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.
The Art of Relationships
As my time on Americans for the Arts’ Arts Education Council winds down, I’m given to reflecting on the power of “art-relationships.” Over the past three years, these relationships not only have benefitted me on a personal/social level, but also have elevated my professional expectations and performance. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met on the Arts Education Council, I’m honored to call them friends, and I’m appreciative that they’ve made me a more successful arts administrator. With my final council post for ARTSblog, I thought I’d share some insights I’ve learned as they relate to developing professional connections.
The Creative Power of Women in Leadership
Although we’d like to believe that the arts and culture sector does better than other fields, sexism remains pervasive—but not unconquerable. Throughout my career in the nonprofit and arts sector, I have been told that: I should describe myself as aspirational, not ambitious; women in their twenties weren’t good hires because they are only fully formed after they married; I wouldn’t be promoted into a permanent position because having just had a child would make me less committed to my work; and other comments of a nature too personal. Small, demoralizing comments meaning, “You just don’t measure up to your male colleagues.” While the arts sector has not been a leader in breaking this cycle, it should be. Judging from current trends, emerging female leaders inspire me to believe that we can get ahead of the curve.
At pivotal moments, key women believed in me!
I wasn’t destined for a career “in the arts.” Despite being a cellist since 4th grade (courtesy of when public schools invested more heavily in the arts) and immersed in the world of classical music all of my life, I was headed to a world of science—either botanist, or field ecologist, or environmental educator. I was part of a hiking, camping, and backpacking family—wedded to the out of doors—and I graduated with a degree in biology. I wanted to channel my love of science, teaching, and museums, hence my choice over 30 years ago to pursue a master’s degree in museum education with a goal of developing and teaching science curricula (and, in particular, to work at the Museum of Science in Boston). And then at three pivotal moments in my life, three key women entered my professional world and offered me new opportunities that would change the trajectory of my work.
What’s so important about creativity?
No matter what industry you work in, Americans are seeing the value of creativity in their jobs. From our recent public opinion poll, Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018, 55% of employed Americans agree that their job requires them to be creative. And an even larger percentage, 60%, believe that the more creative and innovative they are at their job, the more successful they are in the workplace. And how are they finding their inner creative spark? For many businesses, the answer lies in partnering with the arts. Our recently released Business Contributions to the Arts 2018 Survey, conducted in partnership with The Conference Board, asked business leaders if the arts contribute to stimulating creative thinking and problem solving—and 53% of them agreed that it does.
The Ohio Arts Education Data Project
All students deserve high quality arts education that develops important skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive workforce. Many of the skills developed through arts learning—collaboration and cooperation, problem identifying and problem solving, decision making, design thinking, articulation and critique, constructive communication—are considered key attributes by employers around the world in the 21st century. After all, they are the skills of leadership. Since 1989 the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Department of Education have worked together to gather data and report on the status of arts education in Ohio’s schools. The Ohio Arts Education Data Project launched in September 2018, and Ohio is proud to be among the first few states in the nation to provide online arts education data dashboards available to the public!
Women Becoming Leaders Starts with Empowering Themselves to be Leaders
I still find that women have difficulty being heard—the old story: a woman makes a key point in a group meeting, nobody reacts; a man follows with the same point and everyone thinks it’s a good idea. I’ve seen savvy women handle that one by circling back and thanking the man for reiterating her point. Women often get rolled over by men in discussions because they are bigger, louder, more aggressive where women tend to be more deferential. Faced with such an instance, I stopped talking, held up my hand to visually stop the grandstanding, looked at the director in the eye, and asked him to refrain from talking over me so that I could finish my point—he did. Women often start statements by apologizing—and continue to do so throughout their commentary. STOP THAT. Julia Child once said, “Never apologize, and carry on.” The first step in women becoming leaders is empowering themselves to be leaders.
Should You Be Letting It Go?
As I was preparing for my presentation at the upcoming National Arts Marketing Project Conference, I interviewed a number of bloggers, digital media experts, marketers, and influencers to get their take on the highs and lows of using social influencers to promote your products and experiences.
Social Media in an Arts Marketer’s Promotional Toolkit
Social media has become a bona fide and critical component of the customer path to purchase—and arts marketers are taking advantage, successfully using social media to make their organizations more relatable, promote upcoming shows or exhibits, and gain memberships with special announcements and behind-the-scenes content.
Leadership from the Sidelines
Twenty-five years ago, I left my job as the Managing Director of a regional theatre and started WomenArts. I deliberately moved from the center track to the sidelines because I wanted to work with women artists. They were the ones I loved the most—especially women artists of color and lesbian artists. They were the reason I had originally gone into the arts, and I had felt their absence during my 20 years in mainstream arts organizations. WomenArts mainly serves independent and community-based artists, and it puzzles me that they are so often ignored in discussions about gender parity or cultural policy. I am thrilled that more women are moving into leadership roles in major arts organizations, and I am sure they will have a positive impact. But we need to face the fact that there are not enough jobs to go around at those institutions. Even if we had women leading every major arts organization in the U.S., there would still be thousands of unemployed or under-employed women artists.