What have you been up to since graduating from the Arts Administration program?
I graduated from the program in 2007, and started a job as a program coordinator at Urban Gateways in Chicago. Through a lot of staff transition, I found myself as a program director within a year of joining the staff. I felt great about expanding the areas of focus within the organization - from schools needing to pay for each service to a community-wide investment approach, where multiple schools benefitted from our partnership with community organizations and presence in the neighborhood.
After five years with Urban Gateways, I took on an exciting leap to Chicago Public Schools, where a new Director was re-shaping the Department of Arts Education (cpsarts.org). Along with four incredible colleagues, we created the District's first Arts Education Plan; we re-shaped the city-wide programming to be more equitable and accessible; and we increased resources and data accuracy for arts teachers and arts partners throughout Chicago through the creation of the Creative Schools Certification, the nomination of Arts Liaisons in each of the 675 schools, and the compilation of information into the online artlook map (artlookmap.com).
This past summer, I gladly accepted the offer of the newly-created Director of Education Operations position at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The move has been exciting, and the job allows me to build on my experiences in the classroom, non-profit, and school district to work with the 50 members of our Education Division and the rest of the Center to increase efficiency, find opportunities for innovation and streamline collaborative processes.
How did UC's Arts Administration program affect your career path?
The program definitely built my fluency with arts management tactics, pitfalls and strategies. In addition, the MBA increased my confidence with for-profit models, allowing me to feel comfortable talking and strategizing with board members from the for-profit sector and, when applicable, applying the best practices of these models to the organizations of which I was a part. I am currently teaching an arts management course for the Kennedy Center interns, so the process and resources we used is helping me tremendously. Plus, the network of incredible professionals who were my friends in the program is an obvious perk!
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I see myself continuing to affect change at a national level at the Kennedy Center. We are in a privileged position to work with networks of cities, arts organizations, teachers and performing artists throughout the country and internationally. If we can explore innovative models for evaluating arts education, delivering top-level programming, and convening partners for collective impact, we have the opportunity to share those best practices with others and strive to support them in our role as the nation's performing arts center.
What makes you excited to go to work?
The Kennedy Center leadership inspires me by challenging ourselves to be more welcoming, innovative, accessible, diverse, and reflective of the city and world around us. We can make great strides in the Education Division, and have been encouraged to do so, and those strides will affect and strengthen the rest of the Center. It is exciting to be surrounded by creative thinkers who are also committed to making a meaningful impact.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
In Chicago, I gathered that our All-City Performing Arts program was not reflective of the entire city in student participation nor teacher leadership. Therefore, I developed a tiered model, with one segment of the year at multiple locations in the community to make participation more accessible. I increased recruitment for staff, which in turn increased student representation from schools throughout the District. I brokered a partnership with the Harris Theater, allowing our students to perform at a professional performing arts venue, friendly to the increased theatre and dance components we had added to the music ensembles. The re-design allowed for more student and teacher representation and came in significantly under the budget of the previous model.
Any other exciting news?
I am also a proud member of the Board of Directors for Young Chicago Authors, an organization that authentically practices the belief that all young people have powerful voices and benefit from significant platforms to share those voices. They have expanded from local poetry slams, open mics and writing workshops to embrace a national model. Keep your eye out for Louder than a Bomb festivals in your region!