Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

+ ART.


EALS 2014

Finding the Right Questions

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.


Taffety Punk Theatre Company @ EALS!

We are so excited to welcome Taffety Punk Theatre Company next week as the opening act for our closing keynote address! A stirring combination of live music, theatre, and dance, the Taffety Punks will perform a portion of their acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Rape of Lucrece.”

Taffety Punk, “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare, at the Black Cat, Washington DC. 28 June 2013. Photo by C Stanley Photography.

The Mission of the Taffety Punk Theatre is to establish a dynamic ensemble of actors, dancers and musicians who ignite a public passion for theatre by making the classical and the contemporary exciting, meaningful, and affordable.

Check out the making of “The Rape of Lucrece” and then get your tickets for the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium!

See you at EALS on March 23, 2013!

Panel Topic: Effective Leadership & Smooth Transitions

The very lucky among us have had the pleasure of working for a vibrant, inspiring, supportive leader; the kind of person who excites and energizes his staff, or who buoys support for her organization with seemingly effortless charisma. While it may seem like magic, this panel will provide a forum for discussion about strategic, innovative, and effective leadership styles and trends. Additionally, panelists will share their insights about smooth transitions – within an organization, up the ladder, or to another organization altogether.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to register for EALS on Sunday, March 23.This panel will be during our first breakout session, from 11:45am – 1:00pm.

We are happy to announce our esteemed panelists and moderator:

Kim Sajet

Kim Sajet is the director of the National Portrait Gallery. She was appointed to the position in February and officially assumed office April 1. Before joining the Smithsonian, Sajet was the president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2013. Previously, she was senior vice president and deputy director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art museum and school in the country. From 1998 until 2001, Sajet was the director of corporate relations at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and she served first as curator and then the director of two Australian art museums from 1989 until 1995. In addition to 20 years of arts management experience, she has written a number of scholarly publications, curated permanent-collection and touring exhibitions and spoken at academic symposia. Her most recent publication was on American artists who worked in Dutch art colonies between 1880 and 1914. Check out a recent article in the Washington Post featuring Kim and other leading women in the field.


Fielding Grasty is a Director and Assistant Secretary to the Board for National Arts Strategies (NAS). Fielding leads the development and oversees management of several NAS programs. These include The Chief Executive Program, the Business of Arts and Culture series, and international programs such as the Hong Kong Leadership Training Program for Senior Arts and Culture Executives. He is seminar director for the NAS seminars Finance and Strategic Governance and served as program director and leads the development of NAS online events. As Assistant Secretary to the Board, Fielding has primary staff responsibility for administrative issues related to the Board of Directors. Fielding serves as President of the Board of Directors of Second Street Gallery, a nonprofit contemporary art gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia. He earned a B.A. with Honors in Literature from Eckerd College.


Syrah Gunning works in the training division of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the Assistant Manager for Fellowships and Internships at the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Syrah oversees the strategy and implementation of highly competitive early and mid-career professional development programs including three Fellowships, the Kennedy Center’s Internship program, and the BAM Professional Development Program (a training partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York). Prior to her work with the Institute, Syrah received her Masters of Business Administration from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration in the Wisconsin School of Business at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she focused on leadership development for the performing arts administration. Prior to Madison, she served as the Special Events Manager at The Baltimore Museum of Art, where she produced events for the Museum’s $65 million campaign and designed an institutional planning process to facilitate collaboration and evaluation across its six divisions.

Sarah Durkee HeadshotSarah Durkee is Vice President of Public Education at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, a position she has held since 2009. Ms. Durkee has worked for the Corcoran for the past 12 years; prior to serving her current role, she held various positions within the institution in education, public programs, and special events. Ms. Durkee is pursuing her M.A. in Arts Management from American University and graduated with highest honors from Bowdoin College with a degree in Art History and International Relations. She has also worked in various capacities with American University Museum at Katzen Arts Center, National Arts Strategies, and as DC Administrative Coordinator for Art Cart: Saving the Legacy, an intergenerational project that documents the work and preserves the legacies of aging artists.

See you Sunday, March 23 for the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium!

Panel Topic: Cross-pollination: Arts & _______

Intended to show the limitless possibilities of artistic creation and creative thinking, this conversation will explore art that utilizes unconventional materials, is performed in unexpected locations, and involves partnerships with collaborators who are typically perceived to be outside traditional arts disciplines.  This panel will examine existing cross-pollination between the arts and other fields, highlighting current ideas and best practices to inspire a greater network of creative crossover while at the same time opening doors for more diverse funding streams and audience engagement opportunities.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to register for EALS on Sunday, March 23. This panel will be during our second breakout session, from 2:00 – 3:15pm.

We are happy to announce our esteemed panelists and moderator:

JeanCooneyheadshot Jean Cooney is a project manager for non-profit public arts organization Creative Time in New York City. Since joining Creative Time, she has had the opportunity to work on several large-scale public art projects, taking place in sites ranging from Grand Central Terminal to outer space, with acclaimed artists Nick Cave, Trevor Paglen, Suzanne Lacy, and currently, Kara Walker. Jean received a Masters degree in Visual Arts Administration from New York University in 2012. Prior to New York City, she spent ten years in the Bay Area, where she worked in Oakland-based galleries, and produced a performance and visual arts event series at Grace Cathedral.

 She also holds a B.A. in International Relations from Boston University.


Toni Hiley is the CIA Museum Director, Center for the Study of Intelligence. Ms. Hiley holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Maryland, European Division and received her museum training through the Smithsonian and the US Army’s Center for Military History. She joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999 where she directs the operations of the CIA Museum.
Check out Hiley’s segment on NBC!


Sean M. Starowitz’s work is executed in a variety of social, political, and community engaged contexts. Notable projects include Wheels for Meals, BREAD! KC and The Burnt Ends Residency. He has also explored curatorial projects such as The Speakeasy, and Vagabond, Kansas City’s premiere pop-up restaurant. He has contributed writings to Proximity Magazine and Temporary Art Review, and has lectured at Queens College in NY, UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department, and the 2012 Mid-America College Art Association Conference. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri as the artist-in-residence at the Farm To Market Bread Company. He is a 2010 graduate of the Interdisciplinary Arts program at the Kansas City Art Institute and a 2012 Rocket Grant recipient with support from the Charlotte St. Foundation, Spencer Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Read his interview with feed me kc and check out his blog.


Ximena Varela is a researcher, educator, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in international cultural policy, management practice, marketing strategy, arts management research, and sustainable development. She has worked with and advised international organizations, national and regional governments, city agencies, as well as private and nonprofit organizations in arts funding and arts policy. Currently, she chairs the Research Council of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, and has been a board member of the Latin American Institute of Museums since 2000.

See you Sunday, March 23 for the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium!

Not only is EALS dedicated to creating a forum for the hottest topics in arts management, but we pride ourselves in learning and experiencing everything we can about the exciting topics coming your way for EALS 2014.  That is one of the many reasons we went as a committee, along with some other fellow students, to see Company E‘s production of “Voices” last weekend.  Company E is a Washington-based dance company whose mission is to build diplomatic relationships through dance residencies and co-creation all over the globe.  We were so fascinated by this rare stateside performance and couldn’t wait to learn more about their mission from one of this year’s EALS panelists and Company E dancer and Company Manager, Tara Compton.

Of course, we were so awestruck by the riveting performance that we couldn’t help but respond… through what else, but ART!  Our very own and oh-so-talented committee members, Christina Girardi and Joshua Midgett, shared the following art reactions with me and I couldn’t be more impressed.  Both pieces reflect on Company E’s “Alma”.

Watercolor illustration by EALS Finance Assistant, Christina Girardi
Watercolor illustration by EALS Finance Assistant, Christina Girardi

Apples. Everywhere.

In the market they mean what they mean.

On stage, I suppose they’re more.

Am I seeing original sin? Magritte’s The Son of Man?

In my mind I see the teacher’s gift.

I see childhood summer treats, when the ice cream man didn’t come.

I see youth.

And so I watch as dancer’s fight to move and grasp this youth.

I feel how hard it is to gather memory and move amongst it.

And I see the frustration of trying to share these with those you love and watching them chew and spit them out.

Youth is hard to let go of. Aging makes love difficult.

All this spelled with difficulty on the bodies of two splendid dancers.

-Joshua Midgett, EALS Finance Chair

Another diplomacy-in-action feat I’m thrilled to share is from our Executive Assistant, Jessica Ferey.  She recently returned from a whirlwind week in Versailles, which she recounts here:

One thing they might not tell you about grad school is the importance of the connections you make through classmates. I never thought I’d be heading to France as part of my experience at AU, but there I was, standing in the same theatre where Marie-Antoinette once stood. This all came about when Charlie Rohlfs, a current Arts Management student, former EALS committee member, and now employee at Opera Lafayette, knew that I spoke French and asked if I’d like to interview for a production assistant/translator position to help during the company’s upcoming residency in Versailles. This was one of those opportunities you just can’t pass up and I was soon on a plane to France.

As soon as the stage managers and I arrived at the theatre, the technical director looked down at our shoes disapprovingly and said, “Those won’t do.” Due to a recent accident in the theatre, Opéra Royal had become very strict about security measures, so we were required to purchase steel-toed boots and always wear a construction helmet while working backstage. The French crew was an amazing dedicated bunch, working tirelessly to ensure that our set went up, props were organized, costumes were steamed and ready, and that our show would go off without a hitch.

A view of the stage from the audience’s perspective.

My job, then, was to ensure smooth communication between the US team and the French crew. Luckily, I had interned in a French theatre back in undergrad and had a basic knowledge of French technical theatre terms. It was important to be as clear and specific as possible. Despite a few minor misunderstandings, we managed to find ways to communicate with one another, even if it meant using over-exaggerated hand gestures and speaking “frenglish” half the time. And sometimes it wasn’t even worth trying to think of a French word because they were already using the English word (the person in the light booth, for example, is called a “lighter,” and when you have an extra prop it’s called a “spare”… go figure).

The best part of this experience was learning about the special welfare/unemployment system set up specifically for artists and technical crewmembers working in the performing arts called “intermittent du spectacle.” From what I understand, these folks have to prove that they can work a certain number of hours for a performing arts company, and once they’ve done so, they earn the title of “intermittent” and receive unemployment benefits when they are not currently working on a show (as long as they still work a certain number of hours within the year). This means that artists, designers, and technical crewmembers can focus on artistic work instead of waiting tables. Of course, this system is constantly threatened by France’s struggling economy and it is unclear whether it can be sustained. In the meantime, the crew I worked with seemed pleased with the fact that they could work within the performing arts without worrying too much about how to put bread on the table.

Another major cultural difference has to do with work ethic and the notion of taking breaks. Here in the US, we tend to just go go go and rarely find the time to enjoy lunch away from our desks. In France, however, lunch and dinner breaks are not just an option, they are often mandatory. At around noon or 1pm everyday, the French crew dropped what they were doing and took an hour-long lunch break. Many of them were surprised when the US team and I worked through lunch and all we did was gobble down a granola bar. While many are quick to say that the French are lazy because of this, I disagree. By taking breaks, the French crew was much more effective and still got everything done. It was a good reminder of the old saying, “The Americans live to work and the French work to live.”

All in all, that whirlwind week was an unforgettable experience and a great lesson in cultural diplomacy!

Me and part of the crew. This was taken after striking the set – what a great team to work with!

-Jessica Ferey, EALS Executive Assistant

You can see that we’re getting our hands dirty by participating and responding to Arts and Diplomacy.  These experiences just leave us wanting more, which is why we are counting down until the Arts and Diplomacy panel at the Symposium on March 23rd.

Check out who will be joining us for the panel:

Arts & Diplomacy Panel

Our world continues to shrink while our collective creativity abounds. Washington DC, a hub for international activity and exchange, boasts some of the most influential diplomacy organizations and programs in the world. This discussion will center on how we, as a leading nation, link to other countries and cultures through artistic mediums. How can music, theater, dance, and the visual arts evolve our dialogue and bridge cultural gaps? Representatives from arts organizations making significant diplomatic contributions will fuel this discussion on how art crosses borders.


Dr. Curtis Sandberg (Senior Vice President for the Arts, Meridian International Center) holds a B.A. in Classical Archaeology from the University of California, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University. He has been involved in archaeological projects in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Sandberg has extensive museum experience in a variety of fields, including research, curation, collections oversight, and archival management. He is an expert in coalition building among cultural entities, which includes creating over 200 collaborations with international and domestic institutions. Sandberg has lectured widely on these topics in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Prior to joining Meridian in 1996, he taught at Harvard University and at the John Burroughs School, Saint Louis, Missouri, and has lectured at national conferences, as well as at museums, diplomatic missions, and cultural organizations throughout the United States. Sandberg was a Rotary International Fellow, a Fulbright-Hayes Fellow, a Harvard Sinclair-Kennedy Fellow, and a Whiting Fellow.

Tara Compton (Company Manager/Artistic Associate, Company E) is currently a resident of Washington, DC where she is one of the founding staff members of Company E. She resided in Tampa, FL for five years prior, getting her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of South Florida and working with the Tampa Bay Ballet and Cirque du Soleil. Tara has spent time studying and choreographing in multiple locations throughout Europe and the Americas. She has been an assistant teacher at Broadway Dance Center in NYC and is currently a guest faculty member for Dance Masters of America.

She has choreographed and acted as a rehearsal director for multiple performances in her hometown of Louisville, Ky at the Kentucky Center for the Arts and has been recognized by Dance Masters of the Bluegrass as one of the emerging choreographers of the Midwest. Tara’s profound interest in art and international relations, as well as experience in marketing and communications, have all come together in working for Company E, and she is very excited to be a part of the artistic excellence that graces the Washington dance scene.

Stephen Estrada (Fine Artist) worked for two years as Project Coordinator for the US Department of State’s Diplomacy Center before taking over as Director from 2005 – 2012. Previous roles include Chief of Design for the National Air and Space Museum, Senior Designer for the National Archives, and work with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery.

As an artist, Mr. Estrada has had exhibitions at Cornell Museum of Art, ArtSpace Gallery, Delaplaine Art Center, Gallery 555, Gala Arts, Dadian Gallery, Wholefarth Gallery, 901 E Street Gallery, and Easton Arts Center among others.

A graduate of American University and the Corcoran School of Art, Mr. Estrada taught for three years in George Washington University’s Museum Studies Program.


Joshua Midgett  is currently a Master of Arts in Arts Management candidate as well as pursuing his Graduate Certificate in International Arts Management, both at American University. He’s only recently returned from an academic sojourn at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where he studied Cultural Tourism. He holds two undergraduate degrees from Keene State College in Economics and Directing. Prior to studying at American, Joshua served in various managerial capacities with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Glimmerglass Festival, Oasis Productions, and Foodplay, Inc. Since coming to D.C. he has had the pleasure of working with the DeVos Institute at the Kennedy Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre, and the Young Playwright’s Theater. He is an amalgam of organizational and creative passion and has an unrivaled love of cereal.

For more Arts and Diplomacy and other topics that are sure to peak your interest, join us at the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on March 23rd, 2014.  Click here for more info.

Erin Clark is a 1st year MA Candidate in Arts Management at AU and the EALS Events Assistant.

Registration and Keynote Speakers

Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium
March 23, 2014
| creatively making our place |

We are thrilled to announce the Keynote Speakers for the
2014 Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium!


Russell Willis Taylor
Russell Willis Taylor

Opening our day in a David Frost/Inside the Actors Studio – style interview, Russell Willis Taylor (President and CEO of National Arts Strategies) talks with Francesca Zambello (Artistic Director of Washington National Opera and Glimmerglass Festival).

Francesca Zambello
Francesca Zambello


These two powerhouse women of the arts will take the stage to talk about how we as leaders keep the arts vibrant, vital, and alive. We will be collecting your questions as well, so put your thinking caps on. You’ve got an hour with two of the most influential arts leaders in the country. (See their full bios below.)


Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett

Closing out our day is newly appointed Executive Director of ArtPlace America, Jamie Bennett. Former Chief of Staff and Director of Public Affairs at the National Endowment for the Arts, Jamie was named one of 2013’s most powerful and influential people in the nonprofit arts by Barry’s Blog. Jamie will tell us about the exciting creative placemaking work being supported and pioneered by ArtPlace, and then will open up for discussion and questions with you!


Registration for the 2014 Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is now open.
Get your tickets now! We look forward to seeing you March 23!

And don’t forget to join us for our Spring Benefit Brunchette on February 23!


Russell Willis Taylor, President and CEO of National Arts Strategies since January 2001, has extensive senior experience in strategic business planning, financial analysis and planning, and all areas of operational management. Educated in England and America, she served as director of development for the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art before returning to England in 1984 at the invitation of the English National Opera (ENO) to establish the Company’s first fund-raising department. During this time, she also lectured extensively at graduate programs of arts and business management throughout Britain. From 1997 to 2001, she rejoined the ENO as executive director.

Russell has held a wide range of managerial and Board posts in the commercial and nonprofit sectors including the advertising agency DMBB; head of corporate relations at Stoll Moss; director of The Arts Foundation; special advisor to the Heritage Board, Singapore; chief executive of Year of Opera and Music Theatre (1997); judge for Creative Britons and lecturer on business issues and arts administration. She received the Garrett Award for an outstanding contribution to the arts in Britain, the only American to be recognized in this way, and has served on the boards of A&B (Arts and Business), Cambridge Arts Theatre, Arts Research Digest and the Society of London Theatre. She currently serves on the advisory boards of The University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, Salzburg Global Seminar, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Charlottesville and the Arts Management program at American University, on the British Council’s Arts & Creative Economy Advisory Group and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2013, Russell was honored with the International Citation of Merit by the International Society for the Performing Arts, presented in recognition of her lifetime achievement and her distinguished service to the performing arts.


Francesca Zambello is the Artistic Director of Washington National Opera. Previously she has served as its Artistic Advisor. She has directed many WNO productions, including Of Mice and Men (debut in 2001), Fidelio (2003), Die Walküre (2003 and 2007), Billy Budd (2004), Porgy and Bess (2005 and 2010), Das Rheingold (2006), Siegfried (2009), Salome (2010), and Show Boat (2013). Since September 2010 she has also been the Artistic and General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York.

An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Zambello’s work has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Bolshoi, Royal Opera House, Munich State Opera, Paris Opera, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and English National Opera. She has staged plays and musicals on Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre, BAM, the Guthrie Theater, Vienna’s Raimund Theater, the Bregenz Festival, Sydney Festival, Disneyland, Berlin’s Theater des Westens, and at the Kennedy Center.

She began her career as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Opera Theatre and as an assistant director to the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Juilliard, and Yale. An American who grew up in Europe, she speaks French, Italian, German, and Russian. She is a graduate of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

She recently developed and directed the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier for San Francisco Opera, where she served as Artistic Advisor from 2006-2011. Her acclaimed production of Show Boat opened at Lyric Opera of Chicago in February 2012 and will open at WNO on May 4, 2013. Other recent directing highlights include a new production of La traviata for Opera on Sydney Harbor in March 2012 and a new production of Aida at the Glimmerglass Festival in July 2012.

She has been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contribution to French culture, and the Russian Federation’s medal for Service to Culture. Her theatrical honors include three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, two French Grand Prix des Critiques, Helpmann Award, Green Room Award, Palme d’Or in Germany, and the Golden Mask in Russia.


Jamie Bennett is the executive director of ArtPlace America, a partnership among 14 foundations, 6 financial institutions, and 8 federal agencies dedicated to strengthening the field of creative placemaking, in which communities and their arts sectors work in partnership to shape their social, physical, and economic futures.  To date, ArtPlace has awarded $42.1 million in grants to 124 organizations in 79 communities of all sizes across the United States.

Until December 2013, Jamie was Chief of Staff and Director of Public Affairs at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he was in charge of overseeing the agency’s external affairs, which included the national rollouts of the “Our Town” grant program and of new partnerships with the US Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development.

Previously, Jamie was Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs during Mayor Bloomberg’s administration where he oversaw the agency’s partnerships with the NYC Departments for the Aging, of Education, and of Youth and Community Development.  He also represented DCA on two public-private partnerships: the New York State Cultural Data Project and Materials for the Arts.

Jamie has also provided strategic counsel at the Agnes Gund Foundation, served as chief of staff to the President of Columbia University, and worked in fundraising at The Museum of Modern Art, the New York Philharmonic, and Columbia College.

His non-profit affiliations have included the Board of Directors of Art21 and HERE Arts Center; the Foot-in-the-Door Committee of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation; and Studio in a School’s Associates Committee.  Jamie received his B.A. from Columbia College in New York City.

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