Saturday, May 11, 2013
Now that we're in summer, and I have a brief blessed moment between when I am done with classes but my daughter is not yet out of school (you parents know what I'm talking about), I will be turning my attention to this communication method, attempting to figure out what I want it to be and what my audience wants it to be. Want more stories about parenthood and arts administration? Theater management in small/rural towns? Emerging leaders in the south? Applying best practices in arts admin when you're the only one in the office?
Let me know what you want to talk about.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Just as I have a multitude of turning points, I have many folks who have served as mentors at one point or another. A few of the people who have helped shape the path in my arts admin career, in no particular order:
- Paul Frellick: I've worked with Paul longer than I have with anyone else. Ever. He's been incredibly patient with me more times than I can count. Many of my mistakes led to major administrative changes at the theater (silver lining, right?) and he saw enough potential in me to keep bringing me back for more work. He's been quietly supportive about my personal and career growth.
- Elizabeth Dell-Jones: I'm going waaayy back now, but Ms. Dell-Jones was my art teacher my senior year in high school, and she was one of the first adults to allow me--encourage, in fact--to take the lead on a project and turn an idea (for a student-made literary magazine) into reality. Her belief in me as a leader charged my self-confidence.
- Liz Droessler: Liz can't help but serve as a mentor to young people: for her day job, she works with teachers and students county-wide. She's probably single-handidly responsible for more arts careers than just about anyone else. She's been a resource and angel and a calming voice of reason and support when I needed it most.
- Ramona Baker: new to the lineup, I've only known Ramona for a year and a half now. I cannot imagine my future without her patience, her skill at listening and asking the right questions, and her enveloping hugs. "What would Ramona say?" is a question I ask myself a lot these days.
I realized today that I'm at a point where I need the accountability of a mentorship. I've learned A LOT over this past year, and I want to make sure I practice and master some of these new skills. Having a mentor will help me put a follow-up plan into place and make 2013 the Year of Doing. I have a few people in mind. We'll see what happens.
Who do you consider your mentors?
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
It came as no surprise to anyone the day I found out I was an ESTJ. Extrovert. Sensing. Thinking. Judging.
From Wikipedia's entry:
- E – Extraversion preferred to introversion: ESTJs often feel motivated by their interaction with people. They tend to enjoy a wide circle of acquaintances, and they gain energy in social situations (whereas introverts expend energy).
- S – Sensing preferred to intuition: ESTJs tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.
- T – Thinking preferred to feeling: ESTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions, they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.
- J – Judgment preferred to perception: ESTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.
The MB scores are based on preferences, things you do or like based on choices repeated throughout your life. You can have a heavy preference in one area or have little preference overall and face each situation differently. I am an extreme E and J, scoring on the far end for both of these attributes. My S and T preferences, though, are closer to the middle; I could easily be classified an NF depending on the questions.
Being an ESTJ has been a boon in my career, from my college days of journalism to retail management to my current arts administration position.
Extrovert: I adore being around people (remind me to tell you the story of being house-bound one winter due to an ice storm) and having a full house at the theater makes me giddy with energy. Talking to prospective audience members, engaging donors about their desires, and building relationships with my actors, designers, and directors are some of the most fulfilling parts of my job.
Sensing: One of those areas where I vacillate between the two, and, honestly, sometimes it's draining, because, combined, it leads to perfectionism and an almost constant "I'll do it myself" attitude. Project management--be it designing a show, planning a fundraising campaign, or stewarding donors--is fun for me. I like making lists and checking off items when they're finished. But I also enjoy connecting the puzzle pieces to see a bigger picture and to break a dream out into the steps needed to make it reality.
Thinking: The other area where I can go either way. I do tend to make decisions based more on logic, but I also try to keep in mind other's preferences, when applicable. Learning how to use various decision-making and logic-model tools has been fun when approaching long-term planning or fundraising issues. But I tend to listen to my instinct when it comes to individuals, especially when those decisions concern those closest to me.
Judgment: I am a J, through and through. "Spontaneous" to me means "planned a week ahead". "ASAP" is a four-letter word in my book. I like to think I'm mature enough to roll with the punches, but I work at my best when I have a plan, goal, and deadline. Writing budgets, planning development appeals, and doing group projects all go smoother for me with more time.
I love arts administration and design because they allow me to play to all my strengths. What's your Myers-Briggs Type? Are you playing to your preferences?
Monday, December 10, 2012
I'm also grateful that Rosetta Thurman linked to the BlogHer list of writing prompts for NaBloPoMo. While I could blather for thirty days on my own, this list provides boundaries for me within which to write. And, as my professor Greg Lucas likes to point out at every opportunity, boundaries make for a better story.
On to the first topic: Share your professional "aha moment".
My goodness, which one? Would you like me to work backwards or forwards? Do you have a few days and lots of coffee? How about I bullet point some, in no particular order:
- deciding arts administration was the career for me, after running a small theater for three years and wearing all the administrative hats;
- seeing "Falsettos" at the local community theater and having my world turned upside down through live theater and knowing I wanted to share that feeling with others;
- stepping out of corporate retail management and into nonprofit arts administration in order to be a mother;
- writing my women-in-theater manifesto, meeting Sylvia who shared my views on supporting local women in the field, and producing -dash-, which brought the conversation about local quality opportunities for women in theater out into the open;
- applying to graduate school for a degree in arts administration and delightfully discovering a deeper joy in my chosen field.
Can you look back at your path and see the turns? What were your deciding moments?
Saturday, October 6, 2012
I stumbled upon this book by complete accident. I don't normally go browsing through the moral philosophy* section in my major university research library, but this author happens to be a patron of ours, and I happened across it in the course of doing some other research, so I thought I'd pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised to hear so many of the arguments we arts folk make about why the arts are "meaningful" to a person.
Wolf begins by positing that "meaning" exists somewhere between "morality" and "happiness", the normal two reasons for explaining why we humans do the things we do. Those two options still represent the reasons we do many things (pay taxes, have sex), but Wolf argues that the reason we do most things--those things that we enjoy doing and that are seen as things upon which it is valuable to spend time--is how we find meaning in our life.
I immediately seized upon the correlation between her theory and how we so often advocate for the arts, in education, in public, in everyday life. For artists, creating art is both subjective--we enjoy doing it--and objective--others may find it enjoyable, satisfying, illuminating, or any of a host of other personal-affecting adjectives. Without the former, the subjectivity, the art becomes simply a job, a way of trading our time/energy for (one hopes) the resources necessary to live. But without the latter, the objectivity, our art becomes nothing more than self-referential, a waste of a resource that could serve to better someone's condition on this earth. Artists have long held the responsibility of commenting on society through a lens which provides both questions and clarity. Abdicating this responsibility would void the artist's "meaning" to life.
As arts advocates, it is easy to fall back on the subjective portion of creating art. After all, everyone has the "right to pursue happiness"! What we need to articulate, though, is the objective portion, that art creates meaning not only for the artist, but for everyone in the community.
*If you happen to be a fan of moral philosophy, this treatise has references in it to other authors and philosophical arguments. Me, I know most of my philosophers from growing up with Monty Python.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
From the blurb: "Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?"
Sounds an awful lot like the np arts orgs world, doesn't it? Why is it some theaters succeed, balancing budgets, retaining audiences, basking in critical acclaim? While others stumble along, maybe having a hit or two, always wondering if people can be paid, eventually shuttering rather than enduring more stress?
Collins doesn't set out to write about our world (unfortunately. Mr. Collins, if you ever do, please call me to be on your research team.) but his key findings--in all of his books--apply not only to the publicly traded for-profit corporations he studies but to the myriad sized and structured art centered, community building, nonprofit arts organizations we love.
The companies he looks at in GbC all have the same traits: their leaders have Level 5 ambition; they have empirical creativity AND fanatic discipline AND productive paranoia; they stick with a SMaC (Specific, Methodical, and Consistent) recipe; and manage their luck, both bad and good. I'm sure if we looked at our arts orgs, the ones that have survived turmoil and grown to greatness, we would find the same principles to be true.
The point I want to make here is how can we use these principles in our own organizations now that our world of funding and audiences, engagement and advocacy, has changed from a "build it and they will come" to "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks".
To examine each point in turn would be a good blog series, but the one that strikes me as most interesting today is the SMaC recipe. For all our talk about adherence to mission statements and blind fanaticism to value propositions, we do not, as a rule, have a Specific, Methodical, and Consistent recipe for achieving our missions. This recipe should be based on both what works and should be repeated over and over again, what doesn't work and should never be done, and have built in what our success metrics are based on. There is room for amendments, but only with empirical evidence that such amendments are necessary and beneficial.
Each arts org will have a different recipe, certainly. My point is not to try to argue what those recipes should look like, but that each organization should have one. The leadership needs to sit down and hammer out what their SMaC recipe is, as they have seen produce results and differentiate themselves in the market. This is not doing strategic planning for the next 3-5 years of projects and presentations. This is not specific art, marketing, or development plans per se. This is a statement of what the organization will do methodically forever in order to achieve its goals (of course, there is a presupposition the org knows what those are).
In our time of trouble, of downsizing, right-sizing, cutbacks, and closures, figuring out how to consistently move forward means finding a business recipe and sticking to it.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
|Me and Scott. The awesome level in this |
room was off the charts.
While they would likely find they have a lot in common if they sat down and talked it out, at first glance it doesn't appear that way: one is a researcher in the arts field, the other a marketer. However, both of them share key insights that apply to the new work of engaging customers.
1. Active Participation
Richard talked about how marketing for innovative arts organizations is about engaging active participants with both the process and product of art. Scott makes the point that businesses don't define their brands, customers do. In both instances, it's about the value the customer places on our organizations that matter. What we need to do is help their estimation go up by being partners, not lecturers.
2. Hire the Right People
Innovative arts organizations are shifting their hiring processes away from specialized training to art-centered workers who thrive in teams. Scott posits: "I'd rather hire people who are passionate about service and train them how to do their job." (May I throw in one of the _Good to Great_ maxims here? Get the Right People on the Bus. I <3 Jim Collins. He's on my "meet one day" list, too.) We can't teach passion. We can't teach people skills. Sure, we can refine them, we can build on them, but you either care about the general public or you don't. If you have a position that engages customers, make sure you have the right person in that job.
3. Adapting in Real Time
Are we nimble, flexible, able to take advantage of opportunities, be they negative or positive? Richard shares much on these topics in seemingly disparate areas such as governance (champions of change), finances (risk capital), and especially adaptive capacity (the ability to initiate change in response to environment). In discussing social media, Scott says, "We don't have lead time any more. Everything happens in real time." Customers don't stop and wait for us to catch up. Our patrons either find what they want or they go elsewhere. We have to be tuned in enough to be able to immediately respond in a way that will make them say "Awesome!"
Take good ideas where you find them. And run. Who's on your "Have to Meet" list?