Blog Posts for Leadership

Has Entering the Work Force as an Artist or Arts Manager Ever Been Easy?

Posted by Mary Sutton, Oct 19, 2009 4 comments

Being a woman over fifty who doesn’t own her own home, who is still paying off her student loans and who 20 years ago realized that upward mobility was no longer the modus operandi if she chose to stay in the arts --I do have to ask, what is all the fuss about.

What is so different for the younger generation now than when I entered the work force? (Before you shout heresy, hear me out). Armed with my BFA and a kick-ass resume I worked two and three jobs, my friends and I produced our own shows to get our equity cards. We grew as artists by starting our own performance spaces to do the work we wrote ourselves. We formed our own acting troupes, got noticed in the Village Voice--a big thing back then, slept little, barely bought food and shopped at the Goodwill. Later when I graduated from Harvard with Brustein’s patriarchal blessings ushering me into the world fortified with more mega names on my resume I thought I was especially equipped because of the ultra-rarified knowledge that is the legacy of an “extraordinary” university education--wow, I knew a lot.

And I did know a lot and so do the younger artists around me that I’ve hired and who have just graduated from those extraordinary programs.  And like you I too thought I’d never pay back my student loans. I also desperately wanted a seat at the table. I went to conferences thinking the “leaders” where obsolete and needed the discerning innovations that swam around my, I must admit now, inflated ego. The arts were economically anemic then too. Then we had Mapplethorpe, Bible-thumping Republicans chasing artists with hellfire and rescinding funding, oh, and then dismantling the NEA and state arts councils, all the while, homeless turned up in vacant cars or lived in cardboard shanties in Thompson Square Park.

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Recipe for a Great Mentorship

Posted by Leslie Ito, Oct 19, 2009 2 comments

In 2003, I found myself barely thirty and running an arts organization that was five years older than me. I had interned at this organization just ten years prior as a first year in college. While the circumstances around my experiences were unique in that Linda Mabalot, my mentor and the executive director of the organization of 17 years, passed away suddenly, forcing the organization into transition and change, the lessons that I learned from our relationship are worth sharing.

Here are the five things that Linda taught me about mentoring emerging leaders.

•Is about sharing a passion. In searching for a mentor, finding one that you share a passion with is key. The rest will come organically from there.

•Is not a scheduled weekly or monthly meeting. Linda was always available for me to ask questions, share ideas and strategize together. If a mentorship is really working, it could be a lifelong relationship.

•Is a two way street. This is an opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee to learn from each other. Linda and I shared a truly give and take relationship.

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20UNDER40: An Anthology by Emerging Arts Leaders

Posted by Edward Clapp, Oct 19, 2009 3 comments

First, some context: For the past ten years I have worked in the field of the arts and arts education as either an artist, teaching artist, arts administrator, or some amalgam of all three. Over the course of my tenure in the field it’s been hard to ignore the undercurrent of grumblings from my peer group as they’ve grown increasingly more frustrated with the structure of the arts sector.

While many young arts professionals deal with issues of low salary, glass ceilings, lack of a reliable career path, and a general disconnect with their colleagues in other institutions, what seems to be the most consistent theme amongst many young arts leaders I’ve encountered has been the lack of voice they have in the larger arts conversation.

If you give a good look around you’ll quickly notice a paucity of young arts professionals (a) contributing to the field’s literature, (b) participating at senior staff meetings, and (c) presenting at national conferences. Some individuals I have spoken to have even suggested that the field “systematically squelches” or “boxes out” young voices. This inherent bias in the arts to favor veteran field leaders has caused many young arts professionals to leave the arts for more purposeful work in other domains. Over the years people have begun to talk about this phenomenon in a more open manner, but no one seemed to be doing anything (concrete) about it.

To address these issues I established, 20UNDER40 (—a new anthology of critical discourse—to collect twenty essays about the future of the arts and arts education, each written by a young arts professional under the age of forty. In doing so, 20UNDER40 aims to bring the voices of tomorrow’s arts leaders out of the margins and into the forefront of our cultural dialogue.

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Emerging Leaders Salon on ARTSblog!

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Oct 16, 2009 0 comments

Are the voices of emerging leaders in the arts too loud or not loud enough? The grumblings of both young arts practitioners and discerning seasoned veterans raise a number of important questions: Are we squelching the voices of emerging professionals in the arts field? And are we causing an exodus of committed young talent to leave the field for work in other domains?

For the first time in history there are four generational cohorts in the workplace.  The residual clash of generational perspectives has surfaced a number of undeniable challenges—and opportunities—for arts professionals and organizations. Unlike other industries, the arts sector seems to be struggling particularly hard with the inevitable generational shift in leadership.

Join the Emerging Leaders Network of Americans for the Arts and the 20UNDER40 anthology for the Emerging Leaders Salon on ARTSblog the week of October 19-23. Nearly 20 diverse arts professionals from across the country will discuss the impending generational shift in arts leadership, the value of emerging leaders to the field, and the necessity of a platform for young arts professionals. We invite you to follow these posts and continue the conversation through your ideas, comments, and personal stories.

  • Are you a young arts leader? Does the field value your creativity, innovation, and professional experience?
  • Are you a veteran arts practitioner? Does this view of the field as an entity unable to let loose the reigns of leadership resonate with you?
  • Is the arts field successful in its attempt to foster young leaders? Is something out of synch with our planning for succession—or is it an unwarranted overdose of arrogance being exercised by those new to the field?
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