Laura Frye is an alumna from the Arts Administration program who graduated in 2006. She has a background in music and plays the oboe. Currently, Laura is a Major Gifts Officer at Boston Ballet and has worked there for a little over one year.
In this interview, Laura describes what she loves about her job, what the big issues are that arts administrators are talking about and what she’s learned since graduating from the arts administration program. She kindly shared her experience (and advice!) of working in the field.
What do you enjoy about your work?
This is going to sound really cheesy, but I love that people have philanthropic goals and dreams and I can help make those goals happen. When you find a topic people want to support, it’s really exciting to make them a part of that.
What move did you make after graduation that put you on the path to where you are now?
For my required internship [during the program] I did one internship in marketing. Right before I graduated, I didn’t know if I wanted to work in marketing or development. I decided to take another internship at Westport Country Playhouse that had housing and a stipend. When I was there I also volunteered for development and then a development position [at Westport] opened. I’m glad I got that experience in marketing because I got to really understand what it is they do.
We all make mistakes. Can you tell us about any mistake you made after graduation that current students could learn from?
About five years in, I was working in a great job that I loved but I moved out of the area and the commute was really long, so I got a job in higher education. It was an annual funds position. I took the job too quickly because I wanted to get a new job, but I missed working in the arts. I didn’t feel a lot of passion in the position. I learned that you really need to have an emotional connection to the organization before you commit.
What are the most pressing issues in your facet of arts administration? What do you see as a major challenge our field faces?
I have three. Diversity is a big one right now. We need to work on diversifying our boards, audience members and staff. That has to start at an early level. Like, at the ballet we’re working on diversifying the school by getting younger kids involved. They grow up with a passion and love for the art form. [Another issue is] baby boomer philanthropists vs millennials. They have very different giving styles. Technically I’m a millennial and had to volunteer hours when I was in high school. That’s trained [our generation] to be more hands on. Baby boomers, they’re comfortable and don’t have to get their hands dirty. Millennials want to get involved, it’s great, [but] it’s a challenge to figure out how to utilize them the right way. We don’t always have exciting volunteer opportunities because we have a full staff, but that’s going to have to change. The last thing is, we live in a completely global world right now. I think this expands the competition. People hear what’s happening in Flint and it’s horrible and there’s a lot of campaigns to donate water and buy water for people. That can impact local organizations. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a challenge.
If you were interviewing to find your own replacement, what would you be looking for in an applicant?
I think you just need to be authentic. You’re talking about really personal things with people: money. People have to trust you. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to build that trust. I think people know when you’re not being authentic. You have to be a good listener. It’s amazing what people tell you when you just stop talking.
How do you stay up to date on issues in the industry?
I just read a lot. I read the New York Times and there’s a couple blogs I follow. I also joined my local cultural council in Lowell. It’s been awesome. I’m more informed about MCC and how that process works. It’s a volunteer position but it’s going great.
Anything else you’d like to tell current students?
I would suggest to start to get comfortable networking. That’s how I’ve gotten a lot of my jobs. It’s important if people know you, they’re more likely to connect you to other people. Not just for jobs, but for everything. It took me a while, sometimes I still struggle, but it’s very important.
Image Credit: Boston Ballet