The Field’s Wilfredo Hernandez Heads West! Presenting “Leadership by Design” at the Alliance of Artists Communities Conference 2017
My mission was to share some of The Field’s learning around the evaluation of our recently concluded fellowship program, Field Leadership Fund (FLF). What worked? What didn’t? What would we do differently? How can we create programs (specifically leadership development pipelines) that are more equitable in their design, execution and results?
These are heavy and complicated questions on any given day, but very much compounded by the seriousness of the issues facing our communities and sector today. This sense of urgency was reflected across the board in many of the conference sessions as equity, diversity, and inclusion remained central to many conversations.
Emerging Leaders of Color. Our new WESTAF friends Chrissy Deal (Program Manager, Multicultural Initiatives) and Madalena Salazar (Program Manager IMTour™/ TourWest Grant Administrator) were really a delight to collaborate with over the past few months.
We began planning our session back in July, agreeing to facilitate different parts of the session. Fast forward to October and the conference opened with a powerful speech by Alliance Executive Director, Lisa Hoffman.
I was proud to be sitting in the History Colorado Center surrounded by accomplished peers from across the country and world – 315 arts leaders, representing 192 organizations, and 125 first time attendees (myself included) to be exact! If you aren’t familiar with the Alliance’s services, please do get acquainted with their website which is full of useful information and upcoming deadlines for residency programs across the country.
Chrissy, Madalena, and I presented our session, Leadership by Design: The Field + WESTAF early on Wednesday, October 4. Instead of explaining the granular details of our respective organizations, we provided a chart that explored each of our organization’s programs and its respective operational elements, and jumped right into action!
Since we were discussing issues of equity in leadership development and organizations, we wanted our group to be able to contextualize what can often turn into abstract and theoretical and non-profit, jargon-riddled conversations.
Issues of equity and oppression are real and are acutely felt by people of color across the board, so we wanted participants to begin close to home – with their own bodies and their own experiences.
We welcomed participants to join in a Theatre of the Oppressed activity called “Columbian Hypnosis” – developed by Brazilian theatre artist and theorist Augusto Boal. In this activity, partners take turns leading each other around the space using their hands. Power dynamics are quick to surface in this activity, and our group was no exception. This set the stage for our in-depth conversations regarding our individual programs and ways in which we can all make commitments to embedding more equity in our programming and staffing plans.
Overall, it was a dynamic session and it was great to talk with participants during and well after the session.
Something I loved about this experience was the emphasis on sharing artwork and local artistry with the conference attendees. So often, as program administrators and arts leaders, we can feel very far away from the artistry itself. This isolation is something we discussed in our session, and it’s something we talk about frequently at The Field as well.
Luckily, we had plenty of opportunities to take in Denver’s spectacular public art and share in community together. Below are a few snaps from my walking tour of the Santa Fe Arts District!
Photos via Instagram @promethean_rising
Overall, attending this conference was a great experience and an exciting way to showcase the work happening here at The Field on the national stage. I look forward to building upon the relationships forged at this year’s conference and supporting all of the amazing work our colleagues are doing around the country.
The 2018 Alliance of Artists Communities conference will take place October 15-18, 2018 in Philadelphia. We hope to join our friends again next year for another fantastic gathering!
As for our FLF findings – we will be releasing a publication highlighting the project in March 2018. More info to come on this front for sure, so stay tuned!
Wilfredo Hernandez is the Program Manager for The Field.