We Resolve to Create a Better Arts Field

Posted by Brea Heidelberg, Todd Trebour, Abe Flores, Apr 17, 2017 0 comments

What do you want to see in the arts field? What should be the arts field’s priorities and goals? What are you doing to create a better arts field? What do you commit to do? Why is it needed?

These are the burning questions the Emerging Leaders Council found themselves asking one another at the annual winter meeting this February. The council advises Americans for the Arts staff on programs and services that will both serve and build a deeper connection to emerging leaders in the field. The council members come from all corners of the country and arts field, working at colleges and universities, local arts agencies, community development corporations, medical institutes, municipal art commissions, and arts & cultural non-profits. With the varied perspectives, the council discusses field-wide trends that directly impact emerging leaders; then offers insights to Americans for the Arts staff on how emerging leader issues permeate the diverse working contexts of council members, the Emerging Leader Networks, and the arts field at large.

In response to the questions posed at the winter meeting, vision statements were developed that encapsulate shared hopes for our field:

  • EQUITY & INCLUSION: Arts Leaders embrace equity and inclusion as a field-wide and organizational priority.
  • COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP: Arts Leaders practice collaborative leadership, marked by more distributive leadership structures rather than the historical “top-down” approach.
  • INTENTIONAL INVESTMENT IN ALL STAFF: Arts Leaders invest in and develop all their staff as a core responsibility, understanding that a competent staff is an asset and investment towards the bottom line.
  • CHANGE MANAGEMENT: Arts Leaders cultivate “constructive non-conformity” at their organizations as a means promoting innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, and ensuring organizational flexibility and relevancy in our rapidly changing environment.
  • COMMITMENT TO THE ARTS ECOSYSTEM: Arts leaders prioritize commitment to the arts field, local arts ecosystem, and to the public over survival of an organization. Arts leaders look outside their own organizations to collaborate with other organizations, funders, and government as it meets the needs of the community.
  • ENDING THE BURNOUT CULTURE: Arts Leaders create work environments that value work-life balance and mission-driven resource utilization, which allow them to fully engage with their communities outside of work and lead to healthier, more effective employees and organizations in the long-term.

Throughout this year, the council will be developing an Emerging Leader Vision for the Field, using these vision statements as a starting point in conversation with emerging arts leaders and Americans for the Arts’s Emerging Leader Networks through a variety of in-person and online platforms.

This blog salon is the formal start of that year-long dialogue. Emerging leaders were asked for stories, case studies, and opinions in response to these prompts: Is there a specific outcome that resonates? Is there something missing? What specific examples do you have of the following being needed or exemplified? What needs to be done to achieve all or one of the following? Why is it urgent?

This salon allows readers to get a sense of the issues and trends facing emerging leaders in the field and to hear first-hand how people are dealing with them or, in some cases, making their vision a reality.

Sixteen emerging leader bloggers responded with examples of and calls for engaging emerging leaders in organizational governance, investing in all staff member’s professional development, change leadership, salary negotiation, arts leadership in the suburbs, women in theatre leadership, feminism in the arts, collaborative leadership, using an asset-based approach to arts education, and rethinking internships for leadership development. Many of these arts leaders are taking charge and with a few collaborators working towards a more equitable, accessible, and responsive arts field. In the coming week, as you read these inspiring arts leaders’ words and calls to action, we ask that you let us know what you think, what you want to see change in the field, and how can all our networks of networks unite to make these visions a reality.

We know that there are a lot of great things happening in our respective arts corners—it is important that we come together periodically and share our thoughts and struggles—but also share our hopes. We would like to thank all our bloggers for taking the time to do just that with their thoughtful and engaging posts as we work to develop an authentic vision for our field. We would also like to thank Hilary Amnah & Nick Dragga, the Emerging Leader Council members who contributed to the salon. 

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