Veteran Leaders  – You were once just as we are now: in the early stages of your career, eager to make a difference, and to build our professional standing while improving the landscape of the American arts.  You may have been afraid to say “no” to mounting tasks and projects, but persevered till each and every project was accomplished.  You learned on the job by doing your job, and you were inspired by supervisors who were often older than you.  You were motivated to prove yourself.

We too are now in those early, exciting years of the professional realm which becomes a substantial and meaningful part of our lives.  The discussion of age-bias in the field is not an argument in a “young vs. old” or “entry level vs. experienced”.  As a young administrator in the arts, I do not feel that the topic is necessarily a recent issue, but rather one that you yourselves dealt with as well.  I believe the Emerging Leaders Network , 20UNDER40, and other, similar forums strive to openly discuss the challenges we face as rising arts administrators so that even younger generations may more easily navigate their entry into and relationships within the field of arts administration, and we as their future supervisors do not perpetuate age bias, which seems to be a recurring issue.

Novice leaders  have heard that some administrators of older generations are offended by groups such as Emerging Arts Leaders and 20UNDER40.  Edward Clapp of 20UNDER40 says he has received complaints from experienced leaders citing the project “ageist,” ” exclusionary,” and “dangerous.” (See Clapp’s earlier blog post)  Dangerous?  Why is it dangerous to have a discussion of current issues facing the arts sector and their leaders today?  I do not believe the issue of age is a dangerous topic with the potential to destroy all that has been achieved.  Read the rest of this entry »

I wanted to quit my job and leave the arts four years ago!

This year, I will celebrate my 10th anniversary as an arts and culture administrator.  (I always make sure to include culture, as I started my career working for my local history museum.)  Even with moving to different positions and organizations, it would not faze me until 2005 that I was on a career path and part of a larger global community of colleagues.

My career trajectory included working for the museum for three years, moving to the state humanities council, then to being a presenter, to finally coming to the state arts commission.  During most of that timeframe, I was living in my hometown, a small rural community in between Phoenix and Tucson.  However, I did move to Phoenix for the state job.

After less than a year working for the arts commission, I wasn’t happy. There was something missing from my personal life that was making my professional life uneven.  After months of deliberation I came to the conclusion that I was missing the community feel from my hometown and I needed to find a job in Casa Grande and move back.  Since art or museums jobs are scarce, I probably would have to find something out of the cultural sector. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a great group of folks, discussing such a fascinating (and sometimes polarizing) subject. My name is John and I’m a program manager at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. I work in National Partnerships, serving the national network of state Alliances for Arts Education. I also help to dissemination the Kennedy Center’s suite of teaching artist training programs in arts integration, residency planning, and other areas.

The topic of emerging leadership is near to my professional heart. One of the reasons I stayed in the arts was the network of peers I quickly built from my first job in arts administration. I was working for the Washington State Arts Alliance in Seattle, WA and my boss suggested I get involved with the Emerging Leader Network of Americans for the Arts. I went to a conference, found kindred spirits, and made sure to get to every Americans for the Arts conference until I was honored to be elected to the Emerging Leader Council itself. From there, Americans for the Arts hired me and I moved to DC.

Without that network, I would not have developed the interpersonal connections that solidified my commitment to this field. Were it not for the colleagues and friends—those with whom I had frank and easy conversations, shared language, shared even a style of clothing—I would have easily departed the field for another type of job. We were compatriots, battling scarce funding, personnel challenges, and other issues that weighed on us, professionally. I’m sure this experience is common to any generation or group of any kind. Like likes like. But more than that, we sustain each other in rougher times. These connections do not preclude nor devalue connections made across our differences. Read the rest of this entry »

When my manager at the time approached me about applying to be an Emerging Leader Council member, my first thought was “Why?”.  I was a coordinator at the city arts council; what in heaven’s name could I possibly bring to the table?  And what is an Emerging Leader?  Well, her answer was simple: “What is your title at the theatre?,” referring to the community theatre where I volunteer.  I responded “President of the Board of Trustees, why?” “That makes you a leader.”

I had to really think about that – and not just that, but the fact that I enjoyed organizing folks and helping people make connections. That I was active on the state level in support of community theatre.  That I was an active member of the artistic community and people (for whatever reason) listened to and spoke with ME about stuff – challenges in their theatres, needs in their community, finding people to fill positions…

It was like a whole new world opened up, and I was suddenly looking at myself with new eyes. I never considered myself a leader; I think most “leaders” don’t.  They do what they do because they can’t do things any other way.  It’s intrinsic, base. Pre-programmed and hard-wired.  And that is the challenge of perpetuating a concept of the “Emerging Leader”. How do you convert people who just are “leaders” into Leaders who identify themselves by that title and recognize who they are and what they bring to the greater community?  Read the rest of this entry »

What, Me Lead?

Posted by Bridget Matros On October - 19 - 20093 COMMENTS

I was always pegged as a “leader.” They pick them in high school. Or so it seems. And from treatment as such, you get to do wonderful things. Then you float around in the real world for a bit, working two jobs to pay rent while figuring out what you want to do with your life, and you are no longer a leader. You are a shmoe like everyone else.  After that hiatus, someone at a reputable college sees from your records that you were a Leader, so of course, they invite you to attend, for further grooming. And you learn Leadership Skills (can’t think of any offhand), get to do wonderful things (like go to school for free), and in return, in all your wisdom, you Train Leaders before another stint as jobless shmoe.

Yes, I actually taught a course for the other first-generation, low-income well-doer Leader-types on leadership in community service. Seeing upper-class white kids invade the local community with their conceptual ideals and clumsy ignorance was like nails on a chalkboard to me, so I mostly focused on what NOT to do, which I hear is a poor way to Lead. Still, the people in the community were sad that I was leaving town after graduation (or perhaps scared). Come to think of it, I even interned for several years at an organization called “Grassroots Leadership Development.” They trained Leaders. I had a fancy well-paid fellowship in what was to be “my field” – public school reform. I was always wary of what these investors expected from me, from high school onward, hoping to be across the country when I’ve failed to be the Leader they expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten years ago, at a 1999 Americans for the Arts conference titled “Remembering the Past/Envisioning the Future”, five young arts professionals attending the conference were frustrated by the lack of participation by other young leaders, especially considering the conversation centered so much on the future.  These leaders realized something had to be done.  Americans for the Arts agreed, and the Emerging Leaders Network was born.

My name is Stephanie Evans, Local Arts Agency Services Coordinator at Americans for the Arts.  I am an Emerging Arts Leader, working to coordinate the field of Emerging Arts Leaders to offer networking opportunities and professional development.  But what does that mean?  Why do we identify ourselves as Emerging Arts Leaders?  The official definition is “anyone under the age of 35 or who has been in the field for less than 5 years.”  But what are we leading?  Who are we leading?

Many of us are leaders in our own individual roles.  We are Executive Directors, Board Members, Community Leaders, Volunteer Leaders, the list goes on.  But collectively – What are the thousands of Emerging Arts Leaders working towards?  And should we be working towards anything?  Does our voice matter?  It should.  It’s our future.  But at the same time, we come after a generation of hard working veteran arts leaders who have given us jobs, advice, mentorship opportunities, and even if we want to change things, their work needs to be honored and respected.
All of these questions are the reason I am so excited about the 20UNDER40 Project, the anthology of twenty essays by Emerging Leaders, and the discourse that this project has incited thus far. Read the rest of this entry »

This is my very first foray into the blogosphere. Sure, I Facebook and have left an online review or two, but unlike others straddling the Y and Millennial generations, I am not a dedicated, you tubing, tweeting, social networker. I first heard about 20under40 at the AFTA annual conference then followed a bit of the debate on Facebook. I was excited about the project then surprised to hear the caustic debate over the age factor. Why limit the voices in this project to those under 40?

I’m of the opinion that any age can “emerge” in this field; it’s common to change careers later in life. Professionals of all ages have an important voice in the conversation about the future and reality of this generational shift. But, being the youngest in the room is all too familiar, and can breed a bit of insecurity. Like every young professional, I work hard to hold my own and know that I have valuable contributions to make based on my life experiences. Sometimes I am given the opportunity to contribute; other times I have to put myself out there and see if the field will look past my shorter resume.

There is something very different about emerging in this field because of youth rather than following a new career path; each has their own challenge and opportunity. When exploring my own experience in this field I am struck first by two connected concepts, social capital and mentorship. Read the rest of this entry »

I have been working with Edward on this book project for quite some time–as the “old fart” offering support and feedback on creating a book and managing a big project. I entered the project believing that the “mainstream” (whatever that is) field of the arts/arts education has been unwelcoming to the voices and input of young leaders. Indeed, as an active mentor to many young professionals who graduated from programs I taught and intensives I led, I have a visceral sense of the way many have felt ignored, disrespected and sometimes flat-out squelched. At the same time, I am actively in touch with many young leaders who have found their voice, found their leadership, and are making a huge difference already. So, I enter this dialogue believing there are few generalizations that apply truthfully.

My two cents: the voices of young leaders are heard occasionally in remarkable mainstream situations (I can think of a few institutions that have hired young superstars who are change makers in their 30s); the voices of the young are more widely heard as a result of small organizations, project successes, and artistic breakthroughs of their own creation; and overall, as a field, we DO disrespect the leadership and voice of young leaders. There are demographic reasons (the Boomers are not retiring in the traditional leadership ladder pattern of past generations); economic reasons (the arts/arts learning fields are in almost constant stress which constrains both job advancement and the innovative and bold ideas of the young); and for very human reasons that appeared in previous blogs and online conversations around 20 UNDER 40 discussions. Read the rest of this entry »

Being a woman over fifty who doesn’t own her own home, who is still paying off her student loans and who 20 years ago realized that upward mobility was no longer the modus operandi if she chose to stay in the arts –I do have to ask, what is all the fuss about.

What is so different for the younger generation now than when I entered the work force? (Before you shout heresy, hear me out). Armed with my BFA and a kick-ass resume I worked two and three jobs, my friends and I produced our own shows to get our equity cards. We grew as artists by starting our own performance spaces to do the work we wrote ourselves. We formed our own acting troupes, got noticed in the Village Voice–a big thing back then, slept little, barely bought food and shopped at the Goodwill. Later when I graduated from Harvard with Brustein’s patriarchal blessings ushering me into the world fortified with more mega names on my resume I thought I was especially equipped because of the ultra-rarified knowledge that is the legacy of an “extraordinary” university education–wow, I knew a lot.

And I did know a lot and so do the younger artists around me that I’ve hired and who have just graduated from those extraordinary programs.  And like you I too thought I’d never pay back my student loans. I also desperately wanted a seat at the table. I went to conferences thinking the “leaders” where obsolete and needed the discerning innovations that swam around my, I must admit now, inflated ego. The arts were economically anemic then too. Then we had Mapplethorpe, Bible-thumping Republicans chasing artists with hellfire and rescinding funding, oh, and then dismantling the NEA and state arts councils, all the while, homeless turned up in vacant cars or lived in cardboard shanties in Thompson Square Park. Read the rest of this entry »

Recipe for a Great Mentorship

Posted by Leslie Ito On October - 19 - 20092 COMMENTS

In 2003, I found myself barely thirty and running an arts organization that was five years older than me. I had interned at this organization just ten years prior as a first year in college. While the circumstances around my experiences were unique in that Linda Mabalot, my mentor and the executive director of the organization of 17 years, passed away suddenly, forcing the organization into transition and change, the lessons that I learned from our relationship are worth sharing.

Here are the five things that Linda taught me about mentoring emerging leaders.

Mentorship….
• Is about sharing a passion. In searching for a mentor, finding one that you share a passion with is key. The rest will come organically from there.

• Is not a scheduled weekly or monthly meeting. Linda was always available for me to ask questions, share ideas and strategize together. If a mentorship is really working, it could be a lifelong relationship.

• Is a two way street. This is an opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee to learn from each other. Linda and I shared a truly give and take relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

First, some context: For the past ten years I have worked in the field of the arts and arts education as either an artist, teaching artist, arts administrator, or some amalgam of all three. Over the course of my tenure in the field it’s been hard to ignore the undercurrent of grumblings from my peer group as they’ve grown increasingly more frustrated with the structure of the arts sector.

While many young arts professionals deal with issues of low salary, glass ceilings, lack of a reliable career path, and a general disconnect with their colleagues in other institutions, what seems to be the most consistent theme amongst many young arts leaders I’ve encountered has been the lack of voice they have in the larger arts conversation.

If you give a good look around you’ll quickly notice a paucity of young arts professionals (a) contributing to the field’s literature, (b) participating at senior staff meetings, and (c) presenting at national conferences. Some individuals I have spoken to have even suggested that the field “systematically squelches” or “boxes out” young voices. This inherent bias in the arts to favor veteran field leaders has caused many young arts professionals to leave the arts for more purposeful work in other domains. Over the years people have begun to talk about this phenomenon in a more open manner, but no one seemed to be doing anything (concrete) about it.

To address these issues I established, 20UNDER40 (www.20UNDER40.org)—a new anthology of critical discourse—to collect twenty essays about the future of the arts and arts education, each written by a young arts professional under the age of forty. In doing so, 20UNDER40 aims to bring the voices of tomorrow’s arts leaders out of the margins and into the forefront of our cultural dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »

Are the voices of emerging leaders in the arts too loud or not loud enough? The grumblings of both young arts practitioners and discerning seasoned veterans raise a number of important questions: Are we squelching the voices of emerging professionals in the arts field? And are we causing an exodus of committed young talent to leave the field for work in other domains?

For the first time in history there are four generational cohorts in the workplace.  The residual clash of generational perspectives has surfaced a number of undeniable challenges—and opportunities—for arts professionals and organizations. Unlike other industries, the arts sector seems to be struggling particularly hard with the inevitable generational shift in leadership.

Join the Emerging Leaders Network of Americans for the Arts and the 20UNDER40 anthology for the Emerging Leaders Salon on ARTSblog the week of October 19-23. Nearly 20 diverse arts professionals from across the country will discuss the impending generational shift in arts leadership, the value of emerging leaders to the field, and the necessity of a platform for young arts professionals. We invite you to follow these posts and continue the conversation through your ideas, comments, and personal stories.

  • Are you a young arts leader? Does the field value your creativity, innovation, and professional experience?
  • Are you a veteran arts practitioner? Does this view of the field as an entity unable to let loose the reigns of leadership resonate with you?
  • Is the arts field successful in its attempt to foster young leaders? Is something out of synch with our planning for succession—or is it an unwarranted overdose of arrogance being exercised by those new to the field? Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses the recent National Arts Awards which took place on October 7th in New York City. In this podcast he focuses on the value of honoring partners for the work they do and making sure their advocacy stories gain attention in the media.

Find more information on the 2009 National Arts Awards here.

National Arts & Humanities Month is in full swing, and new Creative Conversations are rolling in by the day.  It’s fantastic to see so many communities engaging in such interesting and important discussions concerning emerging arts leaders.  Listed below are the scheduled events coming up in the next two weeks!

There’s an interesting blog discussion on Huffington Post about Cultural Diplomacy–a really hot topic right now.

Tell us what you think about Karen Brooks Hopkins’ blog post or about the opportunities and challenges of cultural diplomacy.

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.