Why DO you work in the Arts?

A state-level arts administrator, who was advocating for a LONG overdue increase in the state's arts budget, recently listed the many arts organizations on the brink, and artists who were struggling to make their next rent payment. When someone asked him, "Well, WHY then, would anybody work in the Arts?" he decided to solicit feedback from other arts folk in Vermont, including me.

Granted, I work in an arts program within a successful, private college. I have it much easier than most arts administrators in Vermont - I have program funding that is not in jeopardy of being cut on a yearly basis, I have health care, and retirement, and other solid benefits. I get a decent salary (for Arts work, that is) and I work with the support of other, full-time, committed colleagues.

So the following was my feedback for Mr. Administrator. If you work in the Arts, I would love to hear your reasons, too.

Although the nature of presenting performances, and our small staff, demands I work days, nights, and weekends, I leave my office each day knowing I've made a positive impact in my community. Last year, over 7,000 patrons (in our rural, agricultural county of only 35,000 people) shared the artistic, global and cultural events I assisted in planning.

By working in a small, understaffed arts organization, I've acquired more business skills and explored more areas of knowledge than I ever could have in a more structured, traditional role, including:
- Event management
- Contract negotiation
- Grant writing and fund raising
- Immigration and taxation policies for foreign workers
- Advocacy and public speaking
- Publicity and creation of written materials; including standard operating procedures
- Staff and volunteer management
- Building and sustaining collaborative relationships
- Plus, I have teamed with colleagues in areas as diverse as marketing, tourism, education, government, technology and other arts organizations

But what keeps me engaged and energized and working in an often under-valued profession, is the privilege of working with brilliant, creative, talented, innovative, passionate people: artists, teachers, students, legislators, colleagues and patrons alike - who come together across many miles, disciplines, cultures, faiths and beliefs - to experience art together.

For me, every performance feels like world peace; achieved in 2 acts, with a 15 minute intermission.

Picture: MapleMama w/West African musicians Mamadou Diabate and Cheick Hamala Diabate, October 2003.


The Contessa said...

As usual you wax poetic with wonderful sentiments. If we all expressed ourselves as eloquently as you do, the world would be a better and certinaly more peaceful place.

it's one of the many reasons I loev you my friend!

AM said...

AMEN, baby! =]

Jim said...

Allison, what I'd love to do is narrow that down to a single sentence, write that on a piece of paper, take a picture of you holding the paper, and participate in the world-wide 'wdydwyd?'

That means "Why Do You Do What You Do" and there's some great examples here

I'm so glad I'm your husband!
Love You!