Creative Management in the Arts and Heritage

Sustaining and Renewing Professional Management for the 21st Century.

Prepared by Jocelyn Harvey

July 2002, 48 pages. The Canadian Conference of the Arts, in collaboration with the Cultural Human Resources Council. CCA, 804-130 Albert St., Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4 Canada, 613-238-3561.

Everywhere I turn there is concerned discussion about the dearth of passionate and skilled leaders-in- waiting to replace the current generation of aging champions who are close to burnout or in the process of retirement. At my foundation this concern goes to the leadership of all the sectors of our community — not just the arts. Another recent report (also reviewed in this issue of the Reader) focuses on the particular challenges of leadership transitions in founder-led cultural organizations. So I read with great interest this first of potentially three reports from what seems to be a very comprehensive study of leadership transition within the not-for-profit arts and cultural sector of our Canadian neighbors.

The Creative Management Project, as it is called, aims to study all aspects of management/administrative personnel in not-for-profit arts, and to develop a comprehensive human resources strategy for professional arts management. The purpose is to improve the conditions for the retention, effective transition, and renewal of the management labor force in Canada's arts and heritage sector. Phase 1 was concerned with identifying the challenges and needs and beginning a discussion about practical solutions. Phase 2 has just begun and will end in November 2002. It is concerned with developing useable recommendations, a timetable, and action steps for implementation. Phase 3 is scheduled for completion in February 2003. This phase will include a major effort to advocate for the implementation plan among organizations, funders, and others to whom the recommendations are directed. The project is supported by the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The report documents the process of Phase 1, the additional research needs that were uncovered, and a preliminary set of potential solutions. The preliminary recommendations are grouped under five general topics and also according to each of five separate agencies or segments of the Canadian arts and heritage sector, including the arts and heritage organizations themselves, public sector funding agencies, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Cultural Human Resources Council and related human resources organizations.

There are too many recommendations and ideas to report on here, and some relate to agencies and opportunities that are unique to the Canadian nonprofit sector, such as the Canadian Conference on the Arts, the Voluntary Sector Initiative, the Tomorrow Starts Today investment program of the Canadian Government, and Human Resources Canada, about which little or no information is given. However, following are a few of the early ideas that this reviewer found interesting and worth following through the planned implementation stage:

  • Respect for the profession of arts manager should be developed and validated through certification, accreditation, and the development of competencies, benchmarks, and best practices.
  • Public sector funders providing operating support should require applicants to provide a human resources plan along with program/financial/artistic plans.
  • Large organizations that have a professional human resources manager should share this individual with smaller groups through a contract arrangement, should provide a training conference for smaller organizations, and should share their best practices.
  • Service organizations should put an HR professional on staff to provide assistance to members.
  • Smaller organizations should explore ways to share an HR professional.
  • A mentorship system should be established that pairs a senior leader who is planning to retire with an emerging manager, so that over the period of a year the senior leader works fewer hours as the newer manager takes on more responsibility.
  • A sabbatical program should be created that engages a younger professional to shadow a senior manager for the course of a season and then to take over during a six-month leave of absence (at a reduced salary) by the senior manager — providing renewal time for leaders and on-the-job training for emerging leaders.
  • “Sanity Circles” should be developed to provide peer-to-peer networking and support. These may be formal or informal in structure.

Appendix (or Annex) A of the report captures a rich range of anecdotal information and quotes that were part of the initial discussion in the sector to define the challenges. I found myself hearing these comments, complaints, and trenchant observations as if they were coming from the mouths of the arts managers I know. This section illustrates the need for attention to the transfer of effective leadership and helps make the case for the actions recommended. It will be interesting to see who the champions will be for pursuing these and other recommendations of the Creative Management Project. It will be worth following the results of this project to see if there are replicable models for us Yanks.

Kathleen Cerveny, The Cleveland Foundation