To Lead in the Arts as a Woman
To lead in the arts today as a woman is a privilege and an honor. We live during a critical time. There is much discord, fear, apathy, and concern for our field and its value in our society. We have the opportunity to stand up and use our bully pulpits thoughtfully. When those do not exist, we build new ones. When we are not heard, we can amplify one another. Women leaders remember integrity: when we fight for something, we use every resource available to understand the issue and go about solving it with passion as well as responsibility. Every choice we make is seen through a finer lens and has more riding on it. We must turn that into an opportunity to seize the moment and act with courage when it counts.
Spark a Creative Conversation During National Arts & Humanities Month
Happy National Arts and Humanities Month! Each October, millions of people across the country celebrate the transformative power of the arts in their communities. National Arts and Humanities Month is a “coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America,” with the goals of: FOCUSING on the arts at local, state, and national levels; ENCOURAGING individuals and organizations to participate in the arts; ALLOWING governments and businesses to show their support of the arts; and RAISING public awareness about the role the arts and humanities play in our communities and lives. During National Arts and Humanities Month, some truly amazing celebrations of arts and culture take place across the country. One of the big initiatives for the month is Creative Conversations, which gather community leaders to “discuss local arts, culture, and creativity to generate partnerships and increased energy around the grassroots movement to elevate the arts in America.”
Diversity Conversations is filled with examples culled from discussions with thousands of American professionals, executives, union workers, educators, politicians, law enforcement officials, and others I have trained since the 1990s. Each chapter offers practical tips to increase effectiveness in conducting productive and critical diversity conversations with your friends, family, co-workers, as well as people who do not view the world like you. This third edition of Diversity Conversations is released during a time in our world where there is a growing need for more civility, unity, and human understanding. Each person must face our own demons of bias, tribalism, and cultural blind spots. If we continue to drink from the bitter cup of blame and cross-cultural degradation, we will never engage in the work necessary to bring about sustainable change.
Of Safe Havens and Wide Awakeness: Arts Educators as Agents of Transformation
This is the second year that I have taught a freshman course at Berklee College of Music about Neurodiversity. Over the 15-week semester, we examine topics and issues in neurodiversity and their relationship to the arts. We start by talking about the origin of the term “neurodiversity,” and we go on to consider issues of language, power, and representation as they relate to individuals with disabilities. We work with scholarly writings in disability studies and the arts to better understand and question the rhetorical frames at play in various cultural contexts when it comes to artists with disabilities. Every time I teach this course, I am struck by the openness with which these freshmen—brand new to Berklee, just getting to know each other, only recently living on their own—share their personal experiences and challenges. The respect and kindness that they show their classmates helps us all to create a safe space for learning and vulnerability for every student.
Selfless Leadership: How Not to Give Away Your Apples and Turn Into a Stump
Do you know the story of The Giving Tree? Many of us do, either as a childhood story or as one that has been introduced to us as adults to share some life lesson or axiom. The story goes like this … A young boy finds a tree. The tree loves the boy, and they play. Then the boy grows older and wants things from the tree: its apples, branches, and eventually its trunk. The tree gives the boy everything, happily, until all is left is a stump. The end. Ostensibly, this is a story about selfless giving, and business folk often hold it up as a wise allegory: a story of leadership to inspire managers into their own career of selfless servitude. Y’all ... I’ve been given this story as an example of what female leadership should look like, and the worst part is that in my younger years—I actually believed it.
A Step beyond the Stats: The Miraculous Impact of Music on the Mind, Body and Brain
We’ve all seen the extraordinary figures released earlier this year by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis: The arts and cultural sector contributed over $760 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015. Staggering statistics, to be sure; indisputable in their depth and breadth. But within and behind these statistics lie stories—stories about human capital and the limitless power of the arts to transform, to teach, and to trigger the brain to soar and to accelerate well beyond its own limits. What falls beyond these extraordinary figures—and here, I refer to music and music education in particular—is a piece of knowledge that is at once as simple as it is profound: Music matters.
The Circle of Leadership
The everyday leadership of a huge, statewide arts community is less a battle charge and more of a circle or a forward spiral, going out to gather people and ideas, bringing them back to the organization, re-aligning, and then going out again. As a statewide organization, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts needs to serve artists, arts organizations, and arts audiences in every corner of our large state. Serving such a large geography means I travel the state as much as possible to serve our constituents and to gather the information we need to be effective. This forges links in a chain of relationships that webs together and strengthens our networks. I bring what I learn in those communities back to our organization to help inform our work, and then I hit the road again, completing the circle.
Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018: An In-Depth Look at Perceptions and Attitudes About the
In a society struggling to find equity and social justice, Americans believe the arts improve the quality of our communities. How do we know? We asked. Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018 is the second in a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Americans for the Arts. One of the largest ever conducted, it gauges the public perspective on (1) personal engagement in the arts as audience and creator, (2) support for arts education and government arts funding, (3) opinions on the personal and well-being benefits that come from engaging in the arts, and (4) how those personal benefits extend to the community. Here are some findings of the survey.
Two Sides, One Coin
As an arts educator, it’s crucial to your students that you’re able to bring your artist self into the room as a living example of how they too can be artists. However, it can be difficult for individuals like myself who work as arts teachers and administrators. So how do you balance the two? For me, the solution has been to let the two be one. It took me a while to do this intentionally, but I let my creativity influence my approach to administrative solutions and let my task-oriented thinking manage the flow of my class. The key is remaining aware and perceptive of when it’s time to let things be, and when it’s time to stay organized—or as I frequently say, “create structure for the chaos to happen in.”
A Necessary Discomfort
When reflecting on the modules I developed for Americans for the Arts' Arts Administrators Essentials: Serving Individual Artists program through ArtsU, I was honored to have been able to guide fellow arts administrators and practitioners along the journey of understanding practical ways to support visual artists and become a well-equipped coach and support system, both individually and institutionally. My favorite part of this experience was the external fieldwork that accompanied the facilitated instruction. More specifically, I felt deeply attached to one specific exercise which urged participants to immerse themselves in an experience (i.e. screening, performance, exhibition, etc.) that featured the work of local artists. Participants were instructed to reflect on audience demographics and engagement, their own reasons for having not attended sooner, and ways that their organization or individual practice could be beneficial to the practitioners and participants that were embedded within these events. While I still believe that these sorts of actions can have a positive impact on administrators and artists alike, I can also identify and acknowledge a blind spot in my own development of the prompts within this portion of my presentation: education on, and awareness of, systemic and socio-cultural injustices.
We Are All Wonder Women
It’s 2018, and the need to advance women in the workplace is still ever present. Recent decades have certainly yielded progress, but too many unacceptable issues remain unsolved. From sexual harassment to gender pay gaps and more, the fight continues. As we push for fair and equitable treatment, it’s also important to remember that female support systems should be part of the equation. Far too many women in the workforce navigate their careers without the benefit of mentors. Mentorships, both formal and informal, provide opportunities to build relationships that help younger or less experienced professionals better navigate the workplace and personal career development. This is by no means the single key to advancement, but it’s one we shouldn’t overlook. Those of us who can provide guidance and be supportive can make a critical difference in the professional development of others.