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Jessie Wright

Applied Learning at its Finest: Arts Admin in NYC

by Jessie Wright Thursday, February 18, 2016

It’s hard to talk about arts leadership for very long without mentioning New York City. A metropolis of world class museums, dance, theater, and home to thousands of artists, it is the engine behind much of the world’s great creative work. The Bolz Center first year students had the opportunity to travel there together this winter, joining arts leaders from around the country for the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference.

The APAP conference is part arts showcase, part think-tank, and part community building. Presenting organizations from around the country gather together to book their upcoming seasons, seeing hundreds of performances from modern ballet to international music to puppet shows. We benefitted from this kaleidoscope of available talent, meeting artists and wandering around the Midtown theater district to take in compelling work. Throughout the 4-day conference, there was a rich schedule of seminars, panels and group sessions. We discussed some of the major challenges facing the arts field: audience engagement, funding deficits, equity in the arts and building the creative economy. It was exciting to be asked to the table, learning from great artists and arts administrators and thinking of strategic solutions with skills we have gained from our Wisconsin MBA.

APAP has also developed a Leadership Fellows program, a 2-year training program for a diverse cohort of arts professionals. The Bolz Center students spent an afternoon at APAP conducting focus groups with the fellows, beginning an evaluative process of the program that continues through this spring semester. With information from the program’s developers, leaders and participants, we have the chance to study the Leadership Fellows framework and make recommendations for the program’s future success.

Just as it doesn’t take long for New York City to come up in an arts conversation, it doesn’t take long to bump into alumni of the Bolz Center in the arts world. During our trip to New York, we met with Jeff Levine, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at the Whitney Museum of American Art. A fellow Bolzie, he took us on a tour of the spectacular new building, sharing with us the strategic process of rebranding and relocating an historic museum. We gathered in the Empire State Building on Friday night, mingling with several alumni and friends of UW-Madison overlooking the city. Careers ranged from arts consulting to television to theatrical company management. New York City was a stunning backdrop for this group of dedicated arts administrators to meet and build strong networks. We have taken these new relationships and lessons back to Madison, and look forward to building a bright future for the arts together.