Do They Know Its Covid Time At All?

I am guessing it isn’t any news that a lot of arts and cultural organizations are struggling financially and grappling with the challenges presented by Covid-19. I mean, there is a lobbying effort to have Congress provide relief specifically aimed at helping both for and not-for-profit arts and events organizations and spaces. A lot of service and trade organizations have partnered up to advocate in this area.

But you wouldn’t know it isn’t business as usual from the job postings out there. I am hardly the first to notice this. I saw someone tweet about it a couple weeks ago†. While I had noticed an increase in job listings over the last few months and took that as a positive sign, I didn’t read any of them because I am not currently seeking a position.

After that tweet, I started paying closer attention.  I have to say, they are right. I have looked at about 40 listings that were posted since mid-July for everything from executive director for state arts councils and major cultural centers to part time jobs in rural communities. With one exception, none of them acknowledged that there was an epidemic going on and how that might impact job duties, or even more helpfully, how the board of directors had resolved to respond.

Honestly, it looks like people pulled out the job description file they used for their last search. The Opportunities & Challenges heading of one description listed delays due to jurisdictional issues between government entities, but apparently the epidemic won’t hinder anything.

By the way, the one group that did acknowledge the operating environment had changed was Children’s Theatre of Charlotte which wrote:

CTC is facing the current economic challenge with resiliency and innovation. In 2020-21, CTC will mount an entirely virtual season with four productions: The Velveteen Rabbit, GRIMMZ Fairy Tales, My Wonderful Birthday Suit and Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba. In addition, CTC will provide week-long mini-camps as a resource for families looking for creative solutions this school year, along with a combination of in-person and virtual theatre education classes in the evenings.

Nothing complicated about this. Hundreds of organizations have sent out this sort of messaging in press releases and social media posts the last few months. However, no one else seems to see the need to even awkwardly cut and paste out of a press release and into a job description.

I seems like right now, if you are looking to hire quality people, a job listing should implicitly, if not explicitly carry a message which acknowledges regardless of whether you are looking to get a job or transfer from another one, there is even more stress and anxiety associated with that process than usual. However, not only has our organization developed a plan which frankly acknowledges what is viable over the next two years, we are looking to add someone to a supportive team which will translate this plan into action.

Even if I were out of a job and extremely anxious to find another, I would question my potential career with an organization that failed to give a nod to overwhelming reality.

Likewise, the shifting expectations and activity associated with diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI) didn’t seem to be present other than generic statements about the applicant needing to be committed to DEI. These may be new additions to some of the descriptions, but they read as boilerplate from the past. There were a couple exceptions like Burlington, VT’s Flynn Center which included:

“Address systemic racism with thoughtful programmatic vision, embedded governance structures, dynamic staffing, equitable vendor interactions, and intentional audience experiences.”

and Dance/USA:

Recognize, acknowledge and address power imbalances and privilege within a membership that is diverse with regard to a role (e.g., dancer, choreographer, artistic director, arts administrator, presenter, agent) and locale, as well as broader diversity dimensions such as race, ethnicity, economic status, gender, disability status, gender expression, nationality, sexual orientation, and religion.

† N.B. – Nina Simon was the person who mentioned generic job descriptions in a Medium post she made. My recollection was that I saw it on Twitter and my gut told me Nina wrote it, but I couldn’t find the Twitter post–because I saw it elsewhere.

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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3 thoughts on “Do They Know Its Covid Time At All?”

  1. Hi Joe –
    I completely agree with you. I wrote about it (with regard to executive recruiting in particular) here: https://medium.com/@ninaksimon/calling-all-phoenixes-8d2f57ce93ee

    As far as I can tell, these executive job descriptions are constructed from a single set of Mad Libs, passed around from board to board, like fraternity brothers sharing xeroxed answers to the chemistry final. Everyone is looking for “strategic, visionary leaders,” “experienced managers,” and “passionate fundraisers.” A few might sprinkle in “a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion” or a nod to “these strange times,” but beyond that, nothing says 2020. It’s maddening.

    You might find the piece interesting.

    Reply
    • Nina –

      You know, I thought it was you that said it, but I couldn’t find it in your Twitter feed going back 3-4 weeks. That is because I misremembered the medium you wrote it in. (pun intended) I didn’t feel right about giving you credit if someone else had written it. I will post a link crediting you.

      Reply
    • Nina, you have been hanging around with old folks (donors?) too much, if you are using dated similes like “fraternity brothers sharing xeroxed answers to the chemistry final.” Nowadays the cheating happens mostly through sites like Chegg and CourseHero, and the sharing is electronic, not by photocopy.

      Reply

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