I recently moderated a panel at the 25th Annual Winter Music Conference in Miami. It’s not the first place you would think that a panel on arts education would exist and indeed our discussion rounded out a week of panels that included conversation on why DJs should dye their hair to better market themselves. I worried that we would not have an audience – especially since the event was held on the last day of the conference. Adding to my concern, it was also a beautiful Saturday afternoon, it was on Ocean Drive and the beach was literally steps from our discussion room. If individuals made it past the beach, the second hurdle was the lobby where the conference had a collection of vinyl records for sale. While waiting for the room to be set up, I perused the record collection. Who knew that Appolonia released a solo record? Then I wondered, “Who knew about our panel?”

We were seven individuals and, according to the panel description, we were ready to discuss “Why are the arts important to child development and how are interdisciplinary approaches beneficial?” Also, “How does funding affect the quality of education in the Arts?” What a cast of characters we were. We could have given Gilligan’s gang a run for their money. After all, we too had a professor (actually, more than one) and arts leaders, radio talent, and composers to boot. The panelists and I joked that if no one came, we were happy to have met each other and we agreed to take an hour to converse over lunch and the inevitable South Beach cocktail. Read the rest of this entry »

A study produced by research economist Ann Markusen and colleagues in 2006 (Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial, Nonprofit and Community Work) sheds interesting light on the entrepreneurial approach that California artists are taking in managing their careers. Contrary to the stereotype of artists wanting to be left alone in their studios just to make art, the majority of California’s artists were actually organizing their careers by combining meaningful activities and income across community-based, nonprofit and commercial work. California artists reported significant dividends from this mixed-bag approach – work in the commercial sector offered more visibility and higher rates of financial return; the not-for-profit sector offered aesthetic satisfaction and opportunities for artistic exploration; and the community sector offered an outlet to stand up for political and social justice goals, and to affirm cultural identity.

At the Center for Cultural Innovation, we consider an artist’s ability to manage and direct their own “portfolio careers” to be the highest form of creative entrepreneurship, and we support this way of working by offering entrepreneurial training programs, convening and networking activities, and in our direct grantmaking to artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Based on a 2008 survey of Los Angeles-based emerging leaders, work/life balance is important and I assume that this priority is shared nation-wide. According to a recent report by the Center for Creative Leadership called “The Leadership GAP: What you need, and don’t have, when it comes to leadership,” a key future gap in leadership qualities will be balancing personal life and work.

The report urges today’s senior managers to practice a healthy work/life balance as an example for the future generation of leaders. Many of us have watched our role models work long, seemingly inhuman hours, repainting the black box, writing that NEA grant or serving their population after business hours with little distinction between work and personal life.  Conversely, a number of us have been exposed to supervisors who seem to effortlessly glide from family to work life such that neither is compromised, in fact where, both dimensions thrive. Read the rest of this entry »

This conversation has been percolating for a while and I know it will continue for years to come, but this chance to connect with my peers across the country in a forum supported by the Irvine and Hewlett  Foundations is especially exciting.

Irvine and Hewlett Officers: In case you haven’t heard this enough from your friends out in Cali, THANK YOU for your vision in supporting emerging leaders in the arts. We know the arts do not have a history of taking care of our own professional needs. It’s just not part of our culture—with every dollar we manage to scrounge up we buy another paint brush or pointe shoe. We need visionary supporters like you to nudge us to take care of ourselves. I hope the initiatives you’re supporting in California encourage other philanthropies to see the long-reaching potential of investing in the next generation of arts leaders.

Okay, gratitude out of the way, let me just take a moment to recognize the frame I am bringing to this blog salon. After three years working in a service organization and thinking about what arts managers want, my graduate program in public administration now gives me a chance to step back and see what other ends of the nonprofit sector and corporate world are doing in terms of professional and leadership development. I have just grazed the surface of leadership study, but let me tell you—there’s a lot out there and we, in the arts, need to take every opportunity to make ourselves a part of that conversation. We have a lot to learn and contribute. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Bigley

Every few months a trade journal or major national newspaper cites a study that indicates that a major leadership change will occur in the non-profit industry, with one generation of leaders retiring en masse and a new crop of leaders stepping in to helm this important sector.  While that may statistically be true, it begs the question: is a new generation truly ready to lead and have organizations and funders spent enough time and resources to ensure a successful transition?

I had the great privilege of serving as a founding member and past chair of The Forum for Emerging Arts Professionals, a DC area volunteer group that offered programs serving promising leaders in the non-profits arts field.  The Forum would host discussions about key issues facing emerging non-profit leaders and provide opportunities for networking and visits to local institutions.  In the course of setting up our programming, I would talk with other colleagues in the nonprofit and grantmaking communities about The Forum’s activities. At times, I would receive blank stares, or questions on why such a group needed to exist at all. At its core, the group was (and is) trying to provide a voice for emerging leaders and a forum to educate the next generation, not because we wanted to do it ourselves but because so few programs exist to help nurture those who want to lead institutions one day.  Read the rest of this entry »

The New Normal

Posted by Ebony McKinney On April - 6 - 20104 COMMENTS

“… it might be smart if we consider – both as isolated, individual organizations, and as a sector – what a “new normal” for us might actually end up looking like. If things don’t (can’t) go back to the way they were, then to the extent we anticipate what changes might be here to stay, the better we might be able to adjust and adapt to some new paradigm.” –Barry Hessenius in a recent post, Will Current Cuts End Up Permanent

Shifting patterns of cultural creation and consumption, increased digital technology, changing demographics and new leadership (or organizational) models have altered the cultural landscape in permanent and previously unseen ways. The door has been opened more widely for individuals of all ages to create, connect, distribute, and engage in community-based and entrepreneurial work. Many believe that the highly adaptive “Millennials” and “Generation X’ers”, are best suited to address these tectonic shifts.

So, let’s take a minute and imagine the new normal. What does it look and feel like? What are the new rules for our organizations, for the sector, for us? Perhaps, this downturn is an opportunity for broad, creative thinking about change in the arts and culture field, it’s leadership, marketing and financial structures? What are 21st century core competencies? Read the rest of this entry »

Josh Russell

Roughly 2.5 years ago, a group of younger arts professionals decided that the impending crisis of readiness of leaders in the arts was an issue we needed to get involved in. So, we formed a steering committee and created genARTS Silicon Valley to help prepare emerging arts professionals to step into leadership roles in the arts. As is the case with groups like this, we knew what the vision was but we felt getting the right people at the table was the most important way to begin.

Over the course of the first couple of years, we have explored different ways and opportunities to support emerging leaders and their path to leadership. We have convened strategic conversations with our peers, launched a mentorship program and have partnered with other networks to expand our reach and enable networking opportunities within our sphere as well as beyond it. But I have recently had an epiphany. Read the rest of this entry »

I first want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to Americans for the Arts for its interest in the important subject of supporting emerging arts leaders in California and beyond. Here at the Irvine Foundation, we take a keen interest in exploring ways to better develop and equip the next generation of arts leadership since this topic was highlighted as one of five key issues in our 2006 study Critical Issues Facing the Arts in California: A Working Paper.

We have since commissioned additional research in order to better understand this issue and were surprised to learn that, unlike many nonprofits in other sectors, the arts field in general does not face this so-called “leadership crisis” of not having qualified insiders who can assume control of their organizations when needed. Instead, the research showed that we need to pay attention to how best to develop and retain existing administrators for leadership positions and that (no surprise here) arts organizations don’t dedicate nearly enough resources for leadership and professional  development programs to meet the large demand for accessible and affordable services. Many younger survey respondents spoke of a desire to learn how to run a nonprofit “like a business” and for opportunities for skills trainings, conferences, mentorships and networking opportunities amongst peer groups. And although most people see the value in these opportunities, they are often the first things that get cut when the budget belt tightens. Read the rest of this entry »

As a baby boomer, I have started to think not only about retirement, which is looming over the horizon, but also about how to better relate to the 20 and 30-somethings who are waiting in the wings and how to help prepare them to take on leadership roles.

At the George Gund Foundation, I have become the mentor for participants in our Gund Fellows program, an informal position that has offered me the chance to work with some extremely bright, energetic and talented young people. It has been incredibly rewarding and has been a growth experience for me as well as for them. Being able to “payback” by passing along my experience and knowledge has been fulfilling, and they have exposed me to new ideas I might otherwise have missed. Read the rest of this entry »

Rethinking Arts Funding

Posted by Katherine Denny On April - 5 - 20102 COMMENTS

Despite – or maybe because of – the economic downturn, new, forward-thinking arts funding models are booming. In my dual capacity as grants administrator and grants seeker, I pay careful attention to the reaction of funders in good times and bad. As we all know, arts funding has historically been limited; recent decreases in philanthropic giving overall doesn’t help.  A few young leaders, however, have responded to these limitations by creating new funding models.

What has occurred is a transition from traditional giving through proposals with guidelines to democratized giving through popular vote and/or reliance on small donations. The young leaders who are behind these new systems are using tools they know best:  social media and critical mass. Two models – launched out of Brooklyn, NY in 2009 – are starting to take off:

Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com):  an online fundraising tool, in association with Amazon.com, allows users to solicit individual donations from friends, family and just about anyone who knows the website exists. Any artist or arts organization is able to upload a proposed project to Kickstarter, then market the project to their friends and networks.  Reminiscent of the success of the Obama/Biden Campaign of 2008, a project becomes successful through widespread solicitation of smaller donations using online media. Small donations which, these days, are more stable than a foundation grant. And the result is a streamlined individual giving campaign with minimal effort but with potential to fill that funding gap many arts organizations experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Take the Leadership Reins

Posted by Shannon Daut On April - 5 - 20104 COMMENTS

I thought I’d start my first blog post with a little about myself. I am at the end of the Emerging Leader spectrum, as I am 35 and have worked in the field for almost eleven years. I was extremely blessed and fortunate to have entered this field working for an organization with leadership that sincerely values the input and perspective of young people. I began working at WESTAF in 1999, almost fresh out of college, in an entry-level position.

Since that time, I have advanced steadily and now am in senior management at the organization. I believe this is the result of the aforementioned qualities of the WESTAF leadership, but also due to the fact that I worked assiduously to expand my role within whatever position I held, so that I was continually growing both personally and professionally. And part of it was just luck, I’m pretty sure.

When I think about my experience compared to those of my peers, I know that my ambitious tendencies would have likely been squelched had I been at a different organization. All the emerging leader professional development opportunities in the world will have little meaning if those who hold leadership positions do not encourage and support the emerging leaders in their ranks. I was never presented with a plan for how to develop myself professionally; rather, I sought out opportunities and proposed them to our executive director, who would approve it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping Talent in the Field

Posted by Marc Vogl On April - 5 - 20104 COMMENTS

Marc Vogl

Soon after I started my job at Hewlett a couple years ago I was at a party in San Francisco talking to a woman who had just turned 30. Let’s call her Tina (she’s not called Tina but this is my first blog post and if I want to make up aliases, who’s gonna stop me?).  Tina worked for a Bay Area arts organization. The mission of the organization was inspiring, she said, as were the artists she was employed to support. The people she shared an office with were more than co-workers, they were her friends. So, why wasn’t Tina happy with her job? Why was she disenchanted with her prospects in the field she’d chosen? Why, to be blunt, was Tina on her way to law school?

There are a million personal reasons that go into the major decisions we make in life, and the work we do in the arts doesn’t occur in a vacuum. So I get that no philanthropic initiative to increase the odds that smart, talented, driven people contribute their skills and passion to making great art possible, and are incentivized to stay in our sector for the long haul is not going to work for everyone. No matter how much professional development training, mentoring, or peer networking Tina received, no matter how much her boss acknowledged her contributions, asked for her input, empowered her to turn ideas into action – or even if she had been better paid and had health insurance (!) – she may still have decided this was not the career for her. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello Everyone-

I have been waiting to make an “official” post until I could create a slightly organized pattern as to how these posts would go so that folks would know when to check if a new post has been published. I have decided, until the conversation gets going a bit more, I will publish one post about a specific portion of the green paper every other week, and a post about a general topic regarding the field in the weeks between. So, check the blog each Monday, and something new should be up. :)

Specific topic #1
Reading thru the green paper, I came across this sentence that I thought many of us could relate to:

“Changes in the American economic and healthcare systems, coupled with the growth of our aging populations, bring opportunities for expansion of the arts in healthcare into rural communities and the realms of public health, social services, and human services.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with:

How did I end up writing for this blog salon? Do my friends at Americans for the Arts know how old I am? I am going to hang up my GIA hat for a moment, and write from my perspective as a long-time advisor and current board president of the Washington Ensemble Theater in Seattle. I have been working with this group for roughly five years, and most of the artists involved are in their 20’s or early 30s.

What have I learned?  Folks are coming out of MA programs in acting, theater design, and directing graduate without receiving much training in basic business, finance, or management skills. But, on the other hand, they are absolutely fearless about jumping in and making up what is needed from scratch. This is both a blessing and a curse.  Along with administrative innovation comes glacial progress at basic management tasks, and a legion of artists becoming burnt out from endless tasks done inefficiently. If this company is representative of the field, there is a lot of time and energy wasted reinventing wheels. Multiply this by hundreds of comparable small theaters and you have colossal waste. Read the rest of this entry »

In October 2009, I attended a panel put together by the Hewlett Foundation’s Marc Vogl at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference on new models and emerging leaders in the arts. Afterwards, Marc offered to send me, like everyone else who attended the panel, a copy of the Focus Group on Next Generation Leadership report by Barry Hessenius. The report is wonderful (disclosure: I participated in one of said focus groups during my internship at Hewlett in summer 2008), but since I had already read it, my attention was drawn instead to something else Marc included in the package: an excerpt from the most recent application for funding from the Hewlett Foundation that specifically asks grantseekers to address emerging leader issues.

For context, everyone should understand that Hewlett is a major funder of the performing arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nearly every player in the region either receives grants from Hewlett or aspires to. So the Performing Arts Program team’s decision to put this in the application means that a lot of people will be filling it out. And just what questions will they be answering? Well, here’s a sample:

Have you provided formal feedback about job performance to all of your employees in the last 12 months (for example, through performance evaluations, a discussion on meeting job expectations, etc.)? Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.