Speed Networking for Artists and Arts Organizations

EAP_BlogPost_SpeedNetworkingThursday, October 24, 5:00 p.m.
Pro Arts
150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
Oakland, California 94612

Calling all creatives to connect!

Here’s an opportunity to mix and mingle with colleagues in the Bay Area artist and arts nonprofit community. Whether you are an established artist/arts professional, new to the arts community, or just looking to grow your arts network, this is the event for you. All are welcome.

Doors/Registration: 5:30 p.m.
Speed networking: 6–7 p.m.
Open networking: 7–8 p.m.

Business cards are highly encouraged! Light refreshments will be served.

This event is hosted by Foundation Center San FranciscoPro Arts, and Emerging Arts Professionals – SFBA

Space is limited – RSVP NOW

Want to let your co-workers know about it?  Download the announcement and post it!

For updates or to reach out to the event staff pleas follow the event’s Facebook Page


Bridging the Arts and Tech Sectors

Bridging the Arts and Tech SectorsBy Becky Neil

After a rousing and candid keynote panel on defining open systems, participants in the Emergence 2013 Networked Approaches track moved downstairs at SPUR for our first breakout session. Moderated by Maura Lafferty, independent PR consultant, this session’s topics focused on practical suggestions to improve collaboration between the arts and technology sectors. Maura gathered a balanced panel featuring Brianna Haag, marketing manager at Eventbrite; Emma Leggat, head of corporate social responsibility at StubHub; and Allison Murdock, organizer of Silicon Valley Rocks and VP of Marketing at GigaOM.

Maura began the conversation by asking the panelists to share how their organizations are currently involved in the arts, and it was both heartening and revealing to see how each company used the passions and interests of their employees to direct their efforts in the arts.

Emma shared how StubHub began their Rising Stars philanthropic program by identifying ways their employees and company assets were particularly well-suited to make a difference. Because StubHub is an event ticket resale platform, they discovered that music, youth development, and local organizations resonated particularly well with their employees.

As Emma put it, “Our employees are fans themselves!”Roots of Music, a New Orleans teen music program, was the perfect match to align with these interests, and received one of the initial Rising Stars grants in addition to leveraging the StubHub platform for their event ticketing.

The theme of shared values emerged as a key point of discussion as the conversation continued.

Emma Leggat and Brianna Haag by Kegan Marling

Emma Leggat and Brianna Haag by Kegan Marling

What values are shared between technology organizations and arts organizations? How can these shared values be leveraged to the mutual benefit of partner organizations?

Brianna urged arts administrators to think beyond funding when approaching a technology company, and consider the full spectrum of ways to partner and support mutual goals. She suggested in-kind sponsorship — such as free use of the company’s software — volunteer days, and workshops.

Allison agreed, saying, “You need to create opportunities to engage. Writing a check is nice, but create an opportunity to do something; an afternoon of engagement can lead to money later.”

Emma built on this, describing a holistic approach to working with tech companies: “Think of it as a funnel: a well-constructed program leads to volunteers leads to money.”

So put your brainstorm caps on, fellow arts managers, because these tech companies really want to hear innovative ways that they can build a lasting partnership with you!

If you are an arts organization looking to secure funding, sponsorship, or other support from a technology company, you may want to think about the following as you build your program:

  • Business strategy, marketing, and other expertise: Do you have an organizational challenge that the technology company’s employees may have the expertise to help with? Allison recommended that you think about ways they can advise you on improving processes, strategies, and plans.

  • Software, real estate, and other physical or digital assets: Does the technology company have a great location? Maybe you can use their grounds or conference room for a donor event. Do they have access to a wide channel of advertising? Maybe they can donate space for a week to your cause, like Emma did at StubHub for Roots of Music.

  • Opportunities to teach and learn: This goes both ways! In addition to sharing knowledge on specific computer tools, technology employees might want to learn to paint, dance, sing, or whatever skills and talents your organization offers. Brianna shared how excited her employees got when they were able to interact during a workshop with artists: they talked about it for months afterwards!

Of course, these relationships need to start somewhere.

Maura asked panelists, “What suggestions do you have for starting the conversation and initial outreach?”  Here, it became clear through their anecdotes that startups look their employees for leadership.

Brianna explained how Eventbrite created an employee-led impact team that makes philanthropic decisions for the company on a quarterly basis. “So,” she said, “identify the people who are passionate [about your mission]. They will be your advocates from within the organization.”

To get past the email filter and initial blockade, “do your homework!” Allison urges. “You really have to research. Find those people and reach out to them directly.” Once you have an advocate on the inside, the word will get back around to the decision makers that this cause is important to their employees.

In all there is tremendous potential for cross-industry collaboration between technology and the arts. With this insider’s scoop in mind, arts professionals should be able to identify natural ways to align both organization’s missions and approach the right people to make those programs happen. I, for one, was pondering for days after of ways that I can get a tech expert to help me with my art project!

About Becky Neil

Becky Neil is a project lead at Bottlecap Gazebo, where she builds community through big art.

Showing Up for Your Community

Showing Up for Your CommunityBy Masha Rotfeld

At Emergence, Emerging Arts Professional’s annual daylong convening on June 3, 2013, a daring and complicated group discussion facilitated by Arielle Julia Brown and Ernesto Sopprani centered on the participants’ viewpoints regarding failures and successes in community engagement.

Brown, teaching theater artist at Destiny Arts Center and artistic director of The Love Balm Project, hailed the community engagement “shero” of our time, Kemba Shakur. City greening activist Shakur founded and directs the Oakland tree-planting project Urban Releaf. In late 2011, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) took a stance by spotlighting Shakur, along with five others, as a Modern Day Muir. This served Brown’s point that more arts organizations ought to reach out across the community to honor women, especially those that have started community organizations.

I found myself brainstorming with a striking group of individuals: Quinn Associates’s Jessica Johnson, recent John Hopkins graduate Glennis Markinson, OMCA’s Lisa Silberstein, and EAP’s Ernesto Sopprani. Peers were eager to sound off successes: ProArts and Youth Speaks, organizer of the National Youth Poetry Slam, as well as SOMArts, which got an instant in to a community.

While approximately ten small group discussions focused on the binary question of community engagement failure and success, the ensuing shared conversation evolved into a wider set of topics:

1. Working definitions of community vs. network

2. What it takes to get an “in” to a community

3. How to keep a network meaningful and vibrant, not unlike a personal relationship

As the small groups opened up to the room, Brown urged caution as she also invited participants to divulge what struck a chord with them. “Community engagement is one of the grant buzzwords. Glorified interactive audience surveys, and other questionable work.”

Community vs. Network

Silberstein, a visitor engagement specialist at OMCA and brain behind In-The-Mix programming, shared: “Everyone else’s community is your network” and urged others to “understand how they are related to you in the bigger network.”

Some slogans that could be heard floating around the room as participants were grappling with the assignment were:  “One is giving, one is taking,” “A network literally is multi-directional,” “Engagement is outward facing,” and “A network could help you expand your community.”

The following gave me pause, “Before we used to just have our communities, but now we have all the others.” Indeed, the law of attraction is still at work.

The ever-pertinent question of funding resurfaced when the quandary came up about having numbers over meaningful experiences in reporting back to granters. Through a topical example Silberstein incorporated “network” to discuss the difficulty of community engagement within a framework when a major funding partner restricts the use of a formerly flexible account.

How does one balance the desire for meaningful interactions while reaching a large numbers of people?

“A very minor qualitative questionnaire,” suggested another participant, who thought that having a high response rate to a yes/no and one open-ended question would do the trick. Qualifying and quantifying audience participation really does become an opportunity to educate the funders. Facing the truth is not for everyone, but knowing what works, rather than what should, will get arts professionals out of dated reporting processes.

Photo by Kegan Marlking

Photo by Kegan Marling

A Ticket Into a Community

The energy in the room reflected a consensus that the following rhetorical questions could serve as a fertile ground for not only opening up discussion but also catalyzing future considerations.

“What community are you in? What community are you engaging? Is engaging a synonym for organizing, getting grants, or just taking a photo with someone?”

In essence, the speaker exhorted the room think about what tactics one would be willing to use to get in.

A well-heard qualifying response was: “You need to show that you are passionate about being involved in our communities. Do not lose focus about why you started in the beginning.” Be mindful of institutional power around the community you live in or the one you are going into.

A board member of the Zaccho Dance Theater sketched out some interesting subtleties: what are the peculiarities regarding getting “into” East Los Angeles versus San Francisco’s Mission District, or an African-American entering Detroit, while never herself having been there prior.

Sopprani made an example of a community’s engagement around queer performance, which he says involves curating work in their spaces, activating them. Make a community around whatever the problem may be and finding a solution.

Emphatically, regret was voiced and seconded about a kind of involvement that is here and gone, leaving the place at the heart of the project without lasting transformation.

For instance, everyone wants to fund a project in the Bayview, which while “local,” deserves the same weight as international or global endeavors. Questions of sustainability and establishing expectations ought to be front and center.

Network Upkeep

Our third point, regarding hands-on networking, was divulged by the Zaccho board member. Calling it the “elephant in the room,” she was speaking directly to the individuals gathered, prompting them to really connect to others at the Emergence 2013 event.

“The people in attendance, are they going to show up? If we don’t take advantage of our new acquaintances, we will move further and further away from each other,” she urged.

Sopprani echoed that to maintain such ecosystems, arts professionals must have one-on-one conversations.

It is really about the personal relationships. We care what we do to each other, but we must make an effort to stay in touch and connected.

He reminded the group to document knowledge on EAP’s Hackpad, a source of resources and grants that has just opened to the network. Via Hackpad, EAPers can share contact info and what they do.

Community Engagement at Large

To quote Gore Vidal, “We are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing.” We are in an era of perpetual forgetfulness, whether about new acquaintances or social and cultural phenomena at large. An art historical “moment” — a tremendous story — will pop into public consciousness and disappear immediately.

It is difficult to hold onto any one string, but we must find different strategies for paying attention and approaching situations with a desire for continuity. Such strategies include: getting permission for fair use of artwork or use of space, asking (theater) participants to bring their friends, and having daily conversation with people who share our interests.

Sustaining community engagement comes in after initiating contact in events such as Emergence 2013 by continuing to build those relationships intentionally. Such success can be attributed to the network of European Burning Man followers, who find ways to communicate year-round, such as with mixers in a “burning pub” in London. People have branched off into new communities to pursue emerging international projects, while opportunities to get to know each other tangibly increase interpersonal and inter-organizational support.

And, keep experimenting! You are more likely to bring successes to mutually beneficial processes if you are. Arts community members ought to try new things, for they are already doing something they are good at. The question is now, how does one push at that. A failure could be skewed into a success, but not before action is taken.

“Seeing how things are interconnected as well as what else is going up around makes you run better,” observed Sopprani.

And one participant voiced the takeaway at the heart of the session: “If you show up for your community, they will know that you are authentic and will be there for you too.”


Masha Rotfeld is a personal fitness trainer and holds a master’s degree in art history from the University of California, Riverside.

Bay Area Arts Skyline 2015 Event Recap

The Arts Skyline 2015What will the Bay Area arts skyline look like in 2015? The cultural landscape is constantly evolving in the Bay Area. New openings, closings, and innovations are inevitable in a metropolitan area. On March 27, EAP hosted a panel of leaders in the arts fields at the Center for New Music to discuss the challenges facing local arts institutions, small and large.

The panel featured Barrett Shaver, director of development, SF JAZZ; Christopher Borg, executive director, Community Music Center; Gina Basso, public programs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Jack Carpenter, production director, SF Ethnic Dance Festival.

Though looking towards the future was ultimately on everyone’s minds, the conversation stayed within the current context. Themes of the conversation revolved around staffing, capital campaigns, space, and project-based venues versus an actual building. We wanted to share some kernels of the experience with our larger network. Also, we love to continue the conversation beyond the brick and mortar, so feel free to add your comments.

Adam Fong, executive director of both Emerging Arts Professionals / SFBA and the Center for New Music, took the brave task of navigating the arts skyline with consistency and curiosity.

Some highlights of the current Bay Area Arts Skyline

The Exploratorium closed in Fall 2012 at the Palace of Fine Arts and will re-open on April 17 at Pier 15 with a new building.

The SFMOMA will be closing its doors for three years on June 2 to make way for construction of a 235,000 square foot addition. Until early 2016, the SFMOMA will present new art experiences around the Bay Area as the building is transformed.

SF JAZZ recently opened a brand new facility on the corner of Franklin and Fell streets to wide acclaim, moving from project-based to a cultural institution.

The Community Music Center will be expanding with the purchase of a neighboring house. Christopher Borg says it will make CMC more of a “campus.” CMC has been in the same building in the Mission district since 1921.

World Arts West, the organization hosting the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, continues to have the conversation about finding a permanent home, believing they need to make the move to a more established organization within the city.

There is a light that never goes out

Overall, the tone is continuing to strive to be experimental with space, programming, and money. As we continue to move through the economic recession towards recovery, new spaces can mean new opportunity and hopefully engaging new audiences with a stronger brand than project-based models. Though institutions grow and consolidate, seeking new ways to engage audiences is at the heart of the conversation. And as Ms. Basso said, the SFMOMA is screwing little light bulbs across the city throughout 2016. But, don’t worry the lights won’t go out!

About Gregory Stock

Gregory coordinates public programs at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco along with a team of four under the direction of Renee Baldocchi. At the de Young, he provides support and logistics of Friday Nights at the de Young, a weekly “art happening” public and free event for all ages themed to the permanent collection and special exhibitions. At the Legion of Honor, he coordinates the Chamber Music Series and special exhibition programming. Other programs include special lectures and academic symposiums for special exhibitions. Interests cross between public art, digital tools, collaboration and social enterprise. He has been in the Bay Area for four years and graduated from Saint Louis University with a BA in American studies and history.

Spring Mixer

Thursday, May 9, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Pro Arts
150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
Oakland, CA 94612

FREE! RSVP via Eventbrite

You asked and we answered! We know you love our heady panel discussions and all but, perhaps even more, you love to let your hair down with us.

Come network, mingle, and explore one of Oakland’s leading galleries! Meet fellow Bay Area artists and arts sector workers over drinks and snacks at Pro Arts, and learn more about Emerging Arts Professionals (EAP). See over 400 pieces in Pro Arts’ East Bay Open Studios Preview Exhibition and enter our business card raffle for some special art prizes. Bring your cards and a desire to meet like-minded folks!

Mixer is FREE but please REGISTER HERE



Thanks to Pro Arts for hosting!

Pro Arts Logo

How Arts Organizations Are Engaging Community Online

Engaging Online CommunitiesBy Ryan Biega, EAP Fellow

In the  San Francisco Online Community Meetup panel hosted by TechSoup, representatives from four arts organizations discussed how they are using social media in new and innovative ways to market the arts.

Michel DeLong, online community manager at TechSoup and part of the leadership team with Emerging Arts Professionals, moderated the discussion. Panelists included:

• Danielle Siembieda, former community engagement and special projects manager for ZERO1: The Art & Technology Network in San Jose, CA.
Maura Lafferty, an independent communications consultant working with classical musicians and performing arts organizations in San Francisco, CA.
• Dan Meager, director of marketing at Diablo Ballet in Walnut Creek, CA.
• Carly Severn, digital engagement associate at San Francisco Ballet in San Francisco, CA.

Art & Social Media: Case Studies

Danielle Siembieda (@art_inspector) created a project called Art Ambassadors. She started this project as a response to the commonly heard statement, “I just don’t get art”. Its purpose was to train students to experiment with, understand, and share art using social media and face-to-face interaction. As part of the marketing campaign for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial, it also functioned as a professional development program in arts administration. An interactive map app was also collaboratively created by the community as a social experiment to facilitate user experience. Through this project, she bridged the gap between curator and audience using the essential component of social media: technology.

Dan Meager (@DiabloBallet) used Twitter to crowdsource the first ballet work created from the Internet with the goal of making classical art forms more relevant. Highlighted on the Huffington Post, this social media project invited the Twitterverse to submit ideas for everything related to the performance: concept, mood, even the moves of the dancers. Meager also used YouTube to crowdsource the score of the dance. The Diablo Ballet used social media and received media attention on The San Francisco Chronicle and the Huffington Post without a $5 million budget. As Meager mentioned, while the ROI of social media is hard to define – the broad exposure social media brings to the arts is well worth the work.

Maura Lafferty (@mlaffs) introduced a new digital asset community managers could use to measure ROI. The new app, Awe.sm, correlates social media data with revenue at a low monthly cost. As a “Chief Happiness Officer” because she sees community managers as the liaison between the audience and the strategic goals of the client or organization–ensuring everyone is happy. This can be difficult in the arts, where audiences’ values can differ greatly. Take her specific case: marketing classical music to a generally younger audience on social media channels. Lafferty communicates strategically by finding out how values from different audiences relate. This involves constant monitoring to gain a fluency in the dynamic trends of social media.

Carli Severn (@teacupinthebay) hit the nail on the head. In the performing arts, the audience is your lifeblood. When arts organizations are creating strategies around audience development, they must first know who their audience is. Severn spearheaded a new marketing initiative for the San Francisco Ballet that used social media to grow audiences through a series of contests. Using Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter , Facebook, and WordPress, she cross-promoted The Nutcracker by offering special seats to contest winners. Knowing the audience was for each platform proved to be effective. Because of this social media campaign, the Nutcracker is seen as a local tradition.

As arts organizations across the globe begin to recognize the the value of social media as an integrated marketing and communications tool, the role of community manager will inevitably grow. These panelists have demonstrated innovative strategies for using social media to interact with and grow audiences in the arts.

Nonprofit Finance: A Primer for Young Professionals

Sunday, July 22, 2-5pm
& Sunday, July 29, 2-5pm

at Intersection for the Arts
925 Mission Street, San Francisco

Sliding scale $20-$80 per session
Free for EAP Fellows
Register at Eventbrite 

To recieve up to the minute updates,
click attending at this events’ Facebook page.

This workshop is provided in two parts. In our first session on July 22, we will review the differences between cash and accrual accounting and financial statements: Balance Sheets, Income Statements, and Statements of Cash Flows. In the second part we will learn how to analyze these statements so you can determine the viability of an organization and its projects, and make projections for future years.

The discussions in the second session on July 29 are extremely important in creating a long-term plan. Too often, nonprofits make the mistake of creating budgets on the fly: organizations create balanced budgets one or two months prior to the new fiscal year. Such a document becomes useless in the case of economic booms and busts. Solid financial planning gives a nonprofit the tools to make decisions.

You will gain the most from the second session if you are able to bring 5 years of financial data from your organization. This can come in the form of Cultural Data Project, Annual Reports, or IRS 990s. All nonprofit 990s are available through guidestar.org (registration is free). Please remember that analysis and forecasting requires 5 years of data. Participants without access to historical data will use a sample set.

You are welcome to participate in only one of the two sessions, but encouraged to do both!

About the Instructor

THERESE F. MARTIN is a management consultant and professor of management and finance. She has worked, consulted, and lectured in the fine arts sector and has overseen multi-sector projects and served on numerous boards of directors and on panels for the City of San Francisco and San Francisco Unified School District’s Visual and Performing Arts Office.

She was the executive director | chief executive officer of ArtSpan, a San Francisco visual arts nonprofit, where she executed turnaround and re-organization. She was the development director of Young Audiences of Northern California. She will serve as a faculty senator at Golden Gate University in 2012-2014 and has served as the treasurer | board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals; as secretary | board member of Oasis for Girls, a young women’s resource organization; and as the treasurer | executive committee member of the Arts Providers Alliance of San Francisco, a consortium of arts education providers. Prior to nonprofit work she was a project manager in the publishing industry and art consultant.

Ms. Martin is a doctoral candidate at Golden Gate University and was a 2010-11 Fellow with the Emerging Arts Professionals of San Francisco. She holds an MBA in Executive Business Administration from Golden Gate University, a Certificate in Fund Raising Management from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, and a BFA in Art History from the University of Kansas.

The Art of Tech: Zero1 Festival App to Capture the Crowd

Zero1 App to Capture the CrowdBy Michael DeLong, Managing Editor

Nonprofit arts organization Zero1 needed a way to help people make sense of its biennial, Seeking Silicon Valley, scheduled for September 2012.

Spread over three months and more than twice as many cities, the festival presents a big challenge with respect to keeping visitors engaged and informed.

To tackle the challenge, Zero1 decided to create an app. As recently noted by Frank Barry of Blackbaud, technology plays a key role in audience engagement for the arts and culture sector. For Zero1, an organization whose mission is at the intersection of art and technology, a tech-based approach to this problem makes perfect sense.

A community comes together

With that in mind, Zero1’s community engagement manager Danielle Siembieda-Gribben organized HackFlux: a weekend hackathon bringing together a mix of coders, developers, designers, artists, and thinkers this past June. The goals of the hackathon were twofold:

  1. To build a community around mobile development and art
  2. To have in place the starting point for an app to create a seamless visitor experience at the biennial

Flexing her background in community organizing — Siembieda-Gribben spent years working for ACORN — she structured the hackathon to maximize learning and shared knowledge. A Tech Advisory Committee of nine Bay Area technologists such as Kollective Mobile CEO Sian Morson mentored the teams.

A core group of interns assembled by Siembieda-Gribben will go on to develop the winning team’s idea, using an API designed by Lift Projects for Zero1.

The teams get to work

The participants gathered at TheGlint, a live-work community aimed at accelerating the creation of value through design, philosophy, the arts, technology, and entrepreneurship — all set atop Twin Peaks backed by a stunning view of the Bay.

For 48 hours, four teams brainstormed, tinkered, designed, and revised, culminating in a presentation for a hand-selected jury. Including tech experts such asAngelHack founder Greg Gopman, Michael Shiloh of DorkBot San Francisco and the Exploratorium, and TheGlint co-founder Alexandros Pagidas, the jury picked the winning idea based on set criteria. The app should

  • be accessible to the widest possible audience
  • be feasible to create, sustain, and maintain with the resources provided
  • have a strong concept demonstrating creativity and innovation

Additionally, each team needed to provide a clear plan for the execution of the app by the end of summer.

Zero1 HackFlux WeekendA winner emerges

The four teams brought excellent ideas to the table, impressing both the crowd and the jury. Proposals included fun geocaching activities to draw attendees into deeper engagement with the biennial; informative, interactive maps; and a personalized, art-enhanced experience to alleviate the stress of festival parking.

A remarkable part of the judging portion of the event – and of the hackathon overall – was the collaborative energy sparked among the teams. As one team presented, others offered on-the-spot suggestions. The feeling was one of cooperation rather than competition.

In the end, one team’s idea did stand out to the jury. Team Reactor, composed of Kelsey Innis, Anna Billstrom, and Helen Mair, proposed an app to crowdsource reactions to the festival artwork in the form of voice, text, and drawings.

Called The Reaction Trader, the app will allow festival-goers to trade anonymous reactions to nearby art (the response mechanism remains locked until the viewer is within range). It will also allow attendees to vote up specific reactions, creating a leaderboard of top responses.

There was some debate around the wisdom of allowing for anonymous comments — the fine line between candor and a race to the bottom — but the winners have the rest of the summer to work it out with the core team.

Don’t miss Zero1’s biennial this September to December and let us know in the comments how your organization has used technology to engage its audiences.

Interested in putting together your own hackathon? Check out NetSquared’s tips for creating a successful app-for-good event by Vanessa Rhinesmith.

A version of this post appeared on the TechSoup blog.

The Hybrid Challenge

hybridBy Emily Lakin

Strength in variety

My colleague at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), Marc Bamuthi Joseph, was recently featured in United States Artists’ online magazine discussing his role as a seeker and hybrid. It was perfect timing as I prepared to write this post about my experience with the NextGen Arts Leadership Initiative, a project of the Creative Capacity Fund, part of the Center for Cultural Innovation.

From my perspective, nonprofit employees work beyond what is narrowly defined by our job descriptions: we are nimble, multi-skilled professionals that do everything from setting up tables for an event to managing a grant-funded program. Bamuthi muses on that further, speaking to the challenges of fitting into discrete categories as a hybrid artist-curator-teacher (and many more hyphenates).

While it may be challenging externally – to the funder trying to slot your proposal into a program area, to the journalist trying to figure out where to list your show, to the hiring manager reviewing your resume – I propose that we are stronger candidates to become leaders if we have explored a diversity of experiences and taken advantage of the valuable learning and resources available outside our own specialties.

Crowdsourcing mentorship

With that in mind, in January 2011 I proposed a NextGen Grant for a project I must honestly admit I wasn’t sure would be funded. NextGen’s guidelines stated that the grant could be used for a workshop, conference, or mentor. For this project, I wanted to crowdsource a mentorship by meeting with professionals who are actively involved in some aspects of nonprofits, social practice, philanthropy, technology, arts and innovation, though not necessarily in the arts nonprofit sector.

Instead of a single mentor, I talked with multiple people in New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, offering them lunch as a token payment for their time. In a time when most organizations have cut conference and travel budgets, this grant helped me greatly expand my network to exchange ideas and learn new information through its financial and credentialed support. And, much like my proposal to NextGen for an independent mentorship program, this series of lunches inspired me to engage in further self-directed study.

Making it together

I’ve also become increasingly aware of my role in collaborations, attempting to make something together instead of focusing on pushing my goal as the end result. I found myself seeking out opportunities for partnerships outside YBCA that would benefit both parties. In December I worked with Airbnb, a vacation rental service operating on the collaborative consumption model, to offer a week of free admission for anyone registered with their site. It was a boost for members of their community to engage in cultural activities in their own cities, or who were visiting as part of their Airbnb stay. It gave YBCA the opportunity to engage a vibrant user group, and the credit we earned in the partnership offset some of the cost to host a visiting artist during her residency in April.

Just recently I’ve been working with the artist David Shrigley and Kala Art Institute to create a limited edition print in conjunction with Shrigley’s YBCA show, Brain Activity, which runs through September.

Ideologically, these mentor conversations collapsed my perceived walls between sector silos to focus around the idea of “good” business – work that is sustainable, socially responsible, and which demonstrates an impact. I find myself ravenous to find studies or projects or companies that offer insight into the themes from this project: collaboration, philanthropy, social impact in nonprofit and for-profit spheres, and the relevance of the creative fields. As I feed myself information, I try to synthesize it into the work I’m currently doing or work I’d like to do in the future.

A call to be seekers and hybrids

As culture workers I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we ignore the trend towards the growing intersection of the public and private sector. We are primed to take advantage of all the resources out there to make ourselves and our organizations better and stronger.

I’d like to challenge my fellow emerging leaders to be seekers and hybrids as well. Build trust and integrity within your communities as you network far and wide and hopefully you will be inspired and strengthened to move forward. If you need help starting, below is a list of my areas of interest as well a few links and the list of people I’ve spoken to in the last year. I’d love to hear from the readers of EAP’s Blog Salon about what or whose work sparks their interests, and how it might inform your work as an arts professional.

Areas of Interest

  • collaborative consumption
  • partnerships and collaborations
  • alternative/continued education
  • citizen funding
  • social practice

Some things to read

Online resources

Some interesting people

About Emily Lakin

Emily has been involved in San Francisco arts and nonprofits for the past ten years, including holding positions at the 111 Minna Gallery and the Nonprofit Finance Fund. She currently works in Development at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Emily serves on the advisory board for Root Division, and has also volunteered at Intersection for the Arts and Southern Exposure. When not hands-deep in the arts in SF, you can find her @hazelbrown on Twitter, cooking up new recipes with a CSA from Eatwell Farm, and crashing startup offices throughout the city in search of skeeball machines. She earned B.A. in Anthropology from Smith College.

Image: Adapted from a photo by jaqian of artwork by Asbestos

Emergence Recap: Decentralized Leadership and Managing Creativity

decentralized leadershipBy Brien Henderson

Models of arts leadership and organization will naturally fall somewhere on a spectrum from heavily centralized to markedly diffuse. This discussion on June 4, 2012 at the Emerging Arts Professional’s annual convening, Emergence,  focused on organizations closer to the latter. Of course, nothing starts out that way.

What is the process of taking an organization towards a more decentralized form of leadership and what are the benefits and concerns of such a model? The discussion engaged two leaders who have done it.

Todd Brown of Red Poppy Art House and Charith Premawardhana of Classical Revolution founded and direct their respective organizations. At first, each took a lot of work and individual effort, but now various levels of responsibility exist in both.

Clear vision, clear mission

After having done the hard work of bringing an idea to realization comes the moment when that idea is maintained through the continuing efforts of other individuals. When that moment comes, both Brown and Premawardhana cautioned that anyone to whom you give that responsibility has to be clear on the vision and mission of the organization, and they have to be on board with it. As leadership diffuses, keep an eye on the progress of the organization, making sure that all activities stay mission-focused.

Classical Revolution began as a weekly event in San Francisco, whose mission is to bring classical music into unconventional venues to serve the community in the places they go, rather than trying to bring them to a concert hall. After five years, there are chapters operating under the Classical Revolution banner all over the world. Each chapter’s activities are completely self-contained, but no matter where you go the mission remains clear.

In founding the Red Poppy Art House, Brown’s vision was to alter the context of the creation and reception of art, rather than the conventional artist’s focus on the content of art. It began as a project fueled only by Brown and, later, an all-volunteer staff. Since then, it has grown into a thriving organization with a staff receiving stipends who make programming decisions independently.

Managing risk

Like the growth of any venture, you must be careful as to who you entrust with shepherding your vision into the future. Premawardhana pointed out that Classical Revolution, previously always operating on trust, has had to begin putting things in writing more. This is one of the drawbacks of continued growth in a decentralized model, but at some point it becomes the best move forward.

On that point, Brown articulated a multi-tier model of responsibility at Red Poppy, where he draws several layers of decision-making from low-risk to high-risk, and delegates respnsibilities to the volunteers and staff accordingly. Some he keeps for himself.

Drawing by Todd Berman

Drawing by Todd Berman

A fertile ecosystem of ideas

While there are certainly risks and concerns, along with that can come great innovation. Premawardhana noted that many people involved with Classical Revolution will sometimes be working on similar projects, but they won’t be communicating with each other. While inefficient, what comes from that may be a particularly interesting thread with a lot of people already attached to it. This can generate and lead to more successful side-projects.

The Mission Arts Performance Project (MAPP) is just such an example. The initial idea was to create, as Brown put it, an ecosystem for things to emerge. You may not be able to predict the result, but as long as you’re comfortable with that, great things can come out of it. A satellite project out of Red Poppy, the MAPP promotes street-level curating of performances and installations. It now runs on a regular basis with no central leadership of any sort. The only centrality to speak of in the MAPP is one of information, connecting those who are looking for space with those who have space to use.

Measuring success

In such a diffused environment, what sorts of benchmarks can be put in place to learn and grow with a project? In the case of the MAPP, the various venues, or at least those who are more invested in continuing the project, measure their own success from one event to the next, trying to improve each time. In the case of Classical Revolution, this same process unfolds at the chapter level.

About Brien Henderson

Brien Henderson is a composer in San Francisco. He is developing the San Francisco Composers Guild, a music presenting organization dedicated to the growth and development of young composers through ongoing realtionships with talented ensembles and master composers.

Todd Berman’s work can be found at The Art Don’t Stop.