ceremonies, sporting and artistic competitions, promotions, and so on. And it’s not my wish to attack the way our societies reward this measure of our own greatness. If anything, with the Olympics as a perfect example, a single person’s achievements help to heal and unite an entire nation. Read the rest of this entry »
There has been much talk lately of what it means to be a “modern woman.”
I am told that I am a millennial, that I am part of a generation, a movement much larger than myself. This may be true for the purposes of the census but on a day-to-day level I am not overly-conscious of myself as a particular type of woman who is part of a particular type of generation. I owe that to my parents, who built a life for my sister and myself that meant that we could decide who we wanted to be, that we could fulfill most of our dreams if we had the ambition.
So this blog post is not about what it means to be a millennial woman because:
1.) I’m less concerned with “having it all” by myself as I am with everyone getting the very least that they deserve (give me a society with truly equal rights for all, then we’ll talk.)
2.) I’m 19-years-old and I cannot speak on behalf of an entire people.
I have refused to do this since third grade when, while becoming friends with the most popular girl in school, I was designated as the emissary to tell some poor girl who had done nothing that “no one” liked her; I’ve strayed away from the crowd mentality ever since.
What this post is about is mentorship.
This has been a pivotal argument in the “modern woman” debate: who does the next generation of women look up to and why? The landscape seems bleak. Those astute enough not to follow the Kardashian life plan seem equally as disinterested in becoming the high-flying corporate woman on the other end of the spectrum. So the millennial generation, my generation, has decided they can go it alone. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s rare, if not completely unheard of, to hear a recent college graduate speak about the social responsibility that compels him to reach the community at-large as well as the individual spirit.
And quite possibly, it’s even more unique to hear this from a young poet, one who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business coupled with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.
And so, I introduce you to a good friend of mine, Cortney Charleston, a man who embodies a beautiful truth: philanthropic and volunteer work should not be solely reserved for more glamorous and older generations.
I asked Cortney to detail his personal artistic journey that brought him to this understanding, and how his two years of service spent hosting poetry workshops at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (PICC) have affected him and can indirectly, I hope, change our own personal beliefs about service.
Victoria: From looking at your educational background, it’s interesting that during your college career you became a poet. Could you explain that journey and how you came to pursue poetry?
Cortney: I suppose having a business degree and an interest in poetry would surprise most people (not to mention the fact I did not take an English course during my entire tenure at Penn), but for me, it was a very natural progression.
During my Freshman Year, I was going through a tumultuous time. I was struggling to find my niche on campus, I was lonely, romantically frustrated, and my family life began to deteriorate. My grades dipped and my extracurricular involvements were not giving me the escape I needed. I needed a way to work through my trials.
Poetry was not initially a consideration. I happened upon it by chance. A friend of mine was visiting Penn in the spring semester, trying to decide between coming there or going to Stanford. I decided to show him around and take him to [see a spoken word performance on campus by] the Excelano Project. I had not seen the group at that time; I had only heard rumblings around campus. Quite frankly, I walked in there and was blown away. It was at that moment I thought poetry might be the outlet I needed. Read the rest of this entry »
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in the current edition of The Atlantic got me thinking.
I do believe a woman can have it all. Life is all about choices—this is just as true for men as it is for women.
I have a theatre degree and had seen women with their children playing hide and seek in rows of seating or with their Barbies in the aisles during rehearsals, one eye on their napping baby and the other on the actors they were directing and made a different choice for myself.
I so admired these mothers, but wanted something different and opted to try to impact theatres by being an attendee and board member and make my living advancing the arts in other ways.
I got lucky in working for Americans for the Arts, and its predecessor organization. I love this work. It is hard and important. That said, I was honestly relieved when my husband came home miserable from a job he hated and we agreed it would be best for him to stay home for a while. I wanted him to be happy and thought it would be great for him to be available to take my daughter to doctor visits and soccer practices.
It meant major financial sacrifices for sure, but it enabled me to do this job and at the same time rarely miss a soccer game, crew match, helping her study for exams, or walking her through a difficult social situation at school. I made an agreement with Bob Lynch (our President and CEO) that I would get in the office early and start running, but I would be out of here each night in time for dinner (with obvious exceptions for events and conferences).
There are great role models all around me. I have never looked for society to tell me who I am supposed to be, how I am supposed to spend my time, or what I am supposed to do with my life. I have gone with gut and drive. I never worried about whether a man was climbing higher or getting paid more. Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of weeks ago, Barry Hessenius of Barry’s Blog posted a question and concern that caught my attention. He wondered “whether or not we are isolating [emerging leaders] by relegating them to their own niche as ‘emerging’, and whether or not by confining them to their own ‘silo’, we might be doing them, and ourselves [meaning the field]—at least in part—a disservice.”
I was pleased to see Barry post this concern, because at least a couple of times a year, arts administrators approach me with the same issues. In my role as leadership development program manager at Americans for the Arts, our Emerging Leaders program and national network is a large part of my work portfolio.
I want to thank Barry for sharing his thoughts on emerging leaders and bringing this issue, which has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time now, to wider attention. Barry also deserves quite a bit of credit for all the great work he has done on behalf of emerging leaders in California. The networks in California—thanks in large part to the James Irvine Foundation’s and the Hewlett Foundation’s leadership—are some of the most robust networks we have nationally and are consistently looked to as model programs.
I appreciate Barry’s concerns regarding sub-sectors of our field, and wanting to create an environment where those new to the field can be seen as fellow leaders by their peers. Transition and succession planning is a large issue that our field needs to address head on in a unified way. As an emerging leader myself, I personally want to avoid the existence of “artificial walls” between emerging and experienced leaders.
In my mind, one of the discerning qualities of the Emerging Leaders Network is that it is an opportunity for those new to the field to practice and workshop their leadership skills, learn fundamentals, and network with peers. Oftentimes, a new arts administrator can feel isolated in their work, and one of the largest benefits of the network to me is that it allows an individual to connect to something larger than themselves and remember that they are a part of a movement. Read the rest of this entry »
As it turns out, quite a bit.
Since 2008, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) has surveyed graduates of arts training programs—people who received undergraduate and/or graduate arts degrees from colleges and universities as well as diplomas from arts high schools…people who majored in architecture, arts education, creative writing, dance, design, film, fine arts, media arts, music, theater, and more.
To date, SNAAP has collected data from over 50,000 arts graduates of all ages and nationalities. These respondents, as we call them in the survey world, graduated from nearly 250 different educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.
In a few short years, SNAAP has become what is believed to be the largest database ever assembled about the arts and arts education, as well as the most comprehensive alumni survey conducted in any field.
Recently, we published our latest findings: A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers. The report provides findings from over 33,000 arts graduates who responded to the online survey last fall.
Our report has attracted media coverage from the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Inside Higher Ed and—we were gawked on gawker.com! My favorite may be Forbes, which compares getting an arts degree with getting a law degree—and recommends that prospective law students consider an arts career instead.
Here are some of the big questions that SNAAP data begin to answer.
1. Where do arts graduates go?
- First, they are largely employed. Only 4% of SNAAP respondents are unemployed and looking for work, as opposed to the national average of 8.9%.
- 72% have worked as professional artist at some point in their career, and just over half (51%) do so currently. Read the rest of this entry »
“Great art comes from great pain.”
A fully loaded and explosive statement if ever there was one, this is the primary proposition in Christopher Zara’s recent book Tortured Artists, a collection of forty-eight profiles on some of the most celebrated artists of the millennium—from Mozart to Woolf, Garland to Disney.
What exactly, though, is Mr. Zara suggesting?
According to the managing editor of Show Business himself, “I never claimed that art cannot be produced without suffering, only that art produced without suffering is not likely to be very good.”
Zara is not the first to remark on behalf of this haunting stock character. In fact, the tortured artist mythology is one that has sustained a life of its own for centuries, overflowing with the same torment associated with the artists in Zara’s collection—full of devout self-hatred, extreme cases of introverted or extroverted tendencies, sexual frustrations, personality disorders, tremendous amounts of substance abuse, and high rates of suicide.
And still beyond any shadow of a doubt, in these ashes were some of the greatest artistic achievements born.
By looking at the profiles and history alone, one might be quick to say art is more formulaic than we ever perceived. True art can be reduced to a mere mathematical equation where anguish stands idly left of the equality sign and magnificence resides on the other (do what you will with the variables).
Of course, my aim is not to present art as a formula. It is also not my desire to debunk the tortured-artist concept entirely. It’s a fascinating one and I want to investigate it more critically. Read the rest of this entry »
“I kept looking around and wondering: Do I belong here? Do I want to belong here? I mean…What if I don’t want to be a nonprofit rockstar?”
The question hit me hard. I was leading an informal roundtable on work/life balance at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, and a young mother was talking to me about her experience at the Emerging Leaders Preconference.
She was referencing the second of two mind-blowingly awesome sessions by Rosetta Thurman, a 29-year-old writer and career coach who co-authored How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career with Trista Harris, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.
In the session, Rosetta led us through the seven tenets of the book, including Developing Expertise and Practicing Authentic Leadership. You’ll have to buy it to find out the other five. I did buy it, marking the first time I’ve purchased a speaker’s book immediately after leaving a session.
There’s something weird about being in a room filled with really, really motivated young people. This was a room with the future head of the National Endowment for the Arts, the next Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, the budding arts manager who will re-envision the museum-going experience for the 21st century.
And then there’s me.
At least, that’s always where my brain goes. Not in a good way—more of a “Why am I here and why am I in a suit?” way. Read the rest of this entry »
There are currently four different generations existing in the workplace and living within our communities. Each generation has unique characteristics, and preferred ways that they interact with technology, each other, and their relationship between work, life, and family.
During our Annual Convention last week, presenters for the Shift Happens in the Generation Gap session led attendees in a conversation around new approaches and strategies to promote intergenerational collaboration within the workplace. They also discussed new practices to connect with ethnically diverse audiences.
Rosetta Thurman, owner and principal of Thurman Consulting and author of the book How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar began the session by leading us through the characteristics, similarities, and differences of the four different generations:
- Matures were born between the years 1925–1945. They are best characterized as wanting to continue contributing and providing mentorship.
- Boomers are the largest generation with 80 million of them in the workforce today. Born between 1946–1964, they have a strong sense of optimism and tend to operate under the assumption that they will be around forever.
- Generation X is best known as the Slacker Generation. Born between 1965–1979, they tend to be very individualistic, but are also not interested in the corporate world. They are half the size of Boomers, and often considered the “forgotten generation” in that can be passed over for leadership opportunities simply because there aren’t as many of them.
- Millennials were born between 1980–2000, and are growing up as the most educated generation to date, but also carry the largest amount of student debt. Once they enter the working world, they expect to be paid well not always out of entitlement but out of necessity. This generation is very technology centered and thrives in a constantly connected world.
After taking session participants through that overview, Rosetta invited us to think about our own experiences, and to highlight similarities and differences that people are seeing amongst generations in their own work. After 10 minutes of discussion, everyone came back together, and reported out from our conversations. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most important sessions I attended at this year’s Annual Convention was Salvador Acevedo’s talk on “How Changing Demographics Are Shifting Your Community.”
One of Salvador’s main points asked us to change our thinking from embracing “multiculturalism”—discrete ethnic identities that fit into neat census boxes—to “interculturalism,” a more broadly defined approach that invites people to define their identities contextually—and, to some degree, interchangeably.
Salvador cited research indicating the demographic landscape in America is rapidly changing. California is poised to become the first “minority majority” state, while several others already have collective non-white populations that outnumber the white population. Since half of all current births are non-white (or perhaps non-solely white), it’s clear a sea change is inevitable.
Salvador asked the audience in his “reverse Q&A” at the end of the session to talk about a time when we realized diversity was important to our organization. I talked about my participation on the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) and how, just a few years ago, we released a slate of nominees for ELC election only to be criticized by our arts colleagues for releasing a slate of exclusively white candidates.
It wasn’t like we didn’t realize “diversity is important.” Of course we do. But the criticism pointed out a valid flaw in both our process of choosing nominees and the process inherent in populating the ELC.
Since then, the ELC has engaged in difficult, uncomfortable, and oftentimes unresolveable conversations about how we ensure our elected body is representative of the future of the field. Salvador’s talk provided a helpful context for thinking about the challenges we face in doing this. Read the rest of this entry »