Blog Posts for Nonprofit Arts Women Rock!

Relevance, Diversity, and Progress in the Arts

Posted by Mariët Westermann, Dec 04, 2018 0 comments

When you look at the arts sector more broadly, it is clear women have gradually come into more leadership positions. Although art history departments and museums were male-dominated for centuries, recent data show that we’re finally turning a corner. Nevertheless, there is a stubborn gender imbalance at the helms of the largest museums. And barriers for women of color—or men of color for that matter—are even higher. Having seen as much change in my field as I have since 2000, I am both heartened and worried. As a society we have made progress on the recognition and remediation of gender inequality, and the persistence of racism as a driver of inequality has come into clearer view. In philanthropy we are becoming better at rewarding leadership in these arenas—often belatedly. But we also see that social progress can engender apathy and even resistance. There is far more to do for the arts and museum sector to become truly representative, equitable, and inclusive, and thus the most excellent it can be for our country. For all of us in the practice, study, and philanthropy of the arts, this is a great calling.

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Learning that Asserting Oneself is a Good Thing

Posted by Janice Monger, Nov 30, 2018 0 comments

My title is President and CEO of the Staten Island Museum. I will admit when I first began introducing myself in this role, I felt somewhat awkward and uncomfortable with this title. In museums, the title of Executive Director is much more common, so in some way I felt like my title seemed overblown. I’m not someone who typically draws attention to myself, so at first I rather timidly stated my title, or even said “I’m the director of the Staten Island Museum” instead—downplaying the title, because that felt more comfortable. But then I thought about it. Why wouldn’t I say President and CEO proudly? There is no reason that I shouldn’t. Except for the nagging notion that women shouldn’t brag, or maybe that at some level I’m internalizing that there aren’t too many women President and CEOs and that it seems like that title doesn’t belong to me. But the reality is I’ve earned it.

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A Voice, and a Choice

Posted by Ms. Carla Dirlikov Canales, Nov 27, 2018 0 comments

I’ve always spent a lot of time thinking about issues related to gender, identity and culture. As the first-born daughter of a Mexican mother and a Bulgarian father, I spent much of my childhood in a state of cultural confusion as I tried to navigate both of the cultures that I had inherited, and assimilate to the one that I was born into as an American. I grew up listening to opera with my dad, eating taquitos with my mom, and learning to speak English as my third language. In addition to this, I soon saw the differences between myself and my brothers in all of the cultures that we were navigating. These differences deeply affected me as a young girl. Music was my safe space: a place where identity didn’t matter. People often refer to music as the universal language, but I have come to a different conclusion. I believe that emotion is our universal, and the arts offer us a safe place to investigate what it means to be human.

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A Woman of Substance

Posted by Ms. Susan Medak, Nov 20, 2018 0 comments

When I first read Katharine Graham’s autobiography, which later became the basis for The Post, I don’t remember experiencing any moments of recognition. Awe, yes. Admiration, absolutely. That a woman with so little self-confidence had found the capacity to topple a president by discovering some previously hidden strength—now that was an inspiring story. But it wasn’t until I watched Meryl Streep navigate Katharine Graham’s route from society maven to newspaper publisher with a backbone of steel that something struck me, and I recognized that her trajectory and my own career development bore some commonality. I was certainly not a pioneer of the generation of theater managers that included Nina Vance, Iris Siff, and Zelda Fichandler, or even that second wave that included Sara O’Connor and Alison Harris, Jessica Andrews and Mary Bill. Nonetheless, as an early career manager when few women were in the field, it was hard to have my voice be heard, to be able to command a room so that my thoughts could be presented.

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Bring it on.

Posted by Ms. Kristina Newman-Scott, Nov 16, 2018 0 comments

I have learned what is important for me through the arts: whether it is a hobby or a profession, the arts allow us to tap into our own voice and find what is meaningful. It is an extension of who we are, and it is reified in the world through words, music, paintings, and movement. The arts tune us into the thing that makes us tick. It gives us the power to listen to our own selves, to truly go in and feel. In a world where everything is external, the arts are a reprieve—a moment to lean in and go deeper. The arts give you a confidence to listen and to chart your direction. With a better understanding of my own self, I can make connections and lead this organization more effectively. I see myself as the Jackson Pollock of arts administration—at first glance, one might think it’s chaotic, but there is intentionality behind every stroke.

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On Women in Leadership in the Arts

Posted by Ms. Deborah Cullinan, Nov 13, 2018 0 comments

Today, in these seemingly unenlightened times, it is easy to worry that the very people we have elevated to leadership can neither identify nor light the way. This isn’t just a concern about who might run for office or be appointed to the Supreme Court. It’s a worry about the critical and threatened role of inspiration, integrity, generosity, and compassion in public life. As a leader of a nonprofit arts organization in this context, I think the most important thing we can do is urgently and carefully consider the current and potential role our organizations can play in reimagining and reigniting our struggling democracy. As a female leader and a mom, it is natural for me to think about how and why an organization was born, and how and why it exists today. I have often reflected that institutions were made by people in order to deliver on the promise of democracy. We know they are not doing that, so we have to change them. The purpose of leadership, in many ways, is not to hold an organization in place but to constantly nurture it toward what it can and should be.

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