|Project:||A-ha! Think It Grant: Investigating Hosting a Graduate Arts Management Internship Program at Los Angeles Theatres|
|Organization:||Center Theatre Group|
|Center Theatre Group|
The Things You Can't Learn in School
Sad to say, but it is actually extremely rare to be given the chance to simply think about an idea for a new program: To spend time reading about a topic, imagining how a concept might take shape. To have a chance to talk to others, gain perspective, learn about their experiences, and ask lots of questions. The process of researching our proposal to have Center Theatre Group (CTG) serve as the host for a city-wide arts management internship program for graduate students has been remarkable. This article outlines our year-long process investigating this idea.
Currently, CTG, like most theaters, regularly hosts interns (an average of 26 per year). The vast majority of these students are local undergraduates and many are studying theater. Last year, as we searched for one of our interns, we struggled to find the right fit. We came across lots of candidates who had the right academic know-how and artistic interest, but most had no real arts management experience. The dilemma highlighted for us the need, and possible opportunity, to support emerging professionals looking to gain practical arts management experience in the theater community.
Research Project Description
In the fall of 2010, CTG received the MetLife/Theatre Communications Group A-ha! Think It Grant, which gives theater professionals the time and space for research and development, and to discover and identify new strategies that will have far-reaching effect in helping organizations do their best work.
CTG proposed to explore creating and facilitating a new internship program for graduate students working on a degree in arts administration, who would intern with smaller Los Angeles theaters where they could take on substantive projects and responsibilities, increase the theaters' capacity, and give emerging professionals more experience. CTG would administer the internship program, pairing students with appropriate companies, liaising with universities, and sponsoring the students' internships.
Overall, it was clear through this process that we "struck a nerve" with everyone we spoke to about this program concept. Here are some highlights of what we learned:
National internship models:
- In a majority of institutions, there is a formalized internship program.
- Students are compensated for their time either through school credit or a paid stipend.
- It is really important to evaluate the organizational readiness and capacity to take on an intern.
- Each student has highly personalized career learning needs and interests.
- Organizations are at varied levels of readiness to create an intern experience that is rich and satisfying for both sides.
- Organizations should think about the presence of a leader at the organization who could serve as a management mentor, the theater's ability to offer an advanced learning environment, and their interest in nurturing new leaders, and not just needing some extra helping hands.
Focus groups with graduate arts management students:
- Students are ready for the "real."
- Students want to see leaders at work.
- Students want hands-on projects that teach them and matter to the organization.
- Students are still learning and need supervisors and mentors.
- Students want experiences that are professional and contribute to completing their degree.
Focus groups with theater leaders:
- Theaters need interns. It allows them to gain new ideas, get "back burner" projects accomplished, meet potential new collaborators and employees, and connect with a younger generation.
- Theaters really want and need the right interns. Some of the challenges for theaters include: the administrative task of recruiting and vetting applicants and managing/mentoring interns, the lack of university support for students during their internships, the seeming disconnect between interns work experiences and their schooling, having shared expectations, and interns who do not seem dedicated to or knowledgeable about the art form.
- Theaters want interns who know what they need and ask for it, and know what they bring and use it.
- Theaters want interns whose passion matches their own.
- Theaters want support in making an internship work for both sides.
- Smaller theaters proved particularly open to hosting graduate interns.
- Theaters agree that the best learning opportunities for the intern happen during the season.
- Theaters want to see more connection between the classroom and the theater community.
This research process has enabled CTG to establish and deepen relationships with local theaters, universities—both local and nationally—and students, opening doors for future collaborations. We believe that CTG can play a central role in recruiting, vetting, and training these interns as well as supporting the placement of these students at local theaters in a mutually beneficial relationship. This kind of leadership training program would positively impact CTG and help to strengthen the overall field by contributing to the development of the next generation of arts leaders.
|Organization Contact:||Patricia Garza, Senior Manager for Education and Community Partnerships|