Review, Revise, Click: Creating the Arts World You Want

Review, Revise, Click: Creating the Arts World You Want

by Ines Familiar-Miller

I sat before the computer screen, my hand hovering above the keyboard. I was nervous before hitting that irreversible submit button. I paused, reviewed, and took a big breath. Click.

The moment I wrote and submitted my first grant proposal for Tomorrow’s Filmmakers, Today (TFT) was filled with a mix of accomplishment, relief, and utter uncertainty. I had done my best and the decision was now in someone else’s hands. This was how I experienced my first grant proposal submission.

Funding the future

TFT is a professional development program for emerging Latino filmmakers in Los Angeles. Over the past two years, I have been the grant writer for the program. Securing funding for any artistic program always feels like a longshot. But it turns out that we are not the only ones passionate about supporting these emerging artists. First, we received the Eastside Arts Initiative grant. A year later, we received a FilmCraft Grant Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Writing and being awarded these grants has allowed us to spark change I had only dreamed of.

Making it personal

This has been a professional and personal journey that is both fulfilling and challenging because I get to work for a project I deeply believe in and play an active role in how the program is coming to life from its first inception to fruition. The subject also hits a personal note: I am a bilingual and multicultural immigrant who rarely sees herself reflected on the screen. Most characters tend to portray stereotypical versions of immigrants and Latino people. I now have the opportunity to make a difference on how film and television tell our stories.

After successfully securing funding for the first and second years of TFT, I was invited to participate as Program Coordinator. I was excited to play a hands-on role in the logistics and implementation of the Latino film initiative. I got to meet and work with talented creators who are passionate about telling their own stories; their commitment is contagious.

Making an impact

I was boggled listening to the many challenges facing Latinos in the film industry. Creatives talked about being considered a person filling a “quota”, being pigeonholed, being asked to make their characters more mainstream, and being told what kinds of stories they could tell. We all felt empowered to make a difference by knowing more about the industry, ourselves, and how to overcome some of these barriers.

"We can break down obstacles with our commitment and passion."

It would be naive to think that one small program can change a whole industry. However, if we can help underrepresented groups navigate the industry, build the right opportunities to network, expose and spark the needed connections, then we are on the right path to effecting much-needed change. We can break down obstacles with our commitment and passion.

Looking beyond the money

Being a part of TFT allowed me to link my professional and academic lives through a hands-on learning process. During my time as a graduate student in Arts Management at Sotheby's Institute of Art-LA at Claremont Graduate University, I learned how to tell the story of an organization; and I learned that fundraising is about more than just dollars. Philanthropy is ultimately about connecting people through narratives and ideas.

Securing funding for TFT would not have been possible without the knowledge and feedback I got from my thoughtful professors. I now have a deeper interest in philanthropy and funding projects that have an impact on equal access and representation in the arts and media. I feel encouraged to continue creating inclusive projects that transcend borders and build bridges among different communities. After all, what are we but the stories we share and create together?

Ines Familiar Miller is an alumna of the Arts Management Program, and is a Program Associate at the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles. Ines is committed to social justice and to increasing participation in arts and culture. She aims to lead positive change by affirming inclusion and promoting equity in the arts, culture, and education.

Note: This is reposted with permission of Sotheby's Institute of Art. It is a part of a blog series on student and alumni insights edited by Amy Shimshon-Santo. 

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Broadening Horizons at the Broad Stage

Broadening Horizons at the Broad Stage

By Olivia Schafer and Cailin Nolte

10 Sotheby's Institute of Art-LA students, 4 lecture presentations, 2 performance experiences. MA Arts Management students, Olivia Schafer and Cailin Nolte, offer a behind the scenes glimpse at one of LA's leading performing arts centers.

Organized Chaos

Ten of us arrived in the theater parking lot on a Friday morning expecting it to be empty. It was unseasonably warm and sunny for an October morning by the beach. This was the first day of a month-long intensive offered by The Broad Stagethrough Sotheby’s Institute of Art-LA. The Broad Stage is a performing arts mecca in Santa Monica that presents local and global artists working in dance, theater, music, and spoken word. In our first semester of graduate studies, we were eager to explore the inner workings of a performing arts center and learn more about performing arts production and presenting.

That morning, we were greeted by a cacophony of sounds, a flurry of movement, and an undeniable sense that something exciting was about to happen. Hundreds of elementary school students unloaded from buses and lined up along the shaded entrance to the main stage theater. An efficient team of production staff armed with clipboards and headsets ushered these youngsters into the air-conditioned theater. While we collected permission slips, and directed children to bathrooms, we got a taste of the preparation needed to keep kids safe, engaged, and eager to learn through the arts.

Seated in the mezzanine, we witnessed the sea of squirming elementary students below us transform into a rapt audience at the call of a soulful trombone.Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards had arrived on stage. Jazzy Ash and her band perform Louisiana Jazz to elementary students across the country in participatory arts experiences for children. Following the show, ushers strategically guided the students out by class and loaded them back onto buses while their colleagues prepped the theater for their evening show for adult audiences.

Session 1: Setting the Stage With Curriculum

The Broad Stage has developed robust programming for public school students across the county and encourages community building through their Family Circle Program. We spoke with the Education Team and we were surprised to learn just how much of a role curriculum development plays in curating, presenting, and programming a show. As educators ourselves, we have both written arts education curriculum and were intrigued to see this through the lens of a professional theater. This opened our eyes to the possibilities of community engagement. We can both bring the arts to students in classrooms, and bring students to the arts in theaters.

Session 2: Programming with Joy

Carolyn Elliott stood in front of us and enthusiastically described the direction of The Broad Stage's programing, as envisioned by Director Jane Deknatel.

“Elevate the core,” Carolyn said. “Is what you are putting on the stage expressive of your true values?”

She posed this question before launching into a transparent discussion about the obstacles the organizations faces daily to fill all the seats of a 500-seat theater. As Director of Programming, Carolyn is cognizant of changing trends in the industry and works in concert with Jane to ensure both artistry and diversity in everything they put on the stage. She shared their innovative methods for balancing the season with both smaller and larger productions, as well as creating new subscription models. Carolyn’s joyful passion and the theme of collaboration resonated strongly with us. Her energy and solution seeking inspired us to think critically about our future careers in arts management.

Session 3: “Butts in seats. Smiles on faces.”

The Marketing and Development Team described their process for setting the theater up for success. They often plan two or three seasons at a time. Much to our millennial surprise, digital marketing, while cheapest, wasn’t always the most effective. In sound bite form: traditional advertisement works.

In a demonstration of teamwork, we were invited to practice these creative marketing and communications skills by designing a marketing campaign for an upcoming show!

Afterwards, we split into two groups, sat across the long conference table, and pitched our campaigns shark tank style. About halfway through our brainstorming session, Mark Rice, the Director of Marketing, threw a curveball altering the parameters of the campaign. With the two groups yelling over each other, we were challenged to think outside of the box and adapt to a real-life dilemma.

Session 4: Feed People

Feed the volunteers. Feed audience members with a reception. Feed the community with knowledge. Feed organizations with values and ethics. Anyway you slice it, feeding people is part and parcel of a successful presenting business. We were startled by the uphill economic battles many nonprofits have to surmount to keep themselves from starving. Many die in the first, third, or fifth year. For most nonprofits, feeding others is how they keep themselves alive.

After the production presentation about organizational survival, we got to see the team in action as they conducted the behind the scenes set-up of the blackbox theater for Impro Theatre’s Horror UnScripted. The up-close-and personal performance by a small troupe of hyperbolic and gregarious actors left us all spooked and impressed.

Curtain Call

From large-scale main stage theater to an intimate black box space, The Broad Stage is a model for education, performance and community outreach. Ilaan Mazzini, Director of Education and Community Programs at the Broad Stage, said about the intensive, “I really enjoyed meeting people interested in the same profession that I’ve been passionate about and helping facilitate an experience so that they can make decisions about the future.” The Broad Stage’s unique relationship to Sotheby’s Institute of Art-LA has empowered us to deepen our connection to the community, delve into the mechanics of running a theater, and identify our own place in the field. We’re thankful for the opportunity to network, grow, and imagine new ways of managing the performing arts.

Written by Olivia Schafer and Cailin Nolte; Edited by Dr. Amy Shimshon-Santo

Olivia Schafer is a dancer, choreographer, and producer with her sights set on performing arts management. After receiving Bachelor’s degrees in World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Communication Studies from UCLA, she is pursuing her Master’s in Arts Management at Sotheby’s Institute of Art-LA at Claremont Graduate University.

Cailin Nolte was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She studied Music Education and String Pedagogy at the University of New Mexico and Boston University. Well versed in designing curriculum and coordinating events, Cailin is currently pursuing her Master’s in Arts Management at Sotheby's Institute of Art-LA.

This experience was made possible with the generous support of The Broad Stage’s senior staff, including: Ernest Figueroa (Producer), Carolyn Elliott (Director of Programming), Eric Bloom (Director of Artistic Planning), David Coscia (Director of Donor Relations), Mark A. Rice (Director of Marketing & Communications), Ilaan Egeland Mazzini (Director of Education & Community Programs).

Note: This is reposted with permission of Sotheby's Institute of Art. It is a part of a blog series on student and alumni insights edited by Amy Shimshon-Santo.

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A is FOR ADVOCACY

A IS FOR ADVOCACY

by Waheeda Al Hadhrami

Arts Advocacy Day is an annual event held by Americans for the Arts that brings together artists, scholars, students, and government officials to advocate for the arts. As a graduate student from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pursuing my master’s degree in Arts Management in Los Angeles, I was honored to have been selected to represent not only my academic institutions (Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Claremont Graduate University) but also my country, during the Arts Advocacy summit. I was surrounded by over 650 individuals that came from all around the U.S. to participate in this national event and to join their voices to advocate for the arts. As someone who is passionate and dedicated to promoting and advocating the arts and creative industries in the U.A.E, I particularly wanted to take part in this national arts action summit to better understand how advocating is performed internationally and develop the required skills.

YOUTH AND THE ARTS

Our journey started by attending the Turnaround Arts Talent Show at The Kennedy Center, where we watched impressive performances by students in schools from 12 different states around the U.S.—from New Orleans all the way to Hawaii. I enjoyed seeing how students from different backgrounds and genres came together and performed in front of hundreds of guests with so much excitement. I could also feel the incredible energy that came from proud parents and teachers, who were there to represent schools and other arts education institutions.

THE BIG DAY

Arts Advocacy Day kicked off with a morning conference highlighting multiple speakers from the arts industry who guided us through key facts and figures about the current status of the arts in the U.S. Important issues were brought to light including: arts in the military, public transportation, health, and education.

During the summit, I was a part of the California delegation run by Arts for LA’s Executive Director, Sofia Klatzker-Miller. Arts for LA set up all the necessary meetings with the senators for the California delegation, which I had the chance to attend with fellow program colleagues, Badir McCleary and Michelle Chavez. We couldn’t have done it without the guidance of both Sofia and the Head of our Arts Management program, Dr. Amy Shimshon-Santo, who also accompanied us during this exciting venture. We personally met with the staff of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris, where I got to speak of the importance of cultural exchange, education opportunities, and easing access for international students from the Arab world, such as myself.

GLOBAL RELATIONS

During my time in Washington D.C., I also had the opportunity to meet with key institutions that are doing great work for my region. First up was the U.A.E. Embassy, where I got to meet with the Head of the Heritage and Social Affairs Department and hear about the initiatives they work on such as their cultural diplomacy and exchange programs, philanthropic efforts, and partnerships with local institutions. I was proud to learn of all the different programs they have carried out in the U.S. to highlight the U.A.E.’s art and cultural scene. One specific example was Past Forward, a major touring exhibition of twenty-five Emirati artists that went on tour for two years. The exhibition was coupled with workshops by the artists and educational outreach and public programming to engage communities. The arts are an interactive way to raise awareness of the Gulf region with American audiences, and to promote the U.A.E. as the cultural capital of the Middle East.

BRIDGING THE EAST AND WEST

The second institution I met with was the Arab Gulf State Institute in Washington where I got to have close discussions with Ambassador Marcelle Wahba, the President of the institute and previous U.A. E. ambassador to the U.S. Embassy.

I was exposed to the remarkable research and publications being made on the Arab Gulf States in different fields from economics, politics, and investment, to social changes and the arts. “The UAE’s Emergence as a Hub for Contemporary Art” is an example of one of their publications that caught my attention. Both meetings helped me build important connections with key institutions that are actively changing global mindsets, engaging communities, and educating various audiences through the arts.

ADVOCACY IS A JOURNEY

Participating in the summit helped me understand the importance of advocacy and how it is an ongoing process. I learned about how the arts can be used as a strategy to improve local communities; the arts can be the voice of expression and a way of truth (especially in our era of forged news and political unrest). The arts can help create jobs, generate commerce, drive tourism, and build the economy. Most importantly, the arts can improve the overall wellbeing of individuals and societies.

If there is one thing I took away from this enriching experience it’s that advocacy in the arts is not only about proving the facts and numbers but about sharing real, compelling stories. Our powerful stories, which have brought personal or public transformation, can inspire policy change in the arts.

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Waheeda Al Hadhrami is an Arts Management graduate student currently based in Los Angeles from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. She has several years of work experience in community engagement, public programming, and creative talent development. Her passion lies in building bridges to grow the U.A.E.’s arts, culture, and creative fields.

Note: This is reposted with permission of Sotheby's Institute of Art and Arts for LA. It is a part of a blog series on student and alumni insights edited by Amy Shimshon-Santo. 

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