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Calgary to Madison for the Association for Arts Administration Educators Conference (AAAEC)

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Arts Administration/Management as a field of study is still relatively young. In the past, knowledge about an arts discipline combined with hands-on administration experience was sufficient for managing a theatre company, a choir, a community festival, an art gallery, or a dance troupe. However, since the mid-20th century, arts organizations and arts managers have begun demanding a more sophisticated knowledge and skill set in business and management with a focus on the arts.

When I accepted the role of Arts Leadership Director for the Rozsa Foundation, I quickly realized that I needed to know not only best practices/tools in arts management along with practical experience, but I also needed to learn how to share this information with other practicing arts managers while addressing current concerns/trends within the arts in Canada.

And so it was a “dream come true” to attend the Association for Arts Administration Educators Conference (AAAEC), held in Madison, Wisconsin from May 30-June 1, 2019. The topic of the conference was “The Future of Arts Administration Education: Evolution, Reinvention, and Transformation” and was held at the beautiful University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

The Association for Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) is celebrating 40+ years of bringing together educators from around the world (mainly in the United States). Founded in 1975, the Association was created to develop high standards in education for arts administrators, to encourage its members to publish and present research in arts management, and to strengthen the understanding of arts management issues in the academic and professional fields.

At the AAAE Conference, I met academics and practitioners from the United States and Canada who are exploring so many topics that I am passionate about: creative place-making, mentorship, internship, equity/diversity/inclusion, case-study writing, online learning, international exchanges, arts-based interventions, accessibility, and more. Oh the possibilities!

I also learned that the field of arts management can have many names: cultural management, cultural entrepreneurship, non-profit management, arts administration, arts leadership, and arts entrepreneurship. And that these names are housed in many different departments at universities: business, management, leadership, performing arts, public administration, and public policy. Admittedly, my head was spinning after the conference trying to remember everyone’s university, location (mostly eastern United States), program of study, research focus, etc. besides their name!

The highlights of the conference for me were the opening and closing sessions. The opening plenary was given by Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson who spoke about the “Current and Future State of Creative Placemaking in US Arts Administration Programs”.

While creative placemaking is not necessarily new and can also have many names (eg. community cultural development and creative place-keeping), there is growing interest in what it can mean for communities and the arts. Dr. Jackson defines creative placemaking as the integration of arts, culture, and creativity into a community where through engaged design all people can thrive. Creative placemaking is cross-sectoral, builds on community cultural assets, and has impact on the ground and systemically. What will higher education’s response to this sometimes controversial and challenging word “creative placemaking” be? We will see, but it is definitely on everyone’s mind.

The closing session was a live taping of the Art Accordingly Podcast with Joshua Henry Jenkins and Quanice G. Floyd of the Arts Administrators of Colour Network who interviewed Dasha Kelly Hamilton, a writer, facilitator, and creative change agent. Through their podcast, “they highlight artists and arts leaders of colour in the performing and visual arts world, and interrogate systemic and institutional issues of equity in the arts from a decolonizing framework.” They grounded all of us in the room and brought the study of arts management back to the real lived experience of artists, arts managers and community.

The AAAE Conference was a wonderful professional development opportunity for me that I am so thankful to have. To meet other educators, have a break from routine, wrestle with common challenges, and give space to new ideas was very refreshing. And that is the purpose of professional development, right? Interested in more – please call me up and we can chat!

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