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Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

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Starting a Career in the Arts

Written by Shannon Musgrave

Washington is full of young, ambitious, up and coming leaders – politicos, entrepreneurs, engineers, and of course, those of us in the arts. We live in an exciting time and as we prepare to dive into the working world, we are faced with some unique challenges. But we are young and energetic and up to the task.

Courtesy of William Couch, Flickr
Courtesy of William Couch, Flickr

One universal challenge emerging leaders face in every field is the evolution of the ever expanding “work day.” Gone are the days of a typical 9 to 5. (Though, did they ever really exist in the arts?) In this iPhone, iPad, Blackberry world, we are continually and constantly connected. Emails are sent and expected to be read at any and all hours. Tweets and Facebook comments don’t take the night off. We are embarking on a career world that never stops and rarely sleeps.

And how does one break into this world? Ah yes. The internship. Internships have the potential to be great career launchers. They also have the potential to become traps. All work and no pay makes Jane a tired intern. The New York Times recently published an article detailing the struggles of many 20-somethings – “a population historically exploitable as cheap labor” – as they learn that “long hours and low pay go hand in hand with the creative class.”

But the good news is, it feeds us (maybe just ramen noodles at first.) We in the arts get the extra perk of our work feeding our souls. It’s why we do it. And it’s an exciting time to dive in.

The Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University on April 7 will feature a panel discussion on career beginnings and advancement. Come get in on the discussion!

Panelists include:

Jojo Ruf – National New Play Network: Jojo Ruf is the General Manager of the Ruf HeadshotNational New Play Network, an alliance of 47 nonprofit theaters across the US that champions the development, production and continued life of new plays.  Jojo is also the Coordinating Producer for the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, an Associate Producer for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, a freelance writer for theatreWashington, and works as a Teaching Artist for Ford’s Theatre.  She has worked with Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Theater J, Welders Theatre, and Georgetown University as a freelance producer and director.

Most recently, Jojo served as the Coordinating Producer for Georgetown University’s Convening on Global Performance, Civic Imagination, and Cultural Diplomacy and as the Coordinator for Theater J’s Spinozium and other Beyond the Stage events for New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza.

Christopher K. Morgan – Christopher K. Morgan & Artists: Christopher K. Morgan is Artistic Director of Washington DC area contemporary dance company MorganChristopher K. Morgan & Artists, the Artist in Residence in the Dance Program at American University and the Director of the Dance Omi International Dance Collective, an annual residency for choreographers in New York.  All of his work stems from a belief in the urgency of live performance in an increasingly isolating, commercial, and digital world. His choreography has been presented in 18 countries on 5 continents.  In April 2011 Dance Magazine profiled him as one of six breakout choreographers in the United States.   Christopher is the recipient of a 2011 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for Choreography, a 2012 and 2013 Individual Artist Grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and a 2013 Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Fellowship.

Allison Peck – Freer-Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution: Allison Peck is peck picthe Head of Public Affairs and Marketing for the Freer|Sackler, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art in Washington, D.C., where she oversees all strategic marketing, public communications, media relations and advertising for the museums’ exhibitions and programs.  She has a professional background in project management, and has worked in communications for a variety of non-profits, including museums, art dealers, and social service providers.  Allison has a graduate degree in Arts Administration from American University in Washington, D.C., and an undergraduate degree in Art History and Strategic Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Moderator:

Anne L’Ecuyer – American University: Anne L’Ecuyer is a writer and a consultant who stays closely connected to an international network of city leaders, cultural Anne L'Ecuyerprofessionals, and individual artists. She is an expert in creative industries and cultural tourism, as well as the contributions of the arts toward educational, social, and environmental goals in communities throughout the United States. Anne previously served as Associate Vice President for Field Services at Americans for the Arts and is the author of Public Funding for the Arts at the Local Level. She owns and operates the Washington Writer’s Retreat, a private writing and research residency in the nation’s capital.

Register for EALS 2013 HERE.

You Are What You Do

Or are you?

The Holiday Season means holiday parties which mean wearing spangles, eating weird things skewered on toothpicks (olive, ham, cheese on a single toothpick: gross), and making hideous small talk. I’m pretty sure an elf dies every

time I fill an awkward silence between me and a holiday-sweatered-stranger with, “Sooooo, New Friend, what do yoooou doooo?”

This is a common question. We ask each other what we do because that’s often how we define others and ourselves; by our publicly recognized profession. When someone asks me what I do, I launch into a long winded explanation that essential boils down to: “although I’m a database manager, my path is arts administration.” Because that’s what I want to do and how I define myself.

Now the question itself is an ambiguous one. If someone was legitimately asking me what I do I could answer with a variety of things that have absolutely no affect (I hope) on my paycheck. “Well I’m an avid breather, in fact I’m doing it right now, I compulsively doodle in the margins of books whether they’re mine or the library’s, I bake cookies while watching reality television and when I run I fantasize about being a cage fighter.” Those are all things I do. Pretty regularly, nearly daily (and in fact constantly as far as the breathing bit is concerned). However here in the US of A that is not a satisfying answer. See when we ask someone “what do you do?” the question really means “where do you work?” not “what are your hopes and dreams and how do you enjoy spending time?”

It’s been said in the US we are what we do. We perceive ourselves and others by our job description. So how does that affect us as arts managers and artists? I’ve spent a significant portion of my life sitting around and painting but that never comes up when I’m asked what I do. 

How do you define yourself in a society that defines itself by the job position? Artist? Arts Manager? What do you do?

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