Over spring break, the Bolz Center travelled to the Pacific Northwest for a week of site visits, networking, and exploration. Every other year, the Bolz Center takes the students out of the Midwest to meet with alumni and learn about the arts and culture scene in a new region of the country. These trips are jam-packed, but they offer a wonderful opportunity to talk to a range of people and get a taste of the variety of career paths in different areas of the country.
We began our trip in Seattle – on what we learned was the fifth sunny day in as many months – at the Seattle Center, once home to the 1962 World’s Fair but now a central location for many of the city’s arts organizations. Pacific Northwest Ballet hosted a panel on audience development, with additional guests from Seattle Opera, Teen Tix, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Seattle International Film Festival. It was eye-opening to learn about the remarkable culture of collaboration that has been established among these organizations and others like them in Seattle.
From there, we headed to the recently rebranded Museum of Pop Culture, explored exhibits on video games, comics, and horror movies, and chatted with alumna Jess Main about her first few days on the job as the museum’s Grants Manager. Then, onto legendary radio station KEXP to explore their studios with Executive Director Tom Mara, and speak with leaders from Grantsmakers in the Arts, 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and Sea Mar Community Health Centers about equity in the arts funding landscape.
We started day two at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) with alumni Sarah Michael, Heather Puri, and Rose Gear, speaking with the Seattle Symphony, SAM, and consulting group TRG Arts about everything from strategic planning to capital campaigns to consulting processes. We explored Pike Place Market for lunch (clam chowder, anyone?) before heading to the newly renovated (and extraordinarily beautiful) King Street Station, where we met with folks from Shunpike, Capitol Hill Housing, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and Duwamish Revealed to talk about creative place making, in all its nuanced forms and functions. We then headed down the street for a tour of Artspace’s Tashiro Kaplan Lofts, affordable live/work apartments for artists in the heart of Seattle.
We hopped on a bus Wednesday morning and made our way down to Portland, where we spent the afternoon getting in touch with our inner children at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). We had a great discussion with COO and Bolz alumna Erin Graham and her programming staff about OMSI’s strategic plan and programming work, before getting an after-hours tour of Brick by Brick – an awesome exhibit constructed entirely of LEGOs.
Thursday, we spoke with senior staff from the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Symphony, and the Oregon Cultural Trust about new programs they’ve been developing to reach and reflect their audiences, and the Trust’s unique fundraising model and why it works in Oregon. After lunch at Portland’s signature food trucks, we headed over to Literary Arts to speak with their Executive Director and were joined by the Cultural Advocacy Coalition and alumnus Steve Bass, President and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting. On Friday, the Bolzies went their own ways, some heading to interviews, others to visit local friends and family, but not before a stop at Open Signal, an experimental media arts studio.
Trips like this one are one of the most valuable components of the Bolz Center curriculum. They’re a great way to connect with and leverage our alumni network to learn about new and emerging work in the field, and they offer us a chance to discuss what we’re hearing in the classroom and how that translates into the day-to-day. What I heard over the course of this week, particularly on equity, strategic planning, and collaboration, has added a lot of depth and nuance to my understanding of these topics. I look forward to capitalizing on that learning in just a few short weeks when I head back into the working world!