We Sustain Each Other in Rougher Times
It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a great group of folks, discussing such a fascinating (and sometimes polarizing) subject. My name is John and I’m a program manager at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. I work in National Partnerships, serving the national network of state Alliances for Arts Education. I also help to dissemination the Kennedy Center’s suite of teaching artist training programs in arts integration, residency planning, and other areas.
The topic of emerging leadership is near to my professional heart. One of the reasons I stayed in the arts was the network of peers I quickly built from my first job in arts administration. I was working for the Washington State Arts Alliance in Seattle, WA and my boss suggested I get involved with the Emerging Leader Network of Americans for the Arts. I went to a conference, found kindred spirits, and made sure to get to every Americans for the Arts conference until I was honored to be elected to the Emerging Leader Council itself. From there, Americans for the Arts hired me and I moved to DC.
Without that network, I would not have developed the interpersonal connections that solidified my commitment to this field. Were it not for the colleagues and friends—those with whom I had frank and easy conversations, shared language, shared even a style of clothing—I would have easily departed the field for another type of job. We were compatriots, battling scarce funding, personnel challenges, and other issues that weighed on us, professionally. I’m sure this experience is common to any generation or group of any kind. Like likes like. But more than that, we sustain each other in rougher times. These connections do not preclude nor devalue connections made across our differences.
For that reason, it surprises me that an attempt to bring people with commonalities together would bother someone. The idea that the strengthening of one cohort somehow weakens another or weakens the whole seems suspect. It’s not our strengths that create weaknesses, but they may illuminate them.
There’s been talk among the Emerging Leader Network for many years about the need for tiered, generational networks: mid-career, seasoned, retired. There’s also been talk about the need to mix generations to maximize value.
Call me a glutton, but I’ll take it all.