March 13, 2007

Exit to Re-Enter

Yesterday I popped into the Americans for the Arts ( Emerging Leaders reception in DC that was part of Arts Advocacy Day. In the 20 minutes that I was there (while Stephen and my brother Matthew enjoyed some Guinness in a nearby pub) I was handed some unexpected advice.

I struck up a conversation with an emerging arts leader (go ahead, ask my how I know she is emerging) who said that she read some interesting information recently from Americans for the Arts saying that the leadership pipeline is underdeveloped for emerging and midcareer leaders. Funny that - I wrote the report. She then informed me that she is considering a career move but maybe out of the arts. Advice she received from a mentor was that to get ahead in the arts you had to leave, develop your skills and then return.

I was nervous about attending the reception but as soon as I walked in the door I remembered why I enjoyed working in the arts - people are funky and friendly. I instantly felt at home. The person I had hoped to meet was there and she was welcoming and chatty. It was so easy to make a connection with her and to fall into place amongst my former peers.

After I slipped out of the reception, some ten minutes later, I met up with Stephen and Matthew in the Pub. I openly reflected on that same old Amy question - should I return to the arts or keep moving further to try new industries? In an earlier arts meeting yesterday I mentioned that I decided not to pursue a PhD in Arts and Culture Leadership. The woman I was meeting with immediately crossed out a series of numbers she had written on her pad. They had nothing to do with our discussion but it felt like a comment - something so final and decisive.