Jamie McCrary is in her second year of the Arts Management Masters Program at American University. Here, she shares her experience of attending the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on March 23, 2014. 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with my arts management peers and colleagues at the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS). Held at the American University Katzen Arts Center on Sunday, March 23, 2014, EALS is an annual gathering of arts management professionals who are committed to examining issues, trends, and innovations in the field. An entirely student-run event, the symposium was organized and coordinated by a committee of AU arts management students, a group of individuals I am lucky enough to call my classmates and my friends. EALS was the culmination of two semesters of hard work for them, which was reflected in the quantity and quality of symposium speakers, panelists, and attendees.


As a second year in the AU arts management program, much of my coursework is currently focused on summing up and integrating the concepts I’ve learned throughout the program. EALS supported this endeavor by giving me the opportunity to examine problems and challenges different arts management fields face. Featured speakers came from a multiplicity of backgrounds, reflecting perspectives from across all arts areas and professional disciplines. This diversity encouraged me to think differently about the concepts I’ve studied, reminding me that there is not just one way to approach a problem.EALS2014-019

Though EALS is committed to finding answers to major problems in the field, I believe the symposium is also committed to finding the right questions to ask. Often times pinpointing which questions to examine leads to solutions we never considered, encouraging both collaboration and innovation in the field. How can the arts be used as a diplomatic tool in conflict resolution? What specific values are funders looking for in their grant writers? Should the arts consider business models other than the traditional non-profit structure, and, if so, what does this mean for the future of our arts organizations? These are just some of the questions raised at the symposium, and some of the questions that I continue to grapple with following the conclusion of EALS.

When I left the symposium, I felt refreshed, inspired, and thoroughly impressed—both by the speakers I heard and by my classmates who organized the event. While EALS has come and gone, I think it’s important that we realize the symposium is a beginning, not an end. EALS creates a point of entry for us to continue examining issues and finding solutions to the problems we face; and, perhaps realizing that the questions we find are just as important as the answers.