Moving from Arts Leadership to Community Leadership (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Feb 02, 2011 3 comments

Stephanie Evans

Stephanie Evans

In January, most of the Americans for the Arts network councils gathered in Washington, DC, to participate in their annual Winter Meetings to share information and develop work plans for the year.

During the two-day Emerging Leaders Council meeting, we had a valuable discussion around connecting more deeply to the 32 Local Emerging Leader Networks that are currently in existence, while also providing resources and services to the individual emerging arts leader who does not have access to regular professional development or a local network.

In my two years of working with the Emerging Leaders Council, I have been excited about the evolution of their conversations as they develop strategies and ideas to reach out to the field, providing resources for growth and professional development.

Meanwhile, back at our offices in DC, one of our focuses within the Local Arts Advancement department at Americans for the Arts is the idea of moving from arts leadership to community leadership.  How does your job as the marketing associate at a local theater change when you begin to think of yourself as a community leader, now in the position of being able to connect with your community, and invite them to participate in an art performances that are relevant to them?

This idea of moving from arts leadership to community leadership is a shift that I think we have to make as a field.  Community leaders make sure they have a seat at the table during important decision-making meetings; moreover, they partner with other nonprofits, for-profits, and governmental and social agencies in order to accomplish their personal or organizational missions.  Many arts organizations are already starting to do this, and are doing it really well, but it’s time that everyone in the field begins making this a priority

Artists and arts organizations have unique skills that they can offer to any number of “outside” groups— from homeless shelters to hospitals. With arts administrators at every level in every discipline thinking of themselves as community leaders, the relevancy of the arts in their respective communities rises exponentially, thereby making  an even stronger case for the organization’s existence.

This conversation is just beginning to take shape in the Emerging Leaders Council, and is one that we, and the other networks of Americans for the Arts, will explore at our Annual Convention in San Diego, CA, this summer and throughout 2011.

3 responses for Moving from Arts Leadership to Community Leadership (from Arts Watch)


Tara S. says
February 11, 2011 at 3:01 am

I couldn't agree more that artists and arts organizations should have a seat at the community leadership table. As our field is increasingly involved and represented in community issues, I believe it will become more clear to everyone involved that the arts and cultural sectors are an integral part of what defines "community" in a general sense and what makes each individual community unique, strong, and vibrant.

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Sandy Fortier says
February 02, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I'm glad to hear about both plans for the councils. Living in an isolated Alaska city, I can see myself supporting and getting involved with more professional development AND community leadership. We need it.

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February 07, 2011 at 12:33 am

I have always been interested in using the Emerging Leaders network as a platform on which to model the next generation's approach to leadership. I have envisioned that one characteristic of that approach is an interest in developing community leaders - from cross-sector collaboration to fueling more socially-minded arts programming. I appreciate AFTA's direction in encouraging this shift.

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