Since I began working in the arts in 2001, there has been a subtle but constant pressure on the sector to transform that can be both distressing and motivating. I will never forget the time in 2003 when Mark O’Neill, then the Head of Museums and Galleries for the city of Glasgow (Scotland), described how a population of shipyard workers reported that they did not attend a nearby museum because the price of admission was too expensive. The nauseating twist was that the museum did not have an admission fee. Last week, this story came to mind again as I spoke with Susie Medak, managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and an arts leader with more than 25 years of experience. Susie’s hypothesis—that the tacit social contract between society and arts organizations is changing—is one I have found to be incredibly useful. The premise of her theory is that it is no longer sufficient for arts organizations to provide distinctive work, attract an audience, and secure financial support—it needs to include wider swaths of people who are largely not involved. Read the rest of this entry »
Artists and their art are as diverse as our communities, but arts administrators are not. After reviewing the Local Arts Agencies Salaries 2013 research report, one thing jumped out at me: The arts administration field has a diversity problem. It’s not shocking to me that the salaries of arts administrators are not commensurate with their skills, education, experience, and responsibility (I have friends working at a utility company as coordinators who make more than Art EDs) but the demographics, although somewhat expected, are disconcerting. Ninety-two percent of the report’s respondents who identified as Executive Directors or CEOs are white. Eighty-six percent of the overall respondents are white.
The American for the Arts national convention gave me a lot to ponder about race and demographics, particularly Manuel Pastor’s presentation and the numerous conversations I had with my fellow Emerging Leaders on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy report Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change.
Growing up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, a working poor Latino neighborhood, I did not know any white people (aside from those on television) until I started college. Even in college, I never felt like a “minority” because there were always plenty of people with backgrounds similar to my own. It wasn’t until I began working in the arts field that the label “minority” seemed appropriate for me. In the subsequent years at many of the arts meetings, conferences, and events, I was the only Latino attending. I found it very strange. In Los Angeles, where whites make up only 27% of the population, they made up the vast majority of the local arts administration field. I came to understand that when the cultural diversity of a community is not reflected in the individuals attempting to serve the community, the very act of communicating becomes a barrier, which limits the knowledge of needs, wants, and opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »
The Chicago nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $2.2 billion industry. You’d be hard-pressed to go more than a couple of blocks without seeing a theater, dance company, museum, art gallery, or some other nonprofit arts organization, small or large.
And yet I still hear about new ones popping up quite frequently. Given that, the community of artists and arts administrators is extensive, and diverse—it’s a bona fide place of convergence for the creative types and transplants from across the country.
So why then, with such a vibrant arts community, is Illinois the 29th ranked state in per capita spending on the arts?
The answer is a problem that plagues not just Illinois, but permeates through the entire creative sector on a national level.
When I first moved to Chicago after graduating from college, I wanted to pursue an acting career. Even equipped with my political science degree, I had very little understanding about the relationship of public funding for the arts, and the importance of advocacy.
It took a graduate course at Goucher College, Principles of Arts Administration, for me to fully comprehend the power and necessity of arts advocacy. Therein lies the problem: an information gap for artists on the importance of advocacy. A possible solution? Giving artists a more easily accessible entry point to advocacy. Read the rest of this entry »
It used to be that the success of arts marketers was dependent on how well they could predict the future and then pray for success. But those days are over.
Today, arts marketers can rely on data analysis and market research to make well-thought-out strategic decisions.
I, for one, am glad that marketers no longer have to rely on future telling because marketing is an essential part of the arts experience. As a jazz trombonist, I had to learn how to market myself to land gigs and then market my gigs so that people would come to them. Arts organizations have to do the same. But they must market their organization as well as individual performances.
Several years ago Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) ran an institutional marketing campaign with the theme “BAM and then it hits you.” The message they conveyed was that the experience at BAM lingered long after you left. This campaign excited people about BAM as an entire organization, as opposed to a singular performance.
There are countless other examples of successful marketing campaigns in the arts. As emerging arts leaders I think it is essential we pay attention to trends in marketing. What are the latest trends in arts marketing? How do arts marketers use data analysis and market research to make strategic decisions? What type of programming is becoming most difficult to market? There is an endless amount of questions we can ask. Read the rest of this entry »
“Are you thinking about getting your Masters?”
Every time I’m asked that question, my brain has a dilemma. On one hand, I love learning as much information as I can about my field and anything that relates to it. I take what Malcolm Gladwell told Charlie Rose about the key to great journalism to heart—“It’s about teaching yourself that everything is interesting.”
And I love the classroom setting—well I should say the right classroom setting, but that’s another story. I would much rather write a 20-page paper on charitable tax policy or how to engage young people, than attend another City Council meeting or board meeting some days.
But on the other hand, why would I go back to school? I’m a young professional with the world at my fingertips; I’ve got a pretty great job and on top of all that, my undergraduate degree was in Arts Management—so unless I wanted to specialize in something very specific like Arts Policy or Arts Education, I don’t need to sit in a classroom and learn about mission statements, 990s, grants, marketing, etc, from the beginning all over again.
Sure I’d love to learn more about those things—I haven’t found the magic potion to make a perfect arts organization (yet…maybe a Chemistry class?)—but as it stands right now, I have a better chance of making an impact by staying out of the classroom than going back into it.
The other question I used to get when I was in college was, “Where are you looking to work?” No doubt, most folks hear “the arts” and think NYC, DC, Chicago, LA, Atlanta, Seattle and other locations. But for me, my answer was, “I’m staying here in South Carolina.” Read the rest of this entry »
The expansion of marketplaces from local to global is rapid. As technology continues to evolve and the world ‘shrinks’, cross-cultural exchange and appreciation are vital to the success of an individual in any field. It is especially significant in the field of the arts, where so often culture finds its voice.
In a field where planning is already a difficult task, it is significant to discuss this expansion of perspective. The international aspects of audience, cooperation, cultural differences, and philanthropy add an extra piece or pieces to the organizational puzzle. This new challenge has not gone unnoticed by the arts management community.
Here at American University, a new Certificate in International Arts Management has been recently unveiled. Nearby, the Kennedy Center has been working with and training international arts managers since 2008.
Programs across the country are beginning take notice, and if entire degrees aren’t dedicated to the topic, many classes will be. While this field is as young as the technology that is accelerating its development, there is little doubt that it will soon be an integral part of any arts management training. Read the rest of this entry »
Regardless of the organizations mission, values, programs, etc., what is the ONE common factor that is needed to execute an organization’s purpose?
As much as we dislike connecting our important work to the dollar, the simple fact is that without it, we cannot pay our staffs, purchase materials, and pay the electric bills…and thus provide our services.
So there we have it, we must have funds to fulfill our missions. However, unless you are the lucky few, earned income doesn’t even come close to covering your budget. So to take the statement even further; we must have CONTRIBUTED funds to fulfill our missions.
Now with the sequestration set to go into effect, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget will be cut by 5%, or $7.3 million, and grants will decrease. (But let’s be honest, NEA funds have really just become a stamp of approval…and important stamp, that is…rather than actual difference-making funds).
Foundations are changing the focus of how and what they fund. And corporate philanthropy, while rebounding, will not cover the balance. So, lets take that earlier statement even deeper. We must have INDIVIDUAL contributed funds to fulfill our missions.
This can be a problem, though, because this all important aspect of nonprofit management is most likely the most uncomfortable aspect of nonprofit management. It is just human nature to avoid asking for money, even from people you know. Read the rest of this entry »
I have always thought of symphony orchestras, or any large musical ensemble, to function somewhat like clockwork.
As a musician, one quickly realizes that the success of the symphony (e.g. high-quality performance, beautiful tone, expressive phrasing, etc.) is dependent on the sum of its parts. The performance of every individual must be sensitively adjusted to compliment the rest of the ensemble in order to produce one cohesive musical story.
The internal intricacies, typically unseen by its admirers, must be functioning properly and working together in order for the larger system to operate properly.
In the case of a clock, even the grandest, most impressive-looking ones may cease to operate with broken or damaged parts. Similarly, symphony orchestra management can be most effective when all of its departments are working well and moving forward together.
What if we, as nonprofit leaders in the arts, took a systemic approach to orchestra management?
Rather than focusing on issues separately and only when we are forced to deal with them, one might adopt the mindset of always doing what is best to maintain the overall health of the organization in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »
Rambling ten-page resumes. Headshots submitted for management positions. Cover letters written in one big, messy paragraph in the body of an email. And one resume that was somehow, inexplicably, saved as a series of stream-of-consciousness bullet points in an .RTF file.
I coordinate the internship program at Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group (CTG), one of the largest—and most prestigious—theatres in the country. These are just a few of the bizarre, sad, and shockingly common application faux pas I saw in our last application cycle.
Most undergraduates aren’t introduced to career options in arts administration within an academic context. An internship can provide an excellent introduction to the field. Many of the applicants I see are undergraduate theatre or acting majors, curious about career options in the discipline they love.
And many of them are woefully unequipped to apply for any job.
It’s tempting to fault schools for this lack of preparation. However, nearly every two-year and four-year college or university has a career center with free services. I’m also a big fan of personal responsibility.
So hey, arts major. Here are five tips for applying to internships or entry-level jobs in arts management. Read the rest of this entry »
So it is the start of a new year; a time to refresh, refocus and re-energize. The City of Austin Art in Public Places Program recently held a staff retreat where we did just that. In the last two years we have grown from two to seven staff members and with our full team assembled can effectively tackle the work before us.
But there is more to it than just having enough resources to “get it done.” As public art administrators (or as I like to say “jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-all!”), we also need periodic inspiration and creative endurance. The challenge is finding the time. At our staff retreat, we began the day with Show-and-Tell of our favorite projects and artists and current creative endeavors—and how refreshing it was!
Show-and-tell got me thinking about not only what inspires me, but why, and the importance of spending time figuring it out.
Here are a few things I came up with:
As a person of short stature (my cousin’s daughter once asked if I had “grown all the way” after learning that I was in fact, an adult), I have always been drawn to objects that challenge one’s sense of scale—like the proposal for deer-shaped power lines or a three-story bear. To me, these massive objects are breathtaking and at this large-scale diminish the relevancy of our individual size. Read the rest of this entry »
Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) was formed and evolved in the 1990s when a group of public art administrators sought to establish professional standards for this rapidly-expanding sector at the intersection of art and design.
While the design professions have long-established best practices through their professional associations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), PAN has been moving steadily forward articulating guidelines for commissioning agencies and artists alike.
The drafting of these standards comes from volunteers—leaders in the field, in particular past and present PAN Council members leading committees, discussions, and drafting platform statements posted and updated on the PAN website (www.publicartnetwork.org).
For this week’s Blog Salon we invited PAN members—both administrators and artists—who are leading programs or projects that you may not have heard about yet. They discuss everything from the ever-popular topic of conservation to things to consider when de-accessioning work to suspending the rules to allow for public art events. Read the rest of this entry »
Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) is an annual meeting for young professionals who work in the arts—organized, executed, and run by American University (Washington, DC) Arts Management students. It is an opportunity to discuss the issues, unique or universal, that affect all arts organizations.
One of the goals of the 6th Annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is to address what is on the horizon for arts organizations and arts professionals.
With that in mind, we at EALS are very proud to announce that the opening plenary speaker for the event this year is Karen Brooks Hopkins!
Karen Brooks Hopkins is the president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where she has worked since 1979. As President, Hopkins oversees the institution’s 179 full-time employees and facilities, including the 2100-seat BAM Howard Gilman Opera House and 874-seat BAM Harvey Theater, the four-theater BAM Rose Cinemas, the BAMcafé, and the BAM Fisher–opening in fall 2012.
Since taking over as president of BAM in 1999, Hopkins has led the organization with stunning competency, riding the waves of financial and philanthropic ups and downs. The annual attendance has exploded, the budget has over doubled, and the organization’s endowment has almost tripled to over $80 million. Read the rest of this entry »
Staying small sounds a bit counter-intuitive to creative types, especially artists.
Take into consideration the many years of art school where teachers keep telling students to “work bigger” so that they can “see that piece done on a much larger scale.” Sometimes it speaks beyond the formal issues of a piece: understanding that the effectiveness of its meaning and concept can be directly related to the size of the audience it has reached.
I’ve been thinking about this topic of scale my entire career, not just as a studio artist, but as a teacher and arts administrator who constantly has to create opportunities for others in the field while maintaining some sense of respect for my own creative ambitions.
My full-time paying gig is serving as the Director of Artists-In-Residence at The Ragdale Foundation, where artists, writers, and composers are offered time and space to get important work done.
As administrators, we are constantly balancing the working conditions of the artists, especially when it comes time to “gather round the dinner table.” Yes, sometimes the space where we consume our food is more important than the size of the studio where we make work.
We’ve kept the number of residents to about a dozen residents per session, so everyone can sit family-style at one large table rather than in separate clique-y style cafeteria tables. This is just one example of how to keep the residents engaged with appropriate peers (Author’s Note: You can read about the various types of programs through the Alliance of Artist Communities.) Read the rest of this entry »
As I work with talented administrators across the country, I hear one familiar refrain over and over:
“I don’t have TIME to add one more thing to my calendar—whether that is advocacy work on behalf of arts education or fundraising or a myriad of other essential tasks that I know would make a difference to my organization or to the arts generally”.
In fact, you may not have time to read this blog post! Yes, there is always the option of committing a few more hours to our day, making that a 16-hour day instead of a 14-hour day, but in the name of sanity, that is not an option for this discussion.
In an effort to discover some realistic options, I have reviewed the literature on standard time management and discovered some of the suggestions that we have probably all heard before.
- Start each day by listing the tasks and activities you want to accomplish.
- Rank these tasks and activities in order of priority. List the three to five most difficult tasks and try to get those out of the way first.
- Block out time on your calendar for the highest priority task on the list.
Yes, all good but what else? I am impressed with two ideas that my partner, David Bury, suggests:
The first is called Reallocating the Easy Twenty Percent: Ask yourself, what things I currently do that someone else (a staff member, a board member, a volunteer) could do nearly as well as I? Create a list of those things. Identify what person(s) are best qualified to handle the tasks, recruit them, and then ask them if they would take these on for you. You will be surprised. They will say yes. Read the rest of this entry »
In a recent edition of Thomas Cott’s “You’ve Cott Mail,” readers encountered a series of blogs and articles exploring the utility—and, in one case, the aftermath—of embracing a term like “emerging” in its application to artists.
It was earlier this year when Barry Hessenius, too, addressed in his blog the importance of identifying emerging leaders. “I wonder whether or not we are isolating these people 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 – at least in part – a disservice,” he wrote.
By identifying emerging leaders, the early impulse was to provide support and resources. But it was the majority group who defined this difference. The term does not apply to them, only to a separate group. A discrete category. Others.
Or, to put it another way, by creating “emerging leaders,” the term separated the field into two groups: “emerging leaders” and “leaders.”
Before continuing, three illustrations:
1. The term “hipster,” like its predecessor “yuppie” in the 1980s, has become inextricably linked to this cultural moment. Yet, who is a hipster? Read the rest of this entry »