The Role of the Arts in the Service of History

Posted by Gerard Atkinson On August - 11 - 2014
Gerard Atkinson

Gerard Atkinson

An unexpected part of the internship job description—being called upon to be a documentary judge. In addition to my work in the Research Services team at Americans for the Arts, I was asked to be a judge at this year’s National History Day, in the senior group documentary section. It turns out the arts and history have a lot to do with each other. Read the rest of this entry »

On “Emerging”

Posted by Lindsay Sheridan On December - 13 - 2013
Lindsay Sheridan

Lindsay Sheridan

If I had to compress my identity into just a few words, I guess I’d go with “emerging arts leader.” That’s the popular phrase for what I am, right? A 20-something, fresh-out-of-college, five-years-or-less-of-experience young arts professional. What am I emerging to? Unclear (and impossible to predict).

What I do know for certain is this: I am called to work in this field because I believe passionately in the arts’ ability to contribute uniquely to a community’s sense of identity – to provide local, intimate, authentic experiences. I am called to this work because the arts have always been central to my own life, and it never really occurred to me to dedicate my career to anything else.

Certain artistic moments have evoked inexplicable emotions: sitting among an audience entranced by a cello and dancer duet in a warm, intimate venue. Taking in a favorite song by a folk-rocker on a perfect summer night in the grass at Wolf Trap’s amphitheater. Looking up to see my conductor’s smirk of pride in the middle of our Rachmaninoff-composed lyrical viola soli. These snapshots are more than just pleasant memories – they are some of the most important markers on my life’s timeline. This work is my vocation: I’ll do whatever it takes to allow individuals and communities to encounter these intangible, powerful experiences.

All this emotion aside, I am currently an unemployed emerging arts leader. When my internship in DC ended in mid-August, I felt like I was in great shape. The summer had brought about several interviews, and I arrived back in the Midwest with a job offer (hooray!). After much internal debate, I made the somewhat foolish decision to turn down two offers. A job that I really wanted needed a couple weeks to complete their decision-making process and I thought I might get it. I didn’t. After a few more road trips across the Midwest and second place results, I had to reevaluate. If I didn’t want to wait around for the right job in a familiar geographic location, it was time to throw caution to the wind and apply for positions in such foreign lands as Ohio, Massachusetts, and Missouri. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Mendenhall

Susan Mendenhall

The terms “triple-win” and “triple bottom line” are tossed around in nonprofit publications fairly regularly, especially when it comes to espousing the benefits of corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

At times, it can seem like forging triple-win partnerships are like cranking the philanthropic slot machine hoping for a three liner of cherries. A win for the nonprofit? Ding! A win for the corporate donor? Ding! A win for the community? Ding!

But authentic corporate-nonprofit partnerships that have real community impact are no simple gamble. They’re built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect, and a shared commitment to serving real people.

A great example of a successful triple-win partnership is the Nonprofit Arts Internship Initiative. With support from the Lincoln Financial Foundation, Arts United has placed more than 70 paid interns at northeast Indiana’s largest nonprofit arts organizations since 2007. Arts organizations gain assistance and expertise from local college students while providing interns with beneficial career experience in arts administration and nonprofit management. Read the rest of this entry »

Career Beginnings, Advancement, & Ramen Noodles (an EALS Post)

Posted by Shannon Musgrave On March - 26 - 2013
Shannon Musgrave

Shannon Musgrave

Washington, DC is full of young, ambitious, up and coming leaders—politicos, entrepreneurs, engineers, and of course, those of us in the arts. We live in an exciting time and as we prepare to dive into the working world, we are faced with some unique challenges. But we are young and energetic and up to the task.

One universal challenge emerging leaders face in every field is the evolution of the ever expanding “work day.” Gone are the days of a typical 9 to 5. (Though, did they ever really exist in the arts?)

In this iPhone, iPad, Blackberry world, we are continually and constantly connected. Emails are sent and expected to be read at any and all hours. Tweets and Facebook comments don’t take the night off. We are embarking on a career world that never stops and rarely sleeps.

And how does one break into this world?

Ah yes. The internship.

Internships have the potential to be great career launchers. They also have the potential to become traps. All work and no pay makes Jane a tired intern.

The New York Times recently published an article detailing the struggles of many 20-somethings—“a population historically exploitable as cheap labor”—as they learn that “long hours and low pay go hand in hand with the creative class.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Five Tips for Applying to Internships & Entry-Level Positions in Arts Management

Posted by Camille Schenkkan On February - 20 - 2013
Camille Schenkkan

Camille Schenkkan

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 »

A Marketing Student’s Perspective on NAMPC

Posted by Trenten Derryberry On November - 15 - 2012

Trenten Derryberry

This was my first time attending not only the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC), but also any conference. I am very happy to conclude that my experience was amazing and I would recommend this to anyone that is in any marketing field (and also if you are a student)!

I was asked to write this post-NAMPC piece to deliver a student perspective on the conference…here it goes!

Engagement, Mission, Alive, Active, Participatory, Stickiness, Contextualization, Spry, and Pray…all the words that come to my mind when I think of this past weekend (the list is endless!).

As a student, I came to NAMPC to primarily explore and listen to some of the TOP professionals in the marketing industry. What I received was something I wasn’t ready for.

Presenters sprawled from all areas of business (banks, agencies, venues, organizations, institutions)—both in and out of the confides of the performing arts, which I felt was an awesome exposure and a true springboard for discussions within the sessions.

Like I said earlier one of the reasons why I decided to attend was to listen and expand my critical thinking in an industry that I’m still learning about, that quickly changed to networking and participating within the sessions—I thought ‘when would be the next time I would be able to ask an audience engaging question directly to Alan Brown?’ So I did. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Dockery

At her 1985 retirement, after 20 years as founding director of the Arts & Business Council (ABC), Sybil Simon chose as her legacy a program which helped diversify the nonprofit arts sector. This program took the form of The Multicultural Arts Management Internship Program. It became an overwhelming annual success, attracting hundreds of applicants from across the United States, thanks to ABC’s partnership with Con Edison.

This summer, 11 interns were selected to work in areas such as fundraising, marketing, programming, audience development, and finance for ten weeks. Based upon their personal interests, the interns are paired with theater and dance companies, arts service organizations, music festivals, museums, etc. Organizations chosen to participate entrust the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) to interview all intern candidates and conduct the placement.

Supervisors at the arts organizations provide support in terms of creating an interns project (examples: assigning them to spearhead a marketing initiative for a festival or research prospective donors for a new capital campaign) and providing professional guidance for the eager students. Con Edison’s generous support lavishes interns with a $2,500 stipend (a rarity in the arts sector!).

The internship is not only unique because it promotes cultural diversity while empowering interns to take a significant role in their organizations, but also because business mentors are granted to the interns. Con Edison doesn’t just bestow financial support to our organization—they are personally involved by assigning staff as mentors. The mentors collectively represent alternative involvement in the arts, should the interns choose to work in business—they are patrons, donors, and board members—all excellent examples of our sector’s desired audience.

The business mentors attend events, take interns to coffee, visit their organizations, invite interns to their office, and attend site visits (where students lead a tour of their organization and present the results of their summer project). Con Edison also hosts the entire program for an opening breakfast and closing dinner ceremony, where the host supervisors, business mentors, interns, and Arts & Business Council staff come together to celebrate the program and reflect upon the summer.

Here’s a video of some of the interns and mentors in action: Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Thanks in America’s Capital

Posted by Delali Ayivor On June - 19 - 2012

Delali Ayivor

I know this about myself: I am a writer and I am an obruni.

Obruni is a term that comes from the Ghanaian language of Twi and it translates to foreigner or, more archaically “white man.” I was born in Houston, TX. My mother was born in Durham, NC and my father in Lome, Togo. I was raised, primarily, in Accra, Ghana. In my life I have lived in four countries and three states and through it all, I have had trouble identifying myself as an American.

The United States has been a constant symbol of idolatry for me. As an elementary school student, I ordered my father to bring back suitcases full of Oreos and Cheetos from his business trips, simply for the sheer commercial joy of the American name-brand. So when I moved, by myself, from Accra, Ghana to the outskirts of Northwest Michigan at age 15 to attend boarding school, I was, for the first time since the age of 3, ecstatically emerged in America, in my obsession.

Now I am going to say something that doesn’t get said enough; I love the Midwest. Perhaps because it was the first place that I lived in the United States where I was old enough to form an opinion, but I suspect there are others out there like me.

Coming from West Africa with absolutely no background in American history, the Midwest was the America I had always envisioned. This was the America I had gleaned from hours of Lifetime Television for Women made-for-tv movies; a place where my first poetry teacher, a farm girl, actually had her first kiss on a hayride, where soda was referred to as ‘pop’, the forgotten frontier of endless strip malls and moms in department store khakis pulling up to Rotary Club meetings in their Toyota minivans to talk about foreign lands they might never see, the backwards mud people saved by $5 a month set-aside through clever coupon usage down at the Piggly Wiggly. Read the rest of this entry »

Social Inequity and the Unpaid Intern

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On April - 4 - 2012

Gregory Burbidge

In writing about innovation and arts sector reform, Diane Ragsdale issued a call to action urging all of us to “actively address the social inequities in our country.”

Typically, my initial response to such a call would be something like, “let’s make sure that low-income neighborhood schools have the arts!”

I could then write some letters, “call city hall,” or contact members of the school board. None of those actions would require any substantial change in my conceptual frameworks or daily habits.

While committed to the goal, my efforts would be undertaken with a feeling that they would accomplish little. I am also aware that I may prefer such predictable actions not because they produce results but because they are, well, easy. Maybe that’s just me.

The Emerging Arts Leaders of Atlanta Network hosts regular events, often with one speaker or a panel of speakers.

Last summer, at one such meeting, I heard all sorts of great things about a particular internship program. That same meeting raised the issue about labor laws requiring that unpaid interns are not do work that someone else would otherwise be paid to do. I thought I might put together a panel with some interns who were willing to talk about their experience along with the people who run that intern program and a human resources professional to clarify legal mumbo jumbo. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Continue a Career in the Arts? (Part 2)

Posted by Jessica Wilt On September - 26 - 2011

Jessica Wilt

In part 1 of my blog post, I started to talk about how the economy is affecting arts administrators. Specifically, how the financial and jobs crisis is weighing heavier on midcareer level individuals. Now, what we can do about it?

Here are three things I see happening today, mainly due to the economy:

#1 – Unpaid internships have now replaced what used to be the entry level job. Anyone can be an intern, no matter what age, and companies get by with more unpaid labor. Ultimately this helps with their bottom line, but in turn is destroying the pay scale. What used to be respectable manager/director pay is often times now entry level salary.

CBS Sunday Morning recently did a great story highlighting the new trend employers are quickly taking advantage of. Just get an intern! They can fix and solve all your problems…for FREE! I’ve watched job posting sites like and shift from a plethora of full-time job listings to include more internship posts.

#2 – Due to budget cuts and downsizing, full-time jobs are being given part-time titles with no benefits. Or, full-time employees are asked to take on even more responsibility with less staff, give up percentages of their pay, watch benefits disappear, and participate in work furloughs. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Provides Another ‘Pathway to Prosperity’

Posted by Stephanie Riven On September - 16 - 2011

Stephanie Riven

One of the most compelling ideas related to workforce development is the report issued in February 2011 called Pathways to Prosperity by Robert Schwartz and Ron Ferguson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The report points out that every year, one million students leave school before earning a high school degree.

Many of these students say that they dropped out of high school because they felt their classes were not interesting and that school was unrelentingly boring. They say that they didn’t believe high school was relevant or provided a pathway to achieving their dreams.

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, the U.S. economy will create 47 million job openings over the 10-year period ending in 2018. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs will require that workers have at least some post-secondary education. Applicants with no more than a high school degree will fill just 36 percent of the job openings or just half the percentage of jobs they held in the early 1970s.

How can we reverse these trends? Read the rest of this entry »