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Blog Salon Wrap-Up: Leading Through Innovation

Stephanie Evans Hanson

Stephanie Evans Hanson

Innovation happens at the local level. Despite budget cuts and debt ceiling debates that currently seem to take over our news media, we have seen strong examples of impactful innovation in our field through the projects profiled this week on ARTSBlog. I use the term “impactful innovation” because if a great project or idea is created and doesn’t have impact, what was the point? Ryan Hurley gives a great example of an innovation that may not have resulted in lasting impact or change.

This week we have learned about innovative fundraising strategies that leveraged more dollars for youth in an underserved community, a theater experience that is engaging communities in a new way, and a dance company that serves not only the community at large, but builds the career capacity of the dancers and choreographers themselves.

We’ve also discussed some of the challenges in finding the resources to support innovative work, learned about a local arts agency that is partnering with the healthcare industry to serve a wider community, and we’ve got proof that innovation doesn’t just happen in big cities on the coasts. We also celebrated the curators of our field whose job it is to seek out innovative ideas and develop strategies for supporting them.

Innovation and leadership goes hand in hand, and I thank all of our guest bloggers this week who took time to share what’s been successful for them in their communities so that the rest of the field can learn from it. At a time of so much uncertainty, the arts industry can no longer rely solely on strategy to get us through to a balanced budget at the end of a fiscal year.

As our bloggers have demonstrated, we all must develop strategic innovation, become comfortable with breaking down how we’ve done work in the past, and learn to embrace change and ambiguity around us. This takes leadership – not just from executive directors and board members, but from every individual at an organization. There’s great opportunity for emerging arts administrators to flex their leadership muscles here.

In her blog post, Ebony McKinney asks “how might we continue to support talent, innovation, and viable models of creative change and problem solving that leverage local assets?” I also wonder whether our professional and leadership development models need to change in order to train arts administrators to think innovatively.

What new skill sets does an innovative leader need, and what is our responsibility to helping each other develop those skills? Share your thoughts in the comments, and we will continue this conversation throughout 2011 and beyond in our professional development opportunities, and in-person networking events.

If you’re interested in reading more about innovative leadership, the Center for Creative Leadership published a 2009 report discussing this very subject. You can also return to ARTSblog to read all of the posts from this week’s salon using this URL –

Happy summer and happy innovating!

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