On Women in Leadership in the Arts
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.
Community Boots on the Ground: Building Healing Arts and Military Community Relationships
For several years now, I’ve had the great honor to work with Americans for the Arts and its National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military to convene and advocate the value of the arts in health and healing nationwide, particularly its significance to the military community. Through this transforming experience, I’ve seen thousands of individuals—boots on the ground—who are building healing arts and military networks, which offer civilian and military community members greater opportunities to regain health and wellbeing and to build resiliency in response to the reality of increasing trauma occurring within our communities. A ubiquitous presence in the community ecosystem uniquely positions the arts to lead the movement to create healing networks and non-stigmatized environments that both afford respect and foster community-wide resilience and growth for individuals facing the invisible wounds of war.
One of the Boys
With three brothers and no sisters, I grew up thinking I was one of the boys. My 4th grade claim to fame was being the arm wrestling champion of my class, and it was a source of pride that I could out-run one of my older brothers when we played tag football. The boy next door was altar boy to my priest when we played Mass. If you really wanted to get me mad, you’d tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. I share this background as a way of explaining that I don’t often think of myself in terms of my gender. My many role models are as likely to be women as men. The times when I have encountered career hurdles, I’ve attributed them to other factors—e.g., someone else was more qualified, I was too timid, etc.—not to the fact that I’m female. The times when I have faced blatant gender discrimination I have called it out as directly and respectfully as I knew how, and with humor when possible. When someone is stepping on your toe, say “ouch.” I resist the idea that my potential is attenuated by a largely immutable characteristic.
40 Years Young: The Evolving Practice of Cultural Planning
Research released this week by Americans for the Arts sheds light on the aspirations, accomplishments, shortcomings, and methods used in cultural planning over the past decade and compares findings with Craig Dreeszen’s similar—although more extensive—study from 1994. The data reveal that expectations of cultural planning have increased significantly over these 20-plus years, and that the greatest change is in the emphasis on serving community interests rather than a focus on the arts and cultural sector’s own needs. While community-wide cultural planning helps formulate aspirations and action strategies, it doesn’t ensure results. Where cultural plans also set their sights, but where outcomes fell short, is in the area of cultural equity—expanding resources for under-represented groups including immigrant populations, removing barriers to participation, and bolstering education and youth development. Fewer than half of cultural plans included specific actions to address diversity, equity, and inclusion—a surprising finding in 2017.
Encouraging Women to Think Big
As a nonprofit arts leader, I am inspired every day by the growth in our sector, as well as the undeniable positive effect that artists and arts organizations have in their communities. At Theatre Communications Group, we say “A better world for theatre, a better world because of theatre.” We understand that theatres need knowledge, networks, and resources, and TCG has a role to play in supporting those needs. But theatres also have unique capabilities and responsibilities in their communities. If they choose to, they can help bring about justice and social change through the work on and off stage. I am rewarded every day by the ways in which people of all ages can engage with the artistry on its own terms, as well as the conversations and awareness that theatre evokes. And yet, while there is so much to be celebrated, the nonprofit arts sector has also replicated some of the structural inequities of the larger economic system.
How CRM Can Help You Outperform National Arts Industry Revenue Benchmarks
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CEO Reflections: Fifth Third Demonstrates How the Arts Heal
The Business Committee on the Arts, an organization started by David Rockefeller in 1966, celebrated the many ways that the arts bring people together on Tuesday, Oct. 2 in New York City. We at ArtsWave were proud that Cincinnati once again “made the list” with our own Top 10 Business Supporting the Arts in America: Fifth Third Bank. In the midst of stories of arts engagement and creative partnerships that characterized the remarks of each honoree, Fifth Third’s SVP and Chief Administrative Officer Teresa Tanner shared something particularly poignant and timely with the guests. Teresa described how art is being used to foster healing after the horrific mass shooting in the bank’s lobby in September. In the days that followed, bank leaders decided to cover the lobby’s broken windows with huge canvas boards. To show solidarity with one another and build strength in numbers to move forward, employees were invited to dip their hands in paint and leave their handprints on the canvases. Hundreds of colorful handprints now adorn the space and remind Fifth Third employees that they are “Fifth Third Strong” and “Cincinnati Strong.” This simple activity became a profound and hopeful action, something that brought the company together after unspeakable loss.
The Transformative Power of Cross-sector Collaboration: A Story of the Lackawanna County ARTS
The ARTS Engage! Task Force was created in 2016, inspired by a successful youth arts program and with a mission to “improve the quality of life for Lackawanna County residents through access to and participation in artistic, creative, and cultural experiences.” The power of passionate, committed, and diverse people working together has the ability to transform communities, but meaningful cross-sector collaborations take time. The kind of knowledge trust, enthusiasm, and planning needed for sustainability cannot be achieved in a short time frame. But rather than think of this as daunting, we can see it as a chance to expand our world, meet new people, challenge our cognitive biases, and create innovative and integrative systems of change. There will be stressful days, things won’t always work, and there may even be conflict. But I have found the joy in this work, and the impact far outweighs the difficulties.
A Latinx Woman’s Journey: I Did Not Get Here Alone
When I was asked to write about my leadership, I thought of writing about my path as one of the leaders of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC); however, I did not want to write this from the perspective of a linear trajectory as the figurehead of the nation’s only Latinx arts service organization. My life is not defined by a position I hold but rather by how I choose to live my life in service to others. My strong sense of love and commitment to family, humanity and community is what drives me.
Growing New Mexico Arts and the Military Initiative: Finding a Heart for Veterans
In a state with two million people spread out over a landmass that’s 10 times the size of New Jersey, the challenges of bringing people together in one place are obvious. Yet we know from experience that the time invested in traveling outside the state capital to cities and rural communities is worth the effort, and is indeed the only way to build trust between neighbors for a new concept. Fortunately, we could rely on the National Endowment for the Arts’ Creative Forces and Americans for the Arts’ National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military for guidance. In the last three years we have held face-to-face meetings with 90+ new individuals at three roundtable discussions—two in Albuquerque, one in Roswell. In the last two grant cycles, we have funded five new projects with a veteran and/or military focus. These numbers are modest, and we acknowledge, even embrace, the “baby-steps” method of outreach.
Arts, Business, and Capital
According to the Americans for the Arts Creative Industries Report, there are 674,000 businesses involved in the creation or distribution of the arts, and they employ 3.5 million people. This represents 4% percent of all U.S. businesses and 2% percent of all U.S. employees, demonstrating statistically that the arts are a formidable business presence. Collectively, we know the issues our cities and society face are too complex to address in one way. But I firmly believe the creative sector can be a strong partner in developing sustainable development goals such as well-being, economic health, quality education, and sustainable cities and communities. I see this as a team effort, requiring the investment of businesses, investors, AND funders to drive what is already important to them, by expanding their portfolios to embrace programs and services that only the creative sector can deliver.