This previous Saturday, my time at the Bolz Center came to an end as I graduated alongside the incredible MA-B: Arts and Creative Enterprise Leadership cohort. While it is difficult to believe that the past two years of the Bolz Center’s MBA-Arts Administration program have gone by so quickly, it makes me feel so grateful to recall all that I have learned in such a short time. This year of the program was full of amazing real-world learning opportunities including community collaborations through courses like Impact Consulting for Arts-Based Organizations, and Communities and Nonprofit Board Leadership and Development, as well as my Bolz Center Applied Learning Placement.
Consulting was never something I imagined would be a part of my career plans, but Impact Consulting for Arts-Based Organizations and Communities (Impact Consulting) may have changed my mind! For the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters, I was partnered with three members of the Arts and Creative Enterprise Leadership cohort as a consulting team to work with a local municipality as they aimed to honor the history and resilience of the Indigenous population in its area. Other consulting teams were placed with a local museum or creative coworking space as their clients. Utilizing the processes and practices we learned from Impact Consulting, we developed scopes of work, client proposals, and built project deliverables to directly meet our clients’ needs. Our team was lucky enough to take a very collaborative and responsive approach to our project, working hand-in-hand with and learning from the city administrators and leaders of the Indigenous Nation. This was a deeply impactful experience for the whole team, and we are beyond grateful for Indigenous Nation and the local municipality placing their trust in us to deliver a process that honors the histories, complexities, and relationships of the project stakeholders. In the end, our final product was a research-based contextual framework to inform the development of artful, historical markers in the municipality to commemorate the legacy and resilience of the Indigenous Nation. This experience demonstrated the possibilities of arts and culture consulting as an avenue to support learning and growth as well as building impactful community connections.
Like many of the Bolzies, I entered the program with previous experience working in nonprofits and wanting to continue working in the sector after completion of the program. However, while I have worked as an arts administrator, I have never been part of a nonprofit board. Nonprofit Board Leadership and Development provided me with an important opportunity to holistically understand the importance and impact of boards and board governance. I had the pleasure of being placed with Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL) in Madison as a nonvoting board member. I participated in monthly board meetings, attended a board retreat, supported organization events, joined a hiring committee, and worked on projects with individual board members. I personally connected with ALL’s mission and felt drawn to the genuinely invested board members, volunteers, and staff. As part of the course deliverables, we were charged with completing a project that would support the partner organization’s board governance needs. It was a bit of a challenge for me to select just one project as I was so interested in everything the board was doing. However, in the end I produced a variety of visualized resources to support the board recruitment and cultivation processes. I redesigned the board skills matrix, transforming it into a responsive document to inform recruitment needs. I formalized the board recruitment and nomination process and communicated it through a visual “journey” for future reference. I also created a visual representation of the flow of information and human resources throughout the organization. Working with ALL was such a special experience for me and demonstrated the possibilities of supporting arts and culture organizations through board service and not just employment. I hope my work with ALL continues into the future.
This year I had the incredible opportunity to return to Overture Center for the Arts (Overture) for my Applied Learning Placement (ALP). Last year my work focused on facilitating the strategic planning process with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT). This year, I was asked to return and lead an evaluative case study about the unique shared leadership model. As Research and Evaluation Associate, I collected qualitative data from interviewing the ELT, board and community stakeholders, and members of the full time staff at Overture. I researched different comparative frameworks and processes to then analyze the findings from the qualitative data, reporting the successes of the model and opportunities for growth in the future. I cannot thank the team at Overture enough for trusting me with this important work and providing me the opportunity (and grace) to learn by doing. ALPs are a pillar of the Bolz Center program, and I think I can speak for the cohort more broadly when I say, the learning outcomes from the ALP have been some of the most professionally relevant and profoundly influential to my growth as an arts administrator. I will be forever grateful to Overture for supporting my learning during both years of my MBA.
While I am in the midst of the interviewing process for roles post-graduation, I cannot stop thinking about how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to both deepen my arts and business education through graduate school but also build my professional experience at the same time. The program through the Bolz Center does not create a pause in your career or a gap in your resume – with professional experiences embedded into the curriculum, I am graduating with a much stronger and more diverse work history. I may not know where I will be working yet but I do know that I will be a more thoughtful, intentional, and skilled arts administrator wherever I land (and I have feeling that there will never be a Bolzie too far away).