Blog Posts for April 2012 Blog Salon

Capturing the World of an Emerging Arts Leader

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Apr 06, 2012 1 comment

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

I am consistently inspired by the innovation that comes out of the Emerging Leaders Network, and this week’s blog salon was no exception.

We heard from representatives of 11 Emerging Leaders Networks, and gained some insight into what was happening in their communities. This week, bloggers have questioned and affirmed why they continue to dedicate their careers to the arts; wrote about examples of artists and arts organizations leading authentic community engagement; questioned the social inequity of unpaid interns; and shared a list of Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25.

We gave ourselves permission to fail, permission to have multiple interests outside of the arts that may or may not intersect with the field, and reminded ourselves not to get stuck in a structure that no longer works for us as individuals or organizations.

It’s clear that emerging arts leaders are looking at their careers, organizations, and neighborhoods in a different way than arts administrators who have come before them. I believe it’s important that we honor the hard work of those who started in the field before us. Without them, we wouldn’t have the National Endowment for the Arts, the structure of public funding support, or the diversity of arts, cultural, and community engagement organizations that exist today.

There are four generations currently working and leading in the workforce, and we must find ways to work with one another, share our strengths, and support each other’s weaknesses at all levels of the generation spectrum.

To me, this blog salon demonstrated how many mini ripple effects of change are taking place in communities across the country at the same time. This is change at a very fundamental level that has the potential to reform our field in the way that Diane Ragsdale envisions in her post (and is our muse for this salon).

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Cultural Historians: Paying Homage to the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

Posted by Molly O'Connor, Apr 06, 2012 1 comment

Molly O'Connor

Working part time at a bookstore to pay for college, it was in 2001 when I first learned about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. I was shelving books when I came across a copy of Up from the Ashes by Hannibal B. Johnson.

I recall flipping through the pages, stunned that such massive atrocity that had taken place in my home state. And how was I just learning about this? The riot was certainly not included in Oklahoma History class.

Since that day, I’ve discovered I’m not the only Oklahoman who has been oblivious to the Tulsa Race Riot, the most horrifying act of racial violence in American history.

While this incident made national news, local history books and classes were devoid of information about this violent attack on the community of Greenwood. Even today, researching the event often leads to more questions.

There are discrepancies in the numbers of fatalities, and, as always, history has been written and controlled by those who have committed genocide. The mysteries of what really happened on May 31, 1921 are perhaps lost in the ashes.

For Oklahomans, how do we collectively reconcile this deep scar in our history and take steps to heal the wounds that still hurt and divide us? How do we ensure that we learn from the Tulsa Race Riot so that history does not repeat itself?

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The Subversive Tack: Arts + Economy

Posted by Tara Aesquivel, Apr 06, 2012 0 comments

Tara Aesquivel

Thinking about the economy can be rather depressing. For many people, it can seem like a volatile god: a mysterious force that affects everything and we mere mortals have no control over its whims.

Let’s start with a basic idea of what I mean when I write about “the economy.”

Economic analysis is often an attempt to make the complex world of interconnectedness more comprehensible by quantifying everything, usually through monetization. In other words, the world is complicated so we make charts.

The “economy” is everything that happens. Economics is a (left-brained) method of analyzing everything that happens, and it’s mostly focused on measuring everything in dollars and euros.

This focus on monetization is problematic for the arts because the value of artistic products is not always calculable by how much it cost to make them or by how much people are willing to pay for them. In fact, we often strive for the opposite—to give away the arts for free and know that they are priceless.

The subversive tack accepts economics for the way it is and uses the system to our advantage. In order to do that, we need to know the basic principles and be able to speak the lingo: quantification.

The arts sector is getting much better at quantifying the value and impact of the arts. Here are three great examples:

I took my first economics class in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, the heart of economics can be summed up in a phrase: “supply and demand.” This is something we already understand in the arts.

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Making Arts Advocacy A Way of Life

Posted by Madeline Orton, Apr 06, 2012 4 comments

Maddie Orton

Madeline Orton

On a recent visit to a community arts center, I was struck by the effortless inclusion of advocacy in the director’s curtain speech.

Plugs for the city rolled off her tongue like: “Don’t forget to check out our wonderful restaurants,” and my favorite, “If you’re looking for a new place, you should buy here—it’s a great time to buy!”

As someone who works for an arts advocacy organization (ArtPride New Jersey) nothing makes me happier.

Before I get on my soapbox about why you should be permanently stationed on yours, I want to point out two things: 1) neither of these comments is directly about the arts center and 2) the director is in her mid-20s.

When I have conversations about advocacy I receive a small range of reactions. Some people are thankful for the work advocacy groups do on their behalf, but don’t think they have the time to get involved. Others believe in the importance of advocating annually to their elected officials to protect funding.

Finally, some, like this community arts center director, build advocacy into everything they do all year long. Their advocacy efforts do not end at preserving funding, but extend to maintaining close contact with elected officials, the board of education, businesses, and other community organizations to ensure continued investment in their organization’s success.

I know that when this director calls for a visit during budget season, decision makers will not only know who she is, but will also have a clear understanding of the impact her organization has on the community—because she never stops telling them.

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Partnering for Civic Engagement: The Tucson Pima Arts Council & Finding Voice

Posted by Sara Bateman, Apr 06, 2012 3 comments

Sara Bateman

In my first post for the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon, I discussed the need for producing collaborations and partnerships in order to elevate ourselves from arts leaders to community leaders.

If the arts are to become a cultural zeitgeist, where we can leverage our work to address the social inequities of our time, we must be open to partnerships, collaborative environments, and shared leadership.

In searching for this combination as an emerging leader, I feel it is important to not only to leverage our new perspectives and fresh energy, but also to learn from the examples of those who have already been pushing the field forth.

Throughout the past two decades, the arts have been recognized as a way to revitalize communities across the nation. We’ve seen that programs celebrating an individual community’s character, history, people, and values through art have the potential to communicate and empower a neighborhood’s voice in a manner that can create powerful place making and important systemic change.

But who is best placed to initiate and leverage this type of work? Is it a local artist, a small community center, an arts council, or a major institution?

While all mentioned above are capable and have already initiated successful community and civic engagement projects, local arts agencies in particular are in a unique place to spearhead revitalization, change, and engagement through the arts.

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Making Adjustments: The Art of Decision Making

Posted by Ms. Hillary Anaya, Apr 06, 2012 0 comments

Hillary Anaya

Hillary Anaya

Recently, the Emerging Leaders of Mobile were given the task to receive a performance critique. The goal was to find a skill that needs improvement and to gain motivation to strengthen it.

I consider myself lucky, because I couldn’t have better bosses. While for some, asking for a performance critique can be intimidating, I have a welcoming work environment for this sort of thing. This is great because this activity was my idea, and if anyone HAD to do it, it was me.

One of my character traits is that I tend to get annoyed when I have to make adjustments. For example, when I receive incomplete submissions on a deadline day, I get a little irritated. I don’t mean I throw a full-blown temper tantrum, but I do tend to complain. I have always been aware that I do this, but I never really considered changing.

Recently, I was on the receiving end. I missed a deadline and had to get an extension. With the combination of advice from my bosses and being on the other side, the resolution was clear as day.

Mistakenly, I assumed my job as an administrator was to make sure the guidelines are ALWAYS followed. But I have been wisely advised that when working with people, especially in the nonprofit realm, rules sometimes need to bend so we can better serve our community.

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