As my time on Americans for the Arts’ Arts Education Council winds down, I’m given to reflecting on the power of “art-relationships.” Over the past three years, these relationships not only have benefitted me on a personal/social level, but also have elevated my professional expectations and performance. With my final council post for ARTSblog, I thought I’d share some insights I’ve learned as they relate to developing professional connections.
First, seek diverse relationships. In our society today, we’ve almost allowed the word “diversity” to be a stand-in for the word “race.” In reality, however, there are many facets of diversity. I’ve learned that diverse relationships offer me broader perspectives than I’m used to, which in turn foster professional inspiration. This means that having professional connections from varied geographic regions, from differing demographics, or from assorted cultural perspectives all work to make me a better arts administrator. It also means being willing to have honest conversations with others and being okay with being “wrong”—that’s how we learn and grow.
Second, connect with people who are smarter than you. Perhaps a better way to say it is to connect with people whose experiences are more diverse and more developed than yours. However you choose to frame it, relationships with people who can offer unique problem-solving insight are invaluable as a professional. One of my first memories of serving on the council was trying to create an artist-in-residence program at my institution. I was immediately connected to several council members who shared both information and documents that I could use towards developing such a program. The corollary to this insight is “knowing what you don’t know” and then seeking relationships with those who do.
Finally, one of the most significant aspects of developing professional relationships that I’ve gleaned from my time on the council is the importance of seeking out those who share your passions. This may seem elementary, but I confess, I’ve spent a great deal of time (perhaps wasted) with those who simply don’t care about the things I care about. This does not mean that everyone should think the same (see my first point). It does mean, however, that surrounding yourself with those who relate to your own professional goals and expectations is essential professional networking. My colleagues on the council inspire me (and encourage me) with their relentless devotion to the field of arts education. Literally from coast to coast and everywhere in between, they recognize the power of the arts and how that power needs to be developed in our young people.
In closing, I’m grateful for the people I’ve met on the Arts Education Council. I’m honored to call them friends and I’m appreciative that they’ve made me a more successful arts administrator. May we all seek relationships with people that make us better than we were before we met them!