7 P’s for Power: Creating Change through Arts-Based Community Development

In my role as an arts administrator for an organization whose focus is on community development, I have been committed to understanding and strengthening my local arts ecosystem through my work to provide direction and ensure its relevancy. It is imperative for arts leaders and administrators to not just think out of the box, but also to work outside of it in order to help the arts field evolve and stay relevant, particularly with changes in funding, patronage, and social value. Arts-integrated community development allows arts and non-arts leaders to support their arts ecosystem while creating solutions for community issues. It’s not easy work, especially when you’re new to it. In my experience, I have found that it requires 7 P’s for Power.


Michael Spring is an Americans for the Arts member and recipient of the 2016 Selina Roberts Ottum Award. Find out more about the Americans for the Arts Annual Leadership Arts Awards.

This occasion instigates a rumination about some of the keys to longevity (almost 33 years!), if not to success, in the local arts agency field. Thank you for asking.

  1. Try not to say “no.” There are just so many “no’s” allocated to each of us professionally and it is prudent not to use them indiscriminately. For example, you can say, “Instead of starting a new global festival in celebration of left shoes, how about partnering with the annual 5K run and distributing one multi-colored shoelace to each runner designed exclusively for left shoes?”
  2. Realize that the person with the most energy prevails. In meetings, put on your performance face and emote your point of view as powerfully and persuasively as you can muster. If all else fails, make sure that you and your staff outnumber the “opposition.”

Arts, Culture, and Community Development

Using the arts and culture to shape, build, and identify communities is not a novel concept; however, its place in the realm of community development is gaining more traction and credibility by community development practitioners, funders, policy makers, and community stakeholders themselves. The process of integrating art into community development is rewarding but arduous, particularly for emerging leaders such as myself. It often feels as if you have to “prove” yourself in, understand, and speak the language of two very different fields.

But the first question is almost always why? Why should art be integrated into community development?

A Multiple Choice Test to Determine Vocational Compatibility for the Local Arts Agency Field

Michael Spring

Prof(?) Michael Spring

1)    The acronym “ATFAA” stands for:

a)    Do I need to answer this in the form of a question?

b)    I do not need to know what an acronym is to work is this field.

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