Let’s Talk Arts Advocacy

Toward the end of April, I had the pleasure of participating in a series of hosted conversations by Arts Alliance Illinois (AAI); they invited Illinois artists and arts professionals to talk about arts advocacy and the issues that are most important today. Hosted by AAI Executive Director, Ra Joy, and actor Joey Bland (of Improvised Shakespeare fame), they broke the group into eight unique groups and had HMS Media film the conversations at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s pub.

Adaptistration People 090AAI recently released a highlight video from the series of conversations, plan to post edited versions of the individual roundtable conversations over the next several weeks. The panelists were all a fascinating group.

  • Orbert Davis; Artistic Director of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic
  • Jeff Zimmerman; visual artist/muralist
  • Josh Simonds; Executive Director, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra Julie Rodrigues
  • Wildholm; Curator, MCA
  • E. Faye Butler; Singer/Actress
  • Billy Siegenfeld;     Artistic Director, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project
  • Hema Rajagopolan; Artistic Director, Natya Dance Theater
  • Bril Barrett; Artistic Director, MADD Rhythms
  • Mick Napier; Co-­‐founder, The Annoyance Theater
  • Jennifer Estlin; Co-­‐founder, The Annoyance Theater
  • Chris Audain; Program Officer focused on arts, culture, civil rights, and advocacy
  • Robert Burnier; Visual Artist
  • Hannah Higgins; Author + Professor of Art History at UIC
  • Michael McStraw; Executive Director, Giordano Dance Chicago
  • Holly Mulcahy; Concertmaster and Classical Violinist
  • Ashley Wheater; Artistic Director, The Joffrey Ballet
  • Drew McManus; Orchestra Consultant and Arts Marketer
  • Mario Rosserro; Chief of Core Curriculum at Chicago Public Schools
  • Monique Meloche; President + Owner of Monique Meloche Gallery
  • Jen Herlein; Executive Director, Fulchrum Point New Music

Likewise, the topics were equally diverse and the panelists worked toward identifying common treads among Jobs and Economic growth, community vitality, education, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) money. I was only able to watch a bit of the previous session and can say that it was both enlightening and inspiring; and from what I’ve been told, the rest of the sessions were every bit as interesting.

So until those individual conversations are released, you can get a taste via the AAI’s highlight reel.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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