Commentary: Why young arts administrators will bring change to the field

Brian Hinrichs, Blogging Fellow for EmcArts' website, 9/6/12

I'm currently studying arts administration in the context of an MBA program. At the end of my first week last fall, I remember noticing that Apple had already been mentioned in every one of my core business classes. The massive success of companies like Apple, the current speed [of] start-ups nationwide, and the separate but related DIY/pro-am movement in the creative sector has led to a collective cultural focus on innovation and change. Young people entering non-profit arts crave the same excitement and sense of creation, and often assume they've chosen a field conducive to that. But the Next Gen Arts Leaders Quick Poll a few months back gave voice to the frustration young arts administrators feel when their ideas aren't heard and their organizations aren't flexible. It was no surprise that "80% of next generation leaders who self-reported working in highly innovative organizations see their organization as 'one they'd want to move up in,' as compared to only 38% in non- or slightly innovative organizations." I imagine this problem is compounded for graduate students of arts administration [who] have taken time out of their lives to study and reflect deeply on how to be better leaders in the arts. The need for change and innovation in our field is reinforced day after day. And yet, as graduates, few will find themselves in a position to do much about it in the short-run if they work for established institutions. Will that change when we graduate? I think so, for two main reasons. First, there's a mass of new arts administrators who have been raised on the blogosphere and academia's incessant dialogue of change in the arts. Second, organizational structures are evolving away from traditional top-down models, making room for innovation from the ground up. The oft-cited Trey McIntyre Project is a good example of this new, democratic, creative organizational model taking hold in the arts. As [TMP's] Jon Michael Schert said, arts organizations, by nature of their product, should be the one's leading the way in new business models. Still, even if non-profits continue to look at for-profit models of success as they have in the past, it is clear the change is coming.


Commentary: Why we started South Carolina Young Professionals Arts Network

GP McLeer, Executive Director of the Mauldin Cultural Center,, 9/7/12

[My colleague Maggie and I] had just recently graduated from the Arts Management program at the College of Charleston and had both landed executive director jobs at small arts nonprofits on different sides of South Carolina.  We also were brought on the board of the SC Arts Alliance [where we noticed we were the youngest people at the meetings].  We realized that, while we were using each other as a sounding board for our grievances, success stories and ideas, it would be a lot better if we talked about all of these things with people our own age. And at our next SC Arts Alliance board meeting, we decided to get some feedback on the idea to start the South Carolina Young Professionals Arts Network. We toyed around with different ideas and structures but ultimately landed on a free, membership-based group that simply acted as a connection between young professionals in the field and their peers, and between the general public and the pool of creative young professionals.  But ultimately, we wanted to lead a larger discussion on the positive impact the young professional can have on the state's arts industry.  We wanted to make a statement.  A statement that read "we may be young, but you need us, and you need [to] know that you need us, and SCYPAN is here to help." The group took off pretty fast.  We officially announced the group at the SC Statewide Arts Conference in February 2012 and since then have seen steady growth and reach across the state.  We've garnered the support of not only the SC Arts Alliance, but the South Carolina Arts Commission, Clemson University, the College of Charleston, organizations both large and small across the state, and have a member base equally as diverse. Now, we're still growing, molding our vision and figuring out what SCYPAN should ultimately be and the role it should/will/can play in the greater scheme of things, but in the meantime we have done exactly what we set out to do - start a discussion, on a state-wide level, of the important role the young professional can have in the arts industry.


Commentary: Find on-the-job opportunities for grooming younger staff website

Nonprofits must get the most out of their people if they are to create the greatest impact for their beneficiaries, and developing leadership and management talent is a critical piece of the equation. However, offering development opportunities can be challenging for many nonprofit organizations. In fact, in a Bridgespan Group survey, nonprofits ranked their ability to provide development and growth opportunities to employees as their 4th greatest management weakness overall. Budget constraints often are cited as a reason why nonprofits fall short on professional development, but Bridgespan Group Partner Kirk Kramer [said], "Even if we weren't having tough budget times, nonprofits ought to be finding these creative ways of doing more on-the-job development and using external training to supplement it." Bridgespan surveyed nonprofit leaders who participated in a recent program through Bank of America's Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, about how they provided development opportunities to their employees. Responses surfaced myriad creative approaches that could serve as models for other organizations. We categorized [these] under six key skill areas: team leadership and management; communication; external relations; fundraising; financial and business economics; and project management. [Read more here.] By sharing these methods, we hope to inspire others to get creative with their own in-house solutions to professional development challenges.


Related: Grooming future leaders in a tough economy

Chronicle of Philanthropy's Live Discussions blog, 9/11/12

With budgets stretched thin and most nonprofit workers feeling overextended, investing in leadership training may feel like a luxury for many organizations. Yet experts warn that nonprofits risk their futures by not focusing on grooming future leaders. What are the consequences of overlooking management and leadership training? How do some nonprofits manage to make leadership training a part of their culture? Read the transcript [of an online conversation] for insights from a recent survey of 400 nonprofits and highlights of low-cost tactics that work best to cultivate leadership. The guests [were] Kirk Kramer, a partner at the Bridgespan Group, a consulting company, where he manages the company's leadership and organizational-development practice, and Terri Radcliff, vice president for training and leadership development at the YMCA of the USA.


Commentary: The success of a German music festival's student manager project

Ilona Schmiel, The Guardian's Cultural Professionals Network blog, 9/12/12

As the artistic and managing director of Beethovenfest Bonn, I have, together with my team, given much thought to how we can make our classical music festival accessible to young people with little or no access to the genre or to the procedures of how to run a festival. What began as an experimental project in 2009 has become the award-winning pinnacle of our youth activities, involving more than 4,500 young people: these are the student managers of the Young Beethovenfest. Following a rigorous interview process, a group of 10 to 15 students aged 15 to 18 are appointed as student managers and, under the guidance of permanent staff, organise one of the concerts in the festival's main programme. [Their work] mirrors all areas of the adult festival including general management, marketing, PR and artistic management. Our experience since 2009 has shown that over a period of nine months, the young 'managers' mature enormously and develop ideas that benefit the whole festival. [And] the students leave with an understanding of the professionalism and quality that is required to deliver outstanding performances on stage and happy artists backstage. The managers attend a number of Beethovenfest concerts, learn to communicate with artists, agents and sponsors, gain an insight into the difficult conditions in which artists operate and experience the highly competitive market in which Beethovenfest Bonn operates. Crucially, they are treated as equals to the rest of the permanent staff. Some of them will certainly become ardent advocates of cultural institutions, regardless of whether they end up working in the arts. Some have been appointed to sit on selection panels for education projects and others continue to work for us as presenters at youth projects. We are proud that the festival has appointed one of the student managers from 2009 his first job with us as a marketing and event management trainee -- I am certain he will not be the last. 

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