Emerging Arts Leaders

Los Angeles

Angie Kim and Wendy McClellan

In summer 2000, junior professionals working in Los Angeles County arts and culture organizations gathered to form the Emerging Arts Leaders (EAL), named to reflect their ambitions of becoming established arts leaders. The group has met bimonthly four times and is in the process of formalizing a mission statement and 2001 activities, one of which is to establish a professional development training program. EAL is composed of about thirty junior professionals from all facets of the arts (artists, arts organizations, grantmakers, for-profit enterprises, and independent consultants). Although not a strict requirement, most have been in the arts for eight or fewer years and currently occupy some position of leadership in their organizations.

In October 2000, Emerging Arts Leaders gathered with members of the Los Angeles Arts Funders (LAAF), a group of executive directors and program officers of government, foundation, and corporate grantmakers. LAAF members voiced support for EAL's ambition to develop the necessary skills to lead Los Angeles' arts culture in the future, and volunteered time to share their knowledge and skills in business development, management, leadership, and the like. EAL's meeting with these established arts leaders, several of whom are direct supervisors of EAL members, also provided the unique opportunity for EAL members to talk about their needs for professional development, more leadership opportunities, increased responsibilities, and advancement beyond middle management positions. With valuable feedback from LAAF members, the meeting also helped EAL formulate future directions and goals.

So far, EAL discussions about future objectives include: how can EAL members take the next steps in developing expertise in nonprofit arts management; how do they continue to develop leadership skills and opportunities; how do they attract peers to becoming funders of the arts; how can they sustain themselves and remain in the arts when the Los Angeles business sector (the post-production, entertainment, dot-com industries) is so lucrative with attractive compensations in pay, flexible scheduling, benefits, and advancement; what can they do to stabilize the nonprofit arts field and, at the same time, their own positions; and, the abstract yet overarching concern, how can they fight the crippling poverty-mentality in the arts that has kept overworked staffs underpaid and arts associations victim to market downturns.

While the above goals reflect universally shared concerns across a generation, the gathering of Emerging Arts Leaders indicates a promising future for the members' own professional development and for Los Angeles arts and culture. Already, the diversity of the group's participants is resulting in fruitful dialogue and collaborations, for instance, a creative fundraising effort by for-profit directors, government agencies, marketing associates, and junior Chamber of Commerce members to reach the newly wealthy. EAL members hope that the long-term impact of their meetings will be to strengthen and prepare future generations of arts leaders to work together to continue building Los Angeles' rich and dynamic cultural offerings.

Angie Kim is program associate, fine arts, Flintridge Foundation. Wendy McClellan is general manager, A.S.K. Theatre Projects and artistic director, Oasis Theatre Company.