Enough With Problems This Week. One Suggested Solution

Back in June, The Stage had an article about the dire need for changes in the theatre industry in the UK. The article summarized a report that mentioned a lot of familiar issues: low pay, overwork, dependence on unpaid interns, lack of staff from low income and minority backgrounds, and closed recruitment practices. I recently finished reading the report which expounds upon these issues.

However, since I have spent the week talking about inequities in the arts, I didn’t want to continue the week highlighting more problems. Instead, I wanted offer some encouragement and solution to some of these issues by drawing attention to a piece written by Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the California Symphony.

If you are an ArtsHacker reader, you might remember Aubrey was cited as one of the Most Creative People In Arts Administration for her leadership of the California Symphony.

Back in May, Aubrey wrote about how the symphony decided to invest in talent development for the staff.  She acknowledges it isn’t necessarily an inexpensive undertaking and offers tips to leverage conference and training opportunities to their fullest.  Part of that process seems to include the mandate that as a staff member, your purpose in going is to learn and when you return you need to share that information as well as a plan of action for implementation.

What’s not acceptable at the California Symphony is to attend a conference/seminar/workshop and feel inspired and warm and fuzzy for about a week. I want action from the investment, so employees are required to report back at a future staff meeting what they learned, their key takeaways, and what they plan to implement in their work here based on all that….

1. This holds everyone accountable, so their performance can be evaluated against the goals and ideas they set for themselves.
2. They’ve just passed on the inspiration, ideas, and takeaways from conference in a personal way to the rest of the staff. #win

Aubrey attributes their growth in revenue over the last few years to the benefits of investing in talent development.

She suggests new hire boot camps for everyone.  The California Symphony uses this orient people to their audience development plan and intends to expand it to a messaging overview.

(i.e. brand personality, how we talk about ourselves, key words or messages to use in our public communications…because every single role is public-facing to some degree, not just the marketing personnel).

She also talks about providing staff with a professional development stipend they can use at their discretion and advocates for mentoring.

What she proposes won’t solve all the problems outlined in report featured in The Stage, but these steps can significantly change the general tenor of the work environment in a positive direction.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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