Overcommitment: Taking the ‘I Shoulds’ Out of Your Life?

Posted by Jessica Wilt On May - 22 - 2012

Jessica Wilt

Another school year draws to a close and I feel like I’m out of control spinning all over the boroughs of New York City from one commitment to the other with “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” playing in my head. Is anyone else out there spinning round like a record, baby? Okay, that makes me sound old.

Next month I’ll be leading a Career360 Roundtable session at the 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. The topic: Community Involvement: Taking the “I Shoulds” Out of Your Life.

I chuckled upon my realization at how perfect the topic of overcommitment is for me; hence, the spinning-out-of-control vertigo I’m now experiencing.

Many arts administrators are expected to serve on panels, boards, and committees in addition to joining advocacy-related campaigns and other volunteer activities outside of the day-to-day full time job.

I’d like to explore this “I should or I shouldn’t” conversation a bit. Are arts administrators volunteer-driven because of their love for the field? Because there seems to be unspoken expectations? Out of necessity? Or a combination of all three?

I volunteer my time and energy mainly because I am passionate about arts education. I enjoy being connected to networks outside of my job, learning new things, traveling, and meeting some really interesting people…but sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »

Choose Your Own Adventure: Innovate or Bust (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On May - 22 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

(Author’s Note: The ArtsFwd team invited me to respond to their NextGen Quick Poll because of my knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing young leaders today gleaned in my role at Americans for the Arts.)

Pretend you have two job offers in front of you (I know, we’re just pretending here, okay?!)

  • Organization A is a respected organization that has been producing high-quality artistic work for the past 50 years. You get the sense that your role in the marketing department will be to continue business as usual to an audience who can afford the organization’s $150 per seat tickets. There is no social media campaign, something that you are very interested in starting. However, it’s unclear whether the organization’s leadership understands social media, or if they think it’s a good use of time or energy.
  • Organization B is a start-up organization that is three-years-old. The social impact is clear—Organization B is providing a safe space for children from dual income families to go after work. The children are exposed to art, music, and dance classes at an affordable rate. Your job would be to launch a social media presence, but you’d also be tasked with finding new untapped sources of revenue and creative partnerships to help sustain and grow the important work this organization is doing for the community.

So, which position would you choose? (By the way—we’re also pretending the pay scale, benefits, and title level of both positions is the same, although we know that in reality, this would not be the case).

If you choose Organization B (which we’re defining as the highly-innovative organization), then according to ArtsFwd and EmcArts recent NextGen QuickPoll, you may find yourself feeling 80 percent more likely to want to “move up” in the organization. Granted, this is not a scientific study, nor was it intended to be. Also, I made up those above case organizations. But, the survey and exercise itself brings up some very interesting questions and illuminates some issues in our field that I believe need addressing. Read the rest of this entry »

Educating for Entrepreneurial Arts Education Leadership

Posted by Stephanie Riven On May - 2 - 2012

Stephanie Riven

I recently spent a semester at Harvard as a visiting practitioner in the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

While working directly with the Arts in Education Program, I was also able to audit classes at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and attend special lectures and programs sponsored by the Harvard Business School. Needless to say, the entire experience was fascinating on many levels.

As one might expect, the differences between the course offerings and student culture in the above mentioned schools were striking—yet many of the future challenges students in these different institutions will face are the same.

Based on my experience, the talented students in the Arts in Education Program tended to orient themselves towards issues related to process—the process of learning and the integration of concepts in advocacy, education, research, and policy. Though each of these students expressed a deep commitment to their work, many also expressed trepidation about entering an uncertain job market that is famously under-resourced and socially marginalized.

By comparison, the students I encountered at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School were excited about their potential to begin something new. They were learning how to become entrepreneurs by developing skills related to organizing, team-building, and risk-taking while they were also growing in their understanding of how to garner financial, cultural, and social capital for their future ventures. Read the rest of this entry »

Marty Pottenger

Art At Work

Recently, I found myself sitting in a circle in Portland, ME, leading a group that includes the city manager, police chief, a leader in the Occupy Maine movement, one of the founders of Portland’s NAACP, leaders from the Sudanese and Congolese refugee communities, the president of a city union (CEBA), and a doctor active in public health, among others. The members of this group are impressive and diverse, but what we are sharing is more so.

In only seven minutes, 20 city and community leaders composed poems that draw upon their personal histories, the history of Portland, and those things they have witnessed in this place we all call home.

Increasing the Odds

All of Art At Work’s projects are designed to increase the odds that Portland and their partner cities (Holyoke, Northampton, and Providence in 2012), launch their own Art At Work will be better able to turn anticipated social and economic crises into opportunities by integrating creative engagement in their ‘way of doing business.’

This workshop was a part of Portland Works, another one of our experiments in figuring out how to harness the transformative power of art to achieve concrete community-based outcomes. These workshops bring together community and city leaders to create a dialogue and increase understanding between individuals and groups that often see one another as obstacles as opposed to allies. “It’s just brilliant,” says Mike Miles, the City of Portland’s director of human resources, “using art to break conceptions about who people are and what people do.”

Art At Work, of which Portland Works is just one part, is designed to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects involving city employees, elected officials, community leaders, and local artists. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Local Arts Leadership

Posted by Ursula Kuhar On April - 19 - 2012

Ursula Kuhar

Local. Public. Value. Arts.

Try creating a cohesive, comprehensive sentence that reflects our field using these four words.

These simple words that occupy so much complexity within our industry, and an entire day of dialogue at the first Americans for the Arts Executive Directors & Board Member Symposium held on April 15.

It was an exhilarating experience to participate in a peer exchange with diverse leaders from organizations around the country including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch, Jonathan Katz of the National Association of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), and Mary McCullogh-Hudson of ArtsWave.

In order to frame our work as arts leaders forging into a “new normal” in the industry, Bob shared the history and context of the local arts movement in America, rooted in the discovery of the Americas to the first established arts council in 1947 by George Irwin in Illinois, to the evolution of today’s local arts enabling organization that provide cultural programming, funding, community cultural planning, and of course, advocacy activities. 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Leadership Arts: Working Together to Create Change

Posted by Molly O'Connor On April - 4 - 2012

Molly O'Connor

Spring is in the air…which means that in Oklahoma the redbuds are in full bloom and one can look forward to the regular chorus of tornado sirens.

For me and my colleagues at the Oklahoma Arts Council, springtime also brings new promise and excitement for the arts as we coordinate and present our Leadership Arts Program.

Founded in 2008, Leadership Arts, is a professional development program open to 30 class members from across the state of Oklahoma. Now in its fifth year, this program continues to build up a growing statewide network of arts advocates.

Leadership Arts class members represent a diverse and talented mix of individuals from communities both small and large and every corner of the state. The class is generally made up of arts administrators, civic/community leaders, educators, artists, tribal, and cultural representatives.

Each class meets for two days over the course of four months in a different community in Oklahoma. Class curriculum specifically addresses how the arts play a crucial role in the economic impact, education, and quality of life throughout Oklahoma.

Recently I met with Georgia Williams, co-founder of Leadership Arts and former cultural development director for the state arts council, to learn more about how the concept for this program originated. Read the rest of this entry »

Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25

Posted by Katherine Mooring On April - 4 - 2012

Katherine Mooring

As the chief architect for the Arts & Science Council’s capacity building, professional, and leadership development offerings, I spend a lot of time thinking about the skills and expertise our next generation of arts and cultural leaders will need to be successful, particularly in an environment where change and complexity are the rule, not the exception.

As emerging leaders, we participate in leadership development seminars, attend conferences, enroll in graduate degree programs…you name it…in pursuit of formal training to enhance our professional growth and marketability.

Sometimes, however, we can find just as much value in learning from our peers and listening to those who have paved a path ahead of our own. Hearing authentic, often humbling, human experiences truly resonate and teach us that as much as we try to shepherd our career paths in thoughtful, logical, and strategic ways, sometimes reality (or insanity) takes hold.

When that happens, having a strong informal support network can be the difference between rising to the challenge or allowing the craziness to overwhelm us.

To reinforce the importance of this approach, last spring, ASC’s Emerging Leader’s program hosted a special panel discussion for emerging women leaders in Charlotte’s cultural community.

“For Women by Women: No Really…Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25” was an empowering event led by executive leaders from several major cultural institutions. Each woman shared success stories and stories of failure, and most importantly gave encouraging advice on how each of us—male or female, at whatever career stage—can think big and get out of our own way. Read the rest of this entry »

Multiplying Presence: 3 Lessons from red, black and GREEN: a blues

Posted by Eboni Senai Hawkins On April - 3 - 2012

Eboni Senai Hawkins

Over several months, I have witnessed a small part of the national unfolding of red, black, and GREEN: a blues (rbGb), a performative collaboration between Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project and Theaster Gates.

I am stunned at the synergy in practices between Bamuthi (artist/educator and director of performing arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) and Theaster (artist/urban planner and director of arts and public life at the University of Chicago).

For both Bamuthi and Theaster, the “relationship economy” is intrinsic to their work. As I become immersed in Emerging Leaders Network – Chicago (ELN) and the city as a whole, I’ve observed three areas highlighted by rbGb, activated in ELN and others, and rich with opportunities for greater impact in the arts.

1 – Flatten hierarchy. Stay in community online and off.

In a “Green Paper” about the future of arts leadership, Jennifer Armstrong describes the “amazing Technicolor dream” that could be achieved if emerging leaders “poke[d]” at established managers until a “genuine exchange” came around. This move to level existing hierarchies is possible from both sides. Jennifer, for example, is a champion for the field and subscribing to her feed on Facebook allows me, an aspiring curator, a vehicle for quick questions and insight into cultural initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Leveraging Our Impact as Leaders & Followers

Posted by Elizabeth McCloskey Miller On April - 3 - 2012
Liz Miller

Elizabeth McCloskey Miller

I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the steering committee for Emerging Arts Leaders DC (EALDC), a volunteer-led initiative that provides professional development, networking, and information relevant to emerging arts professionals in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

EALDC hosted our first-ever “book club” event in January with the incomparable Liz Lerman. Liz agreed to meet with our group to discuss her new book Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer. About twenty emerging leaders came out for the event, which Liz began by getting the group on their feet for a short icebreaker activity.

Liz paired up the group, assigning one person from each pair the role of leader and one person the role of follower. The follower closed their eyes and was led by the leader around the room. Leaders were encouraged to move their partners in creative ways as music played. When instructed by Liz, the leaders and followers swapped roles and swapped partners.

For me, the most interesting part of the exercise came mid-song when Liz told us to stop moving and decide individually whether we wanted to continue in our current leader or follower role. After the activity ended and we took our seats, Liz told us that in this self-directed segment of the leader/follower activity, there was a time when almost everyone in the room had elected to be a follower. Read the rest of this entry »

Unique Leaders, Common Characteristics: Who We Are (Part One)

Posted by Jaclyn Johnson Tidwell On April - 2 - 2012

Jaclyn Johnson

I write from Nashville, TN, a nationally recognized music city and a burgeoning arts town.

As an actor, community arts project manager, theatre producer, and staff member of an arts service organization, my days bustle with arts leaders, new and seasoned. They provide the spark for the city’s growth. And those stepping forward as new leaders will define the future of the creative sector.

When I look around at my ensemble and community, I see common characteristics that will weave through our individual impact as emerging leaders.

In this blog series I will explore three of those characteristics: who we are, how we will work in the arts and why we will dedicate so much of our hearts to it.

Who are we?

We are artists first and manager-janitors out of necessity. We are arts entrepreneurs.

From crowdfunding to self-publishing, it is becoming increasingly easy to take this do-it-yourself approach to making art.

“Film is an ever more do it yourself word,” said Coke Sams at a recent Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville seminar on alternative funding options for art projects. Coke is a producer at Nashville-based Ruckus Films and part of the team for the Blue Like Jazz film, the most successful film project in Kickstarter history raising over $345,000. Read the rest of this entry »

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.