Marc’s Seder post about the youngest person in the room asking “why are we doing things the way we’re doing things?” got me thinking—are we really letting the youngest in the room ask the questions?

I want to remind myself and my fellow Millennials that with all our pounding on the “glass ceiling”, our subversive questions, and our demands to sit at the adult table, let us not forget that there are others that follow us. In our fit to close the generation gap before us, we are not always as attentive as we could be in preventing a gap behind us. Who’s that behind us? Who’s the youngest in the room? She’s the one that you’ve had silently de-duping the mailing list for the last two weeks at the desk in the basement by the boiler. She’s your intern.

Unpaid internships are quite the racket. Our parents didn’t intern at all but now there’s inflated pressure to spend every summer from 14 to 22 and often beyond in servitude (no, not service) just to get into college, then into grad school, and THEN get a job. I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think we’ve all seen the trend. Read the rest of this entry »

I was reading Shannon Daut’s post on the lack of executive opportunities for emerging leaders and it got me thinking:  true – there are very few Executive Director positions available, and usually those are offered to seasoned, rather than next generation leaders. Of course this makes sense when experience (or a name) is held higher than untapped vision. With the emergence of more graduate programs focused on arts administration, the competition is even greater: we are becoming more educated, more skilled, and we are looking for a challenge.

So perhaps we should be creating our own challenges.

Last year I joined fellow community members and arts-minded neighbors to create the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition, which produces, presents and supports public art while addressing the needs of the North Brooklyn community. In keeping with its advocacy efforts, I moderated a conversation of 25 arts leaders of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. We gathered to discuss the role of public art in our open spaces and, more broadly, the state of the arts in our community.  Read the rest of this entry »

I am of two minds about leadership trainings. On one hand I believe any time invested in thinking about leadership is worthwhile. On the other hand, we should not expect classroom-based, curriculum-driven instruction to work in a vacuum. Whatever combination of the words “leadership,” “management,” “academy,” “institute,” “fellowship,” or even, “university” we use, if we think packing ourselves off to leader camp for a day or a week is some sort of silver-bullet solution to either our demands for professional development or our organization’s whimperings for change then we are sorely mistaken.

Yes—we can read about and listen to mantras on teamwork, ethics, giving and receiving feedback, results-based decision making, strategic planning, emotional intelligence, and business acumen but without a complimentary system with which to practice these skills are we really supporting leadership development? No amount of leadership lecturing can help a young manager who is returning to an organization that doesn’t want to change. Read the rest of this entry »

What is it about cross-sector collaboration that turns on young arts professionals? Whether its art therapy, eco art or political activism through the arts, my peers seem particularly drawn to social service, urban design, environmental, health and economical revitalization partnerships. This inclination speaks to our interest in expanding the scope of our organization’s artistic work so that it may touch and speak to a broader public. It also speaks to emerging leaders’ diverse professional interests.

Los Angeles-based institutions have picked up on the trend of cross-disciplinary art practices and art programs. Artist collaborative Fallen Fruit recently curated an exhibition and participatory event series at LACMA that brings together concepts of urban farming, sustainability, politics and architecture called EATLACMA. Edgar Arceneaux and Watts House Project wants to ignite economic revitalization through community engagement with the arts. LA Commons invites the public to investigate the LA urban landscape through cultural treks through the city. The Unusual Suspects brings play-writing, play producing and acting opportunities to probation camp teens to inspire, change lives and ultimately reduce recitivism. These are the types of civic engagement projects that my peers and I are eager to conceive and be a part of. Read the rest of this entry »

When someone leaves an organization one has to ask: did they jump or were they pushed?

The ‘arts leaders of tomorrow’ are leaping, and getting shoved out of the arts non profits all the time – and it’s one of the biggest problems those of us who want to see dynamic arts organizations contribute to a vital society must solve.  (By the way I know everyone is sick of debating what ‘emerging’ means in the leadership discussion but can we get a cool acronym or something to shorthand the group of people in the early part of their careers in the arts?). Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been writing about leadership and young nonprofit professionals for the past three years, and what I’ve finally come to is this: one of our biggest misconceptions about leadership is that it has something to do with a title.

The nonprofit sector often operates as if leadership were a noun. They look to “the leadership” to provide the answers, and blame “the leadership” when ideas fail or solution don’t come fast enough. I’ve heard many a young professional talk about leaving their organization because of disappointment in “the leadership.” The problem with this sentiment is that it assumes that leadership is a position at the top of the org chart and that it’s the responsibility of one person (or a select few) to lead the agency to success.

That’s why we use the term “emerging leaders.” Because we think that until you’ve reached the CEO position or ascend to a senior management role or reach the ripe age of 50, you have not yet “emerged.”

But what if we thought of leadership as a verb?

Read the rest of this entry »

The American String Teachers Association’s second principle in our vision for the future of string and orchestral music education deals with “influencing policy at the local, state, and national levels to promote the arts as a core component of a well-rounded education and of thriving communities.”

If we are going to influence policy, who do we need to sell on the benefits of string and orchestral music education to do so?  Who are the people who, on all levels, would be our best advocates? 

I would hypothesize that the answer can be found in the last two words of this second principle – “thriving communities.”  Take a look at the communities where the arts play a key roll in the health of the area.  Those are the communities that understand the importance of the cultural element.  My own current hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, is a perfect example.  The downtown area, once despondant and going the way of many small downtowns in the United States, has enjoyed a resurgence in the past 20 years, including occupancy rates over 80% and a monthly downtown festival, First Friday, that is ranked among the best in the Southeast.  When did the change occur?  When the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts became the occupant of an otherwise vacant department store in the heart of downtown. Read the rest of this entry »

First off, you need to know how hard it was not to type “Knot knowing the Ropes,” but I managed to resist at least for a few seconds.

Inexperience, like a bad pun, is undervalued.

By that, I don’t mean ignorance of one’s field, or bring unprepared, but being free of the self-imposed limits can easily come with working in a field for a period of time. Our new and (in the best sense) inexperienced colleagues are often a great source of new ideas and creative solutions. And this creativity is often born of not knowing the “best practices” or the traditions of our lines of work. Read the rest of this entry »

I have been enjoying all of the rich dialogue that has been going on all week through this Blog Salon from some very articulate individuals. Like most of you, I do what I am passionate about. I am passionate about the arts, and have been since High School when the arts helped me find my voice, my confidence and a group of friends that I still have today.

I am also passionate about sports. I am not able to work within sports but I do keep active with three sports blogs that I write and manage on a daily basis. This allows me to engage in both of the areas that I find the most passion and excitement.

It is with that unique lens that got me thinking about the path to leadership in the arts. In fact, the way that I often describe our emerging arts leader network, genARTS is as “a farm system for arts leadership.”

Think about it, you’ve got Single A (new to the field), Double A (a couple of years of experience), Triple A (established emerging leaders, ready to step into a leadership position) and the Major Leagues (leaders of arts and cultural organizations).   Read the rest of this entry »

Next Tues, April 13, is National Arts Advocacy Day, when more than 500 arts advocates will be going to Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. to talk to their government officials about the power of the arts and the need for arts education and arts funding. If you can’t join us in D.C. on April 13, please take the time to create a tweet that day featuring the hashtag #arts on your Twitter accounts and tell you friends to do the same.

Read the rest of this entry »

(Note: the last time I guest-blogged for Americans for the Arts, my inaugural post in the bullet-point manifesto format became the third-most-commented post on ArtsBlog ever. We’ll see what kind of response this one gets!)

A boss is to an emerging leader as a funder is to a grantee.

  • Think about this: there is an inherently unequal power relationship between a boss and an employee.
    • A boss gets paid more.
    • A boss has greater autonomy to make decisions about how she does her job.
    • A boss has greater autonomy to decide what her job even is.
    • A boss can make decisions that affect not just her own work, but everyone else’s work too.
    • A boss is identified with her organization and therefore has greater visibility.
      • Meaning better connections and more opportunities to lead.
    • And most importantly…

Even in the best of economic times, the biggest barrier to accessing professional development offerings can be a lack of money, plain and simple.  This is probably more true now given the effect of the recession on nonprofit budgets, when many chief executives are seeing their travel and conference attendance curtailed, leaving even less hope for more recently hired staff to attend these programs – including many emerging arts leaders – because they are further down the organizational totem pole.

That’s why I was so thrilled when the Irvine and Hewlett Foundations agreed to support a new initiative at CCI to create a special pool of money parked at our Creative Capacity Fund, just for next generation arts leaders in California to attend workshops and conferences, or work with personal coaches or consultants, to address their professional development needs.  And we’re talking about pretty significant money – $200,000 in professional development grants up to $1,000 each that will directly support some 200-250 next generation leaders in the next two years. Read the rest of this entry »

In an ideal world, well-funded arts organizations set aside a week or more every year for their emerging leaders to attend professional development workshops or conferences tailored specifically to address the key issues and trends they see in their disciplines. Sounds like a smart thing to do, right? And yet we all know that while the demand exists for these types of professional development programs, they are typically one of the first things to be sacrificed when budgets are cut and revenue is scarce.

At Irvine, we began researching next generation leadership development issues as a way to help advance the arts field in California. Now, given the impact of the recession on the arts, it seems even more important to us that we help prepare the next generation of leaders.

You might argue that leadership development is a luxury that the sector can’t afford right now, but we feel that there are more reasons than ever to support these vital programs. Throughout the recession, we have heard many tales of our grantees having to make severe cuts in staff and programs, typically after they decided to eliminate any possibility for professional development activities. Those employees that did survive the layoffs were often asked to take on additional responsibilities, sometimes for less money, and without adequate training to do so. Needless to say, morale at many organizations was low and the overall situation created a perfect storm for emerging arts leaders to leave the field, either by choice or by pink slip. Read the rest of this entry »

Last April, we held our first public event, Evolve & Vocalize. We asked the audience of 80 folks, a multi-disciplinary crowd of predominantly Gen X and Gen Y’s (with some progressive Boomers mixed in) on an early Saturday morning at SoMarts Cultural Center… “What could we enact now that will make a positive, powerful impact on your arts sector career in the future?” Our steering committee heard that there was a need for self-organizing, better connections to peers and mentors, access to relevant capacity building services and interest in experimenting with new business models.

The recent award from Hewlett and Irvine made it possible for us to spend dedicated time researching and creating an outline of our future in a 4-year strategic plan, action plan and budget. It’s also helping provide focused learning, knowledge sharing and network building opportunities like our spring 2010 series, New Growth : a spotlight on new ways of working. These funds, to a great extent, have allowed us to be more reflective and proactive. Read the rest of this entry »

An arts administrator walks into a bar. (No, it’s not a joke, per se.) She’s catching up with a friend that she hasn’t seen in years. The usual small-talk ensues. Her friend has a one-year contract with an environmental non-profit.  He’s saving the world or, at the very least, the polar bears.

Then, he asks the dreaded question: “So, what are you doing now?”

My friend, the environmentalist (not the arts administrator), who relayed this anecdote noted his dismay when his friend waved off her work, as if arts education was less important than the next Watershed Act passed by Congress. Did she feel her work wasn’t as important as halting deforestation, or just that she couldn’t make the case for its value?

The need to validate the arts is not a new concept and yet, in recent months, the common thread between almost all of the discussions in which I’ve participated has been the necessity to better understand our communication, framing, and vocabulary. From the excellent Community Arts & Development Convening mounted by the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, to a recent report by Cincinnati’s Fine Arts Fund, to Americans for the Arts’ briefings for the upcoming National Arts Advocacy Day, I’ve picked up a spectrum of arguments for the importance of the arts Read the rest of this entry »