Capturing the World of an Emerging Arts Leader

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On April - 6 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

I am consistently inspired by the innovation that comes out of the Emerging Leaders Network, and this week’s blog salon was no exception.

We heard from representatives of 11 Emerging Leaders Networks, and gained some insight into what was happening in their communities. This week, bloggers have questioned and affirmed why they continue to dedicate their careers to the arts; wrote about examples of artists and arts organizations leading authentic community engagement; questioned the social inequity of unpaid interns; and shared a list of Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25.

We gave ourselves permission to fail, permission to have multiple interests outside of the arts that may or may not intersect with the field, and reminded ourselves not to get stuck in a structure that no longer works for us as individuals or organizations.

It’s clear that emerging arts leaders are looking at their careers, organizations, and neighborhoods in a different way than arts administrators who have come before them. I believe it’s important that we honor the hard work of those who started in the field before us. Without them, we wouldn’t have the National Endowment for the Arts, the structure of public funding support, or the diversity of arts, cultural, and community engagement organizations that exist today.

There are four generations currently working and leading in the workforce, and we must find ways to work with one another, share our strengths, and support each other’s weaknesses at all levels of the generation spectrum.

To me, this blog salon demonstrated how many mini ripple effects of change are taking place in communities across the country at the same time. This is change at a very fundamental level that has the potential to reform our field in the way that Diane Ragsdale envisions in her post (and is our muse for this salon). Read the rest of this entry »

Cultural Historians: Paying Homage to the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

Posted by Molly O'Connor On April - 6 - 2012

Molly O'Connor

Working part time at a bookstore to pay for college, it was in 2001 when I first learned about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. I was shelving books when I came across a copy of Up from the Ashes by Hannibal B. Johnson.

I recall flipping through the pages, stunned that such massive atrocity that had taken place in my home state. And how was I just learning about this? The riot was certainly not included in Oklahoma History class.

Since that day, I’ve discovered I’m not the only Oklahoman who has been oblivious to the Tulsa Race Riot, the most horrifying act of racial violence in American history.

While this incident made national news, local history books and classes were devoid of information about this violent attack on the community of Greenwood. Even today, researching the event often leads to more questions.

There are discrepancies in the numbers of fatalities, and, as always, history has been written and controlled by those who have committed genocide. The mysteries of what really happened on May 31, 1921 are perhaps lost in the ashes.

For Oklahomans, how do we collectively reconcile this deep scar in our history and take steps to heal the wounds that still hurt and divide us? How do we ensure that we learn from the Tulsa Race Riot so that history does not repeat itself? Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Economy

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 6 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

Thinking about the economy can be rather depressing. For many people, it can seem like a volatile god: a mysterious force that affects everything and we mere mortals have no control over its whims.

Let’s start with a basic idea of what I mean when I write about “the economy.”

Economic analysis is often an attempt to make the complex world of interconnectedness more comprehensible by quantifying everything, usually through monetization. In other words, the world is complicated so we make charts.

The “economy” is everything that happens. Economics is a (left-brained) method of analyzing everything that happens, and it’s mostly focused on measuring everything in dollars and euros.

This focus on monetization is problematic for the arts because the value of artistic products is not always calculable by how much it cost to make them or by how much people are willing to pay for them. In fact, we often strive for the opposite—to give away the arts for free and know that they are priceless.

The subversive tack accepts economics for the way it is and uses the system to our advantage. In order to do that, we need to know the basic principles and be able to speak the lingo: quantification.

The arts sector is getting much better at quantifying the value and impact of the arts. Here are three great examples:

I took my first economics class in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, the heart of economics can be summed up in a phrase: “supply and demand.” This is something we already understand in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Arts Advocacy A Way of Life

Posted by Madeline Orton On April - 6 - 2012
Maddie Orton

Madeline Orton

On a recent visit to a community arts center, I was struck by the effortless inclusion of advocacy in the director’s curtain speech.

Plugs for the city rolled off her tongue like: “Don’t forget to check out our wonderful restaurants,” and my favorite, “If you’re looking for a new place, you should buy here—it’s a great time to buy!”

As someone who works for an arts advocacy organization (ArtPride New Jersey) nothing makes me happier.

Before I get on my soapbox about why you should be permanently stationed on yours, I want to point out two things: 1) neither of these comments is directly about the arts center and 2) the director is in her mid-20s.

When I have conversations about advocacy I receive a small range of reactions. Some people are thankful for the work advocacy groups do on their behalf, but don’t think they have the time to get involved. Others believe in the importance of advocating annually to their elected officials to protect funding.

Finally, some, like this community arts center director, build advocacy into everything they do all year long. Their advocacy efforts do not end at preserving funding, but extend to maintaining close contact with elected officials, the board of education, businesses, and other community organizations to ensure continued investment in their organization’s success.

I know that when this director calls for a visit during budget season, decision makers will not only know who she is, but will also have a clear understanding of the impact her organization has on the community—because she never stops telling them. Read the rest of this entry »

Sara Bateman

In my first post for the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon, I discussed the need for producing collaborations and partnerships in order to elevate ourselves from arts leaders to community leaders.

If the arts are to become a cultural zeitgeist, where we can leverage our work to address the social inequities of our time, we must be open to partnerships, collaborative environments, and shared leadership.

In searching for this combination as an emerging leader, I feel it is important to not only to leverage our new perspectives and fresh energy, but also to learn from the examples of those who have already been pushing the field forth.

Throughout the past two decades, the arts have been recognized as a way to revitalize communities across the nation. We’ve seen that programs celebrating an individual community’s character, history, people, and values through art have the potential to communicate and empower a neighborhood’s voice in a manner that can create powerful place making and important systemic change.

But who is best placed to initiate and leverage this type of work? Is it a local artist, a small community center, an arts council, or a major institution?

While all mentioned above are capable and have already initiated successful community and civic engagement projects, local arts agencies in particular are in a unique place to spearhead revitalization, change, and engagement through the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Adjustments: The Art of Decision Making

Posted by Hillary Anaya On April - 6 - 2012
Hillary Anaya

Hillary Anaya

Recently, the Emerging Leaders of Mobile were given the task to receive a performance critique. The goal was to find a skill that needs improvement and to gain motivation to strengthen it.

I consider myself lucky, because I couldn’t have better bosses. While for some, asking for a performance critique can be intimidating, I have a welcoming work environment for this sort of thing. This is great because this activity was my idea, and if anyone HAD to do it, it was me.

One of my character traits is that I tend to get annoyed when I have to make adjustments. For example, when I receive incomplete submissions on a deadline day, I get a little irritated. I don’t mean I throw a full-blown temper tantrum, but I do tend to complain. I have always been aware that I do this, but I never really considered changing.

Recently, I was on the receiving end. I missed a deadline and had to get an extension. With the combination of advice from my bosses and being on the other side, the resolution was clear as day.

Mistakenly, I assumed my job as an administrator was to make sure the guidelines are ALWAYS followed. But I have been wisely advised that when working with people, especially in the nonprofit realm, rules sometimes need to bend so we can better serve our community. Read the rest of this entry »

Group Therapy in the Arts: The Mega Church Model

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On April - 6 - 2012

Gregory Burbidge

The Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL has an annual weekly attendance of 24,000 people. It’s what is referred to as a “mega church.”

I remember details about this church opaquely from a history of modern Christianity class. It’s the organizational model they created I remember most.

Obviously 24,000 people don’t smoothly pull together into a tightly knit community, so the church creates small groups of people, hundreds of these small groups, around shared interests and age. The small groups are what keep things from unraveling at the seams.

The model of the small group is broadly used. I am fortunate enough to be a part of someone’s small group. Hesitant to commit to reading and discussing a book, a group of us art administrators participate in an article club.

Every five or six weeks, the small group of us get together for lunch to discuss an article that’s creating a splash in the arts world that we wouldn’t otherwise take the time to read in detail.

Because of this group, I get to read great articles like Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change and Irvine’s report on participatory arts and audience involvement.

This version of a small group provides a busy group of colleagues a chance to catch up with what are our peers are doing, and to talk about how changes in the field can impact our own work. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Education

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 5 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

The realm of combining arts and education is vast. I do not intend to address this vast landscape in a modest 600 words. However, I will highlight two of my favorite approaches to arts + education in the Los Angeles area.

Inner-City Arts (ICA) offers a variety of programs—school field trips, afterschool and weekend workshops, teacher training, programs for parents—to give children in one of the nation’s poorest areas opportunities for skill-building, artistic expression, and a safe environment.

ICA backs up its work with phenomenal statistics and partners with UCLA, Harvard, and the Department of Education to publish research that others can leverage. In addition to their excellent work and partnerships, the stories from Inner-City Arts are a never-ending source of inspiration.

Arts for All is the mothership for organizing sequential K–12 arts education in Los Angeles County and our 81 school districts. (Yes, eighty-one.) More than half of these districts have signed on since 2003. In addition to providing half a million students with arts education, the organizations backing Arts for All actually agreed on a definition of “quality arts education”.

Despite amazing organizations like Inner-City Arts and herculean efforts like Arts for All, we’re still fighting for the arts’ righteous place in society and education. We do have reason for cautious optimism, though. The #1 most-watched TED talk is Sir Ken Robinson talking about the faults of linear-based education, a product of the industrial revolution. He illustrates his point with the story of a dancer, which gets us artsy types all atwitter. Read the rest of this entry »

Failure Creates Leaders

Posted by Hillary Anaya On April - 5 - 2012
Hillary Anaya

Hillary Anaya

So now that I have this rekindled positive outlook about leadership for the arts, what do I do with it?

Well, to be honest, I think failure comes next. How’s that for positive thinking, huh?

But honestly, failures are the best thing; they develop people by pushing them splat on their face, picking them up, and pushing them forward. Failures teach and develop effective leaders.

The best way I can think of to elaborate on this is to share my first failure. It was literally a failure; I received an “F”— twice. And, to add whipped cream to my sundae of defeat, it was at something I assumed I was good at—singing.

This “F” I speak of was not just my ego being hurt, it crumbled the foundation I stood on. I had identified with being a singer since I could crawl, and yet here I was, not passing a vocal exam.

You know what the cherry on top of this mess was? I had one year left to graduate and if I didn’t pass there was no B.A. in my future. Thankfully, I had a team of people who, believed in me, had the courage to fail me—twice—and teach me more than just how to sing. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Participation in the Arts: Leading by Example

Posted by Elizabeth McCloskey Miller On April - 5 - 2012
Liz Miller

Elizabeth McCloskey Miller

The changing face of cultural participation has been much discussed in recent years. This has been especially true since the publication of the National Endowment for the Arts’ most recent Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which showed a decline in arts attendance for every category except musical plays.

“Cultural Participation in a 2.0 World” was the topic of EALDC’s Creative Conversation in October. It was clearly a subject that resonated across our local network—the event was one of our most well-attended to date, with a standing room-only crowd.

The attendees at our event debated what kind of cultural participation most appealed to them, with many expressing boredom with the tried-and-true efforts at arts engagement. It was not that post-show talkbacks or program inserts were not appreciated; they just were not enough to make people excited.

Adapting to changes in traditional arts participation is a major issue for arts and culture organizations today. Here in the D.C. area, we have seen some innovative efforts at engaging people in the arts, such as the Hirshhorn Museum’s ARTLAB+ space for teens and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Connectivity initiative (explained on the HowlRound blog).

How can we, as emerging leaders, better encourage participation in the arts? I would venture to say that we must begin by modeling the behavior we hope to see in others. Read the rest of this entry »

Rising to Community Leader through a Collaborative Lens

Posted by Sara Bateman On April - 5 - 2012

Sara Bateman

For the past year, I have been captivated by the concept of how tomorrow’s arts leaders must also serve as community leaders. Hailing temporarily from Oregon, where I have been pursuing a master’s degree in arts management that focuses on community arts, the line between arts leader and community leader is one that is quickly blurring for me.

As an emerging leader who is continually drawn to work that falls at the intersection of arts and social change, my eyes are most often focused on projects that look to address civic engagement, social justice, and community development needs.

In order to produce and promote effective programming at this intersection, I have delved into graduate courses, practicums, internships, research, and beyond to inform myself in the areas of not only arts management, but also community cultural development, arts learning policy, community arts theory, and social art practice.

Leaving Oregon with my degree in hand in just a few short months, my view on the art world has widened.

I entered the degree looking for solid skills in what I defined as arts management—the programmatic, financial, and administrative aspects—and left with much more. Becoming informed in the areas of community cultural development, community organizing, activism, and beyond have opened my eyes and abilities to effectively straddle the line between arts leader and community leader.

In being both a great arts leader and community leader, there is much knowledge needed of an individual. And sometimes, as we often feel in the nonprofit world, we can’t do it all, even though we are asked to. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education: It’s About Providing Hope

Posted by Molly O'Connor On April - 5 - 2012

Molly O'Connor

There’s a crisis underway in Oklahoma’s public schools. Even though House Bill 1017 requires art and music as core curriculum, these programs have disappeared from too many Oklahoma schools in communities both large and small.

This is nothing new, but that fact alone ensures that any attempt to reinstate these programs faces increasingly tough challenges. Today’s generation of parents were some of the first to miss out on art and music education, and therefore, are often unaware of the benefits of arts education and what their own children are missing out on.

Interestingly enough, several community leaders in Oklahoma continue to step up in efforts to pick up where the schools are falling short. Although, in most cases, it’s about so much more than providing an arts learning experience: It’s about providing hope.

With a thirty-year history of presenting modern dance in Oklahoma, Prairie Dance Theatre has developed new outreach programs for underserved youth and struggling Oklahoma City public schools. Artistic Director Tonya Kilburn is one of the instructors who has been instrumental in implementing dance into physical education programs in the public schools.

Tonya: “Bringing dance to children in OKC is both exciting and rewarding for me as an educator and as a concerned community member. I’ve always felt very fortunate that my chosen art form is so physical, and with Oklahoma rated as the seventh most obese state in the nation, I feel very connected to the solution.” Read the rest of this entry »

Albuquerque, The Best Place in the Universe

Posted by Julia Mandeville On April - 5 - 2012

Julia Mandeville

Introductions are always difficult. Slightly awkward in person. Definitely daunting in writing. And yet that’s how we’ve been asked to begin our blogs for this amazing salon. So here we are…Hello!

My short professional bio (click on my name above) is a nice clean paragraph and offers a basic overview, but here’s a bit more:

1. Albuquerque pulled me in. Something about it—an indescribable, magical (yes, magical!) quality—inspires me and all of the most wonderful people I know here to be kind of hyperactive. We feel indelibly influenced by the vitality it presents and the promise it offers. Yes, we anthropomorphize (5 syllables! 25 points!) this place. It’s hard not to, when it’s so very alive.

2. I love this community. This means that most everything I do relates to how I can contribute to its enrichment. I really hope you know what I mean.

3. Today, my favorite things are: my husband, Alex; our very fat cats and darling house in Nob Hill, an ABQ neighborhood; the colors fuchsia, burnt orange, and celadon; the taste of green chile on a perfectly cooked medium rare burger at Holy Cow; the feeling of almost accidentally picking up the cue ball; the clarity of being at such high altitude.

4. When we (in the field) talk about leveraging impact, I think we mean reinforcing beauty, inspiring investment, making change. Read the rest of this entry »

Unique Leaders, Common Characteristics: How We Work (Part Two)

Posted by Jaclyn Johnson Tidwell On April - 5 - 2012

Jaclyn Johnson

Actors like to make plays. I feel most comfortable and alive in rehearsal. All artists presumably feel this way, within their own genre.

You see it in books—the artist as a mysterious neighbor locked away in his workshop for hours or living in an artist colony and never associating with the “outside world.” Perhaps this mystery served us well for a time. But that day has passed.

In my first post, I proposed that if what I see in my peers is any indication, the next generation of arts leaders will be incredibly unique and will have a few common characteristics—who we are, how we work, and why we will do it.

How will we work? Not as mysterious neighbors locked in studios and rehearsal rooms. When not busy with DIY projects, these arts entrepreneurs are engaged, active citizens.

The Nashville songwriter is the best example. Let’s call him Bill.

Bill works in his community garden, teaches a class at his church, watches the Titans down at the local bar with the guys, and hangs out at Dragon Park with his kids. And everywhere he goes Bill shares proudly about songwriting—his publisher, his process, new songs, and upcoming gigs. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Change Outside the Office

Posted by Carlos Velázquez On April - 5 - 2012

Carlos Velázquez

In a recent article about Chicago-based artist Eric J. Garcia, whose politically charged work he calls a “weapon to strike at injustice”, he added a caveat for aspiring artists: “Oh-all of this is done on our off-time when we’re not at the day job that pays the bills.”

His words came back to me when reading the prompt to this salon, a quote from Diane Ragsdale on arts sector reform:

“If our goal..is to hold onto our marginalized position and maintain our minuscule reach—rather than…actively addressing the social inequities in our country, and reaching exponentially greater numbers of people—then…I would suggest that it may not merit the vast amounts of time, money, or enthusiasm we would require from talented staffers and artists, governments, foundations, corporations, and private individuals to achieve it.”

I am glad to know that the arts sector is not confining itself to simply holding onto its miniscule reach, and that emerging artists and arts leaders, many working in art and humanities-based nonprofits, are taking the lead.

My position is that they are using the organizational skills, social vocabularies, and leadership experience gained in nonprofit environments well beyond the scope of the workday, to be wielded as “weapons” addressing social inequalities. 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

Evaluation

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.