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The Millennial Revolution: Young Arts Administrators of Color Reinvigorating the Field

Posted by Ms. Elena Muslar, Apr 13, 2015 4 comments

In more recent times, the arts administration field has begun to recognize the importance of cultivating tomorrow’s leaders. Professional development opportunities have begun to spring up for the “next-gen” or “emerging” leader. These buzzwords have essentially become synonymous with being a “millennial” in this field. Yet the term itself tends to be defined with certain characteristics of being detached, entitled, liberal, and tech savvy – most of which don’t always bode well for a young person trying to emerge into a predominately “baby boomer” arena.

On the other hand, the field of arts administration is slowly beginning to see how encouraging “diverse” or “multicultural” leaders to participate in professional development opportunities can help organizations address the lack of equity in our audiences and patrons from the inside out. As a person of color growing up, a strong work ethic was instilled in me because of the obstacles that I was warned I might face. Now that demographics are changing, people of color are outgrowing the label of minority and travelling into the land of majority. It is quite fascinating to see how the tides are shifting in the arts administration field towards this idea of inclusion.

Finding myself landing in both of these categories, as a millennial arts administrator of color, I have begun to contemplate and comprehend the varied roles that those like me play and must traverse. These roles revolve around a philosophy of actual reality rather than overarching descriptions. In order to be appreciated and accepted as viable contributors to the arts administration field, we millennial workers have begun to evolve the label of “arts administrator” into more layered positions relative to times we are venturing into:

  • Cultural Contractors: service providers, suppliers, contributors, and connectors to the arts
  • Creativity Curators: keepers, stewards, guardians, and consumers of the arts
  • Visionary Warriors: soldiers, fighters, innovators, and troopers for the arts

These three paths I have discovered we are now paving have come to my attention through my own experiences and that of two of my fellow millennial arts administrators of color, Jasmine Regala and Manuel Prieto.

At ages 25-26, we range the gamut in position titles to educational experience. We also represent a lovely trifecta of diversity: Black, Asian, and Latino. Through our current positions we each fit into one of the revolutionary positions listed above.

  • I work as a Program Assistant for the Skirball Cultural Center, a museum and cultural institution, which presents film, concerts, lectures, and performing arts. I achieved my MFA in Theatre Management specializing in Producing from CalArts last year. Preceding that, I received my BA in Theatre with minors in Dance, African American Studies, and an emphasis in Education from Loyola Marymount University. Throughout my time earning my masters, I held various internships and positions in Los Angeles, CA (LA County Arts Commission, etc.); Florence, Italy (Orchestra della Toscana); and San Francisco, CA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Theatre Bay Area) in order to broaden my horizons. I see myself as a Cultural Contractor.
  • Jasmine is the Associate Chorus Manager for the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, a music-based organization that trains children in choral singing and facilitates professional performance opportunities for their experienced children’s choirs. She received her BA in Art and Communications from UC Riverside. Jasmine often volunteers with Los Angeles based arts organizations like The Blank Theatre, The Industry, and LA Conservancy. Staying active in experiencing the arts that LA has to offer, she has always been my go-to-gal for updates on the cool art exhibitions to check out or festivals to go see. She exemplifies the role of a Creativity Curator.
  • Manuel was just appointed Executive Director of the Los Angeles Music and Arts School (LAMusArt) an arts education organization dedicated to the underserved, but vibrant, community of East Los Angeles. He is currently obtaining his MA in Nonprofit Management from Antioch University-Los Angeles and has his BFA in Theatre Design from the University of Southern California. Over the last four years, Manuel has substantially proved his worth working his way up from Intern, to Teaching Artist, to Program Manager, to Deputy Director, and now as he steps in as ED on August 1, 2015, he will be able to draw from his various experiences and lead this organization into a brighter dawn. He has become a Visionary Warrior.

The three of us crossed paths early on at the beginning of our arts careers when we all worked at Center Theatre Group. We bonded over shared thoughts, ideas, and experiences becoming this automatic support system for each other over the years during our emergence into the arts administration field.

However our titles label us, as assistant, manager, or director, we each are revolutionizing the field with our voices in each of these new capacities. My arts comrades and I are inspired by our cultural backgrounds, the power of the arts, and the communities we serve. We are really what the millennial revolution of arts administration looks like – creative service agents, automatic arts activists, and shepherds of dual communities. Yes, we may be young but we are mighty too.

Our ideas revolve around adjusting, not changing, the way things have been done by our respected elders. As we learn current trends and implement better methods of strategic planning, the impact of our presence will shift the dynamics of arts administration over time and as more of us will emerge. The revolution will continue redefining itself. It’s just time for people to recognize this revolution’s existence. This is urgent because we are the people you want to reach – the target markets, the young audiences, the new donors. You are cultivating us to take on tomorrow but some of us are already here, ready, and able today. We are already mentoring and connecting with generations younger than us by adopting and applying the lessons passed down to us. We look forward to working together collaboratively rather than separately. We look forward to being enveloped into the fold and becoming leaders through our own accord. As long as the arts administration field recognizes the good in this Millennial Revolution, the potential for more well-rounded arts organizations is exponential.

Interested in joining the conversation? Meet us in Chicago for the Arts Leadership Precon during Annual Convention!

4 responses for The Millennial Revolution: Young Arts Administrators of Color Reinvigorating the Field

Comments

Ms. Elena Muslar says
April 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Thank you Ray. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree and hope that the field as a whole recognizes that it needs to continue to cultivate it's new leaders of color in more evolved ways at varying entry points: in schools, in jobs, and in outside professional development opportunities. But at the same time, the field should recognize that as these leaders are cultivated there needs to be places for them to go, where their voices can be heard, and they can see the fruits of their labor eventually make a difference. It's long road ahead but with unity, understanding, and support our field can grow for the better.

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Ray Smith says
April 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Excellent post, Elena! I think you make a very good point about the recognition and development in the field of young arts administrators of color. I feel there are a lot of programs that are addressing these issues at a certain level, like the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship we have in LA. But I wonder if it'll be enough to eventually result in change at the executive level. The field of arts administration has been predominantly female for sometime, yet most of the highest paid, executive positions in museums and arts administration across the country are held by (white) men. I hope that as the field of arts administration becomes more diverse, that results in more diversity on our boards who are usually responsible for hiring those in the top positions.

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Ms. Elena Muslar says
April 14, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Thank you Lindsay!!! I have felt like the lines have been blurred at times. I'm so glad you understood my exact intention in writing this piece.

If only I was one of the lucky ones to win a scholarship to AFTAcon this year, I would've loved to continue this discussion with you in person! Alas, there's always next year! Persistence is key and I am one determined millennial! ;)

Have fun in Chi-town!

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Lindsay Tucker So says
April 13, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Elena,

I love how you exposed the depth and complexity beneath the monolithic "Millennial/Young Arts Administrator." Often categories are used with such frequency they no longer distinguish.

I think that the proactivity of collaboration rather than isolation -- and actually doing it -- is one of the distinguishing characteristics of our cohort. Perhaps it's working in and adapting to a transformed sector post-recession, an entrepreneurial spirit, or just that there are more places for us to land these days.

Looking forward to discussing more during the Precon in Chicago!

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