On Becoming an Effective Leader and Creating Your Own Opportunities
As a woman working in the arts management field, I know how critical it is to look for opportunities and to take advantage of them. I have had several women role models who have demonstrated the importance of being a good leader, and now that I’m at a stage in my career where I am training the next generation of arts leaders, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a woman in a leadership position, and how to create your own opportunities. There are three guiding principles that I continually share with my interns who are just getting a glimpse into the inner workings of an arts organization. First, always be curious about what you are doing and what others are doing around you. Second, don’t sweat the small stuff; work your way through problems the best way you know how and don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. And finally, pass your knowledge and expertise on to the next generation.
The Best Kept Secret
How can you change your arts organization's reputation from the “best kept secret” to the most popular place in town?
Breaking Down the South Dakota v. Wayfair Decision and Its Impact on the Arts and Small Business
On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case South Dakota v. Wayfair. In essence, the Court ruled that state and local governments can require retailers with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax on those sales. The Court ruled that the standard for determining the constitutionality of a state tax law is whether the tax applies to an activity that has “substantial nexus” with the taxing state; i.e., the Court threw out a previous requirement for “physical presence.” Previously, if the vendor didn’t have physical presence in the state where the buyer was, there was no requirement on the business to collect the tax.. Now, practically, how does a seller know in which state to collect tax? Is it where the seller is shipping it? Is it the billing address? And what does this mean for artists and art sellers?
Experiential Education for the Future of Arts Leadership
Often, the pathways to job positions at the highest levels in the arts field are not very clear. The Diversity in Arts Leadership internship (DIAL) helps ensure undergraduates interested in leadership at arts organizations gain the skills, networks, and experience needed to assume leadership roles in the arts. Each intern in the Americans for the Arts’ DIAL Internship has displayed a combination of passion for the arts, some experience leading meaningful projects, and self-identifies as being from a background traditionally untapped for arts leadership. The DIAL internship then provides the platform for competitively selected undergraduates to explore nonprofit careers in the arts, taking the arts practices they love and combining them with meaningful experiences in business and leadership. While most internships can be considered experiential, the DIAL internship is a ten-week experience.
Fostering Diversity among Future Leaders in the Arts
I will never forget the day I first heard the phrase, “If you can see it, you can be it.” Fast-forward thirteen years, and these words ring true in the work I do to help facilitate the annual National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Collegiate Advocacy Summit and Hill Day. Over the past five years, more than 400 undergraduate students from across the United States have traveled to Washington, D.C., to learn leadership and advocacy skills from leaders in the field of music education. Additionally, and arguably most important, is the work these students do to advocate for the importance of music education to our elected officials during congressional office visits. The stories they tell and the passion they bring make all the difference when connecting a face to a name and cause for our representatives on Capitol Hill. These experiences often lead these young leaders and future music educators to report envisioning themselves as leaders and decision-makers—not only for the arts and arts education, but for our country and our world.
The Privilege of Voice
The MOCA Teen Program, which I co-manage, is an academic yearlong paid internship for 18 students that supports teens on a journey of self-discovery through learning about art, the museum, and the world. In the process of selecting candidates, we look for individual voices that can become part of a diverse and connected community. Students who come from privilege are empowered to have a voice from a young age. Students with fewer resources are not, and face a disadvantage before even applying for the MOCA Teen Program. The unequal empowerment of student voices illuminates a systematic barrier for youth to be prepared and competitive candidates for art and leadership pipeline opportunities. While the MOCA Teen Program aims to empower the voices of our program participants, we may be perpetuating cycles of privilege if our selection process gravitates towards privileged applicants. We must put more resources and thought into equitable recruitment and application processes to creative pathways if we are to overcome this barrier to diversity in our field.
Lifting Up a Community Through the Arts
When people tell me they see me as a leader and influencer in the nonprofit arts world, I must confess that I don’t really see myself that way. I’m in a unique situation as a Lakota woman. First, we actually have no Lakota word for “art.” Expressing ourselves visually is something we’ve always done; it’s part of who we are as Lakota people. Art is life. We also don’t perceive leadership the same way the dominant society does. For me, it’s my honor and my responsibility to find the right ways to care for our people. In this case, I’m very fortunate to be able to help lift up my community through the arts. To me, at its heart, leadership isn’t really about leading something. It’s about using what you learn to forge a path forward. When you grow internally, that shapes what you want to do and the impact you will have. The arts absolutely can empower others in their own leadership journeys, because getting in touch with creativity in any way will change you.
Expanding Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Museums through Teen Programming
The High Museum of Art has been on a journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion in recent years. With the diversification of our board and staff, the inclusion of programs for students with cognitive and physical disabilities, boosting our family programming, and more, the Museum has taken a concerted effort to truly reflect the community it serves. One of these areas is in our teen programming. In 2016, we applied for a contract with the Kennedy Center VSA to develop programming for students on the autism spectrum. In this program, we work closely with the students, teachers, and administrators to develop tours and workshops that are interactive, sensory-friendly, and responsive to the needs of all learners. The High Museum also has a program called Teen Team, a yearly group of 15 to 20 rising juniors and seniors representing a wide range of students from public, private, charter schools who create and host public programs at the Museum.
New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival: Inspiring Future Generations of Creative Innovators
The New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival celebrated the third year of its revival this past spring at Ocean County College in Toms River. Thousands of students and teachers from 18 counties gathered with professional artists for the three-day statewide arts festival, to celebrate the important role the arts play in enriching all of New Jersey. This year’s festival was a great success, reaching 3,500 students and 400 educators in attendance. At the center of the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival programming are the showcases and displays of student creative work. The students that present at the State Festival are selected as the exemplary representatives of the outstanding artistic talent blossoming all throughout New Jersey’s local communities.
Give More Kids a Voice Through the Arts. Then Listen Up.
Although the average household income in Marin County is high, the income gap in the county is wide. And Marin public schools serving lower income families are as cash-strapped as any in California. Yes, Marin’s pricy private schools offer rich arts experiences. But most of our public-school students receive a haphazard mix of programs hustled together by hardworking PTAs. And in our lowest income communities, where schools often serve predominantly immigrant youth of color, many have no arts at all. During National Arts in Education Week, my organization Youth in Arts and a team of stakeholders will present data illustrating local inequities in arts services before unveiling the first ever Marin Arts Education Plan. This plan offers first steps towards addressing the arts divide and creating a framework for all students to access quality arts learning.
From Diversity to Justice: How One Intern’s Experience Informs Efforts to Diversify the Arts
Since the age of five, theater has served as my safe place, my platform, my passion, and my megaphone. It empowers me, strengthens me, and mobilizes me in an ethereal and visceral way that nothing else can. And yet, for the first nine years of my theater career, all my directors and theater teachers were white. Even now, years later, the vast majority of the faculty in my college’s theater department are white. This reality is an injustice. And still, my existence is proof that theater, and more broadly, the arts, shape our notions of what is possible for ourselves and the world around us. Art is restorative. Art is transformative. Art is healing. Art is resistance. It is for this reason, among many others, that arts leadership, and especially arts education leadership, must be representative of those who exist at the intersections of marginalized identities.