Arts leadership minor educates cultural producers who see the big picture.
by Logen Zimmerman
On November 11, 2016, nearly 100 Boston University students, faculty, and staff members joined with more than 50 Boston-area arts professionals at CFA’s new graduate Graphic Design Studio at 808 Commonwealth Avenue for the Arts and Ideas in Action: Arts+Business+Social Impact symposium.
A collaborative effort between CFA, Questrom School of Business, and the BU Arts Initiative, the symposium took place in the aftermath of a particularly divisive Presidential election. Visitors were treated to inspirational messages from those working munificently within, and founders of, local not-for-profit arts organizations, including Artists for Humanity and Resilient Coders, and socially responsible businesses, including IDEO and athenahealth.
The symposium was also the culmination of the extensive work of Jeannette Guillemin, Director ad interim of the School of Visual Arts, and Wendy Swart Grossman, a consultant and BU lecturer, who had developed and taught a course on the Creative Economy and Social Impact. In so doing, some of the questions they asked were: “How do you translate an idea into action?” and “What are expanded professional pathways for working artists?” These answers can be found in Arts Leadership.
What is Arts Leadership?
Arts Leadership is an interdisciplinary minor available to undergraduate students from across BU and housed in CFA. It traces its roots to former Dean Benjamín Juárez, who developed and still teaches the course, Arts Leaders Forum. Dean Juárez assembled a committee of faculty members and administrators to help form the minor. This group included CFA professors Judy Braha (Theatre), Dana Clancy (Visual Arts), and John Wallace (Music), as well as Guillemin and Senior Associate Dean Patricia Mitro.
Mitro comments that faculty involvement from all three CFA Schools allowed the team “a unique opportunity to work outside of their comfort zones toward something personally and professionally meaningful.” By 2013, the minor was up and running with three requirements: the Arts Leaders Forum, Career Development for Artists, and Arts Internship. Two additional electives are then chosen by advisement to round out a 20-credit sequence. Guillemin serves as the advisor.
Each of the required courses carries a specific purpose. Arts Leaders introduces creative-minded students to arts professionals from many disciplines; Career Development is designed to deepen their understandings of the basic tools in business aspects of the arts (i.e. branding, funding, budgeting); and Arts Internship allows for practical application and immersion. For example, in addition to working with an arts organization, students in Arts Internship are required to maintain a semester-long weekly blog and create a LinkedIn profile. Specially developed electives such as Creative Economy or the recently added Collaborative Arts Incubator complement the interdisciplinary approach toward thinking of the minor, as well as CFA as a whole.
According to Dean ad interim Lynne Allen, the minor is integral to CFA’s vision and mission. “The Arts Leadership minor,” Allen explains, “empowers students to understand the roles they can play in keeping art and culture at the forefront of society.”
What type of student is enrolled in the Arts Leadership minor?
Currently, about 40 undergraduates from across BU (including CFA, Questrom, COM, and SAR) have elected the minor. According to Mitro, “The goal is to reach students who have different artistic and academic interests. They learn to apply practical skills and to approach topics from broader perspectives.” Guillemin sees candidates as emerging from three general categories:
1. The studio-based practicing artist (or sole proprietor).
2. The more social action-oriented artist who focuses on greater contexts of society. This person is entrepreneurial and uses her/his practice to promote social good.
3. Someone who sees himself/herself as more successful working in a preexisting arts organization, or with artists, and making changes from within— hence “intrapreneurial.”
Collectively, all students make connections between the arts and different disciplines, are interested in deepening the human experience, and are committed at a core level to making change. Whether active “cultural producers” or those who wish “to be connected to the arts,” Guillemin states that arts leaders see the “big picture.” An arts leader, she says, “Leverages the arts to drive innovation, change, and to create a more humane world.” For more information on the Arts Leadership minor, please visit bu.edu/cfa/artsleadership.