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Reflections on My Time at the Rozsa Foundation

Image Credits: Mike Tan - & HootBooth

Like Lola Rozsa, having grown up as an expatriate kid, I believed I would be in Calgary for a short time. It's been a very short 17 years! Like our Board Chair, Mary Rozsa de Coquet, my father was also a geologist for Shell. Harvesting an appreciation for classical music, I have thoroughly enjoyed many concerts at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, just like our founders Drs. Ted and Lola Rozsa. The Rozsas have been dedicated supporters of the the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and have helped many other organizations pave their way as Arts institutes in Alberta.

Not an unfamiliar statement to hear from most arts administrators, I fell into arts administration. My first experience was with Afrikadey Festival and Presentation Society as the Communications Coordinator. There was a huge learning curve and a very small team of three. Through sweat and tears, we presented a very successful Fela/Afrobeats tribute for the festival in 2007. It was not lost on me, however, that there was a lack of knowledge on where to go to learn about audience development, fundraising, legalities or networking opportunities within the arts. It was a 'trial by fire' position for me, and every move made was done with bated breath, eyes closed shut, with my fingers crossed hoping things would work out and the festival would happen. In that time, I had wished for an arts genie to grant us 3 wishes to alleviate pressure and moments of dissent within the organization.

Despite having my nose to the ground and feeling keenly aware of the Arts community in Calgary, it surprised me to learn about the Rozsa Foundation and the professional development programs they offered. RAFT, RAMP and REAL are the necessary building blocks of professional development required to build a successful foundation to achieve not just an understanding of the basics, but to springboard into groundbreaking work in the arts.

As a woman of colour within the industry, the journey has at times been rather lonely and isolating, a feeling not unfamiliar to many in the field, but for the cultural organizations and administrators, that feeling goes a little deeper when faced with challenging social issues that affect connection, work efficiency and/or comfort level within an organization for staff. The Foundation has been a safe space for me as an administrator.

Upon familiarizing myself with the Rozsa Foundation's mission, values and goals, it became apparent to me that more individuals and organizations needed to know 2 key things; that the Foundation exists and they needed to know about our professional development courses.

Passionate about communicating with current tools and platforms, it became my mission to raise the bar for communicating about the Foundation, targeting a truly diverse audience. The effect, response and impact of opening our doors wider, showing up, supporting organizations, keeping our hands on the pulse of what was needed from organizations and clearly sharing information with others had a profound effect. Having the right administrative staff and consultants who can speak the language to the audience you need to reach is vital in any organization's success. Having the trust of arts administrators in our programs, together with support from an already strong foundation alumni, provided a synergetic experience.

In 20 months, I watched our professional development programs expand, focusing on what is required from a communications standpoint to reach a wider audience than what had been the norm. This allowed us to truly cross new territory with our story telling and newsletter strategy. Application rates have increased for our programs, including those from diverse communities, demand has increased and the Foundation has kept up.

In my position as Communications Coordinator of the Rozsa Foundation, it has been my mission to ensure every arts organization or arts administrator I crossed paths with heard about the possibilities and opportunities that exist with the Foundation.

But over the same time, new opportunities were also emerging, and so now the time has come for me to focus my time and energy elsewhere, and so I am leaving the Rozsa Foundation. I am so proud of my time here and I am equally proud of the Foundation for being willing to listen to ideas around diversity and inclusion. It has also been fantastic to see implementation take effect. It has been an honour to work under the leadership of Mary Rozsa de Coquet and the rest of the board, Simon and Geraldine with support from Ayla, Ainsley and Derek. I have felt empowered in this position.

This has sparked a new energy in me and I am looking forward to focusing my time more toward working with other organizations to build stronger strategies around diversity and inclusion, specifically through Afros In Tha City. We want to be known for helping build stronger strategies for arts organizations through collaboration and partnership. We also want to be known for providing mentorship and professional development for members of the African diaspora in Alberta focused on programs around art, dance, music, and theatre. I feel there is much to build here, and because of our programs and my experience at the Foundation, it is time to to focus on creating a sustainable space for Afros In Tha City to operate.

I am looking forward to the new year. I hope to spend as much time as possible supporting the Young Arts Administrators of Calgary and I'd love to stay in touch, so please connect with me via LinkedIn. It's been a pleasure meeting every single leader within community. I look forward to connecting more in the new year. Have a wonderful holiday and thank you!

Note from Simon: We are immensely grateful to Kim for all of the great work she's done at the Rozsa Foundation over the past couple of years, and we wish her all the best in her next chapter, and will be there to do all we can to support the ongoing development of her path with Afros In Tha City!

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