Celebrating 10 Years of the Emerging Leader Program at Americans for the Arts
I want to congratulate the Emerging Leaders Network, the leaders of the 20UNDER40 project, and other stakeholders who helped make last week's Emerging Leaders Salon possible. As one of the thousands of visitors reading these Salon posts on ARTSblog last week, I can say I am heartened not only by the keen level of discussion, but also by the great diversity of participants and readers who have commented. I find it striking and encouraging that the arts field always comes together in a united front to make our community stronger, despite the challenges of the economy and changing cultural landscape, as well as strong differing opinions.
These kinds of insightful dialogues between powerhouse voices in the arts field such as Eric Booth and Ramona Baker and vigorous burgeoning leaders such as Edward Clapp and Ruby Classen, make me feel proud of the inherent community the arts bring to us all. I am also humbled at the enormous amount of work so many members, stakeholders, and staff of Americans for the Arts have played over the last ten years to advance new voices in the arts. It was in 1999 at a Winston-Salem Convocation focused on the future of the arts that the Emerging Leader program was born. In just ten short years the Emerging Leader Network has grown from an idea and then a Council to a full-fledged collection of over 1,000 leaders and stakeholders of all levels who are looking to ensure the health of arts leadership. Where our staff once had conference calls with a few emerging leader representatives scattered across the country, our Network now hosts dozens of Creative Conversations from coast to coast—hundreds of emerging leaders deeply engaged in their own communities.
While I have had the opportunity and great fortune to lead Americans for the Arts for the past 25 years, I can still remember my first day in the nonprofit arts field, not too long out of College, living in the changing environment of the early 70’s. Working at the Arts Extension Service in Massachusetts, my peers and I had two distinct day-to-day jobs: 1) to make our organization a success in the community; and 2) to learn as much as we could about the nonprofit arts as we went along. I look today at the education and skill and joy that emerging leaders bring to our field from their first days on the job and it helps me remember that I still have a lot to learn and that growth in leadership never stops. I am also reminded that discussions such as this blog Salon show that every voice in the arts field is important and that every manager, president, coordinator, director, and assistant can learn so very much from his or her own peers.
Again, congratulations to all of you on the success of this online event and for the passion and curiosity you have shown in these blog posts. I am proud that the arts field and Americans for the Arts have played a part in the growth of the Emerging Leader program these past ten years and I look forward to meeting and learning from new leaders throughout our sector.