Monthly Archives: October 2017

Steven Au

Careers in the Arts: Graphic Design

by Colleen Cook

A performing arts center has a high need for great graphic design. Our product, shows, is constantly changing as we move through the year and a great deal of our marketing is visual. That makes it important to work with a skilled designer who understands the message and the performing arts. At the Renaissance, we’ve been lucky to work with tremendously talented graphic designers both on our staff and contracted out over the years to tell our visual story and promote our shows.

Our Assistant Marketing Director and Graphic Designer on staff is Steven Au. Steven is very good at what he does (and I’m his boss, so I know better than most how true that is!) and is uniquely qualified for his position because he grew up as a musician in our Youth Strings and Youth Orchestra programs.

Nearly every visual thing you see from the Renaissance has come from Steven’s desk, and we’re better for it. I sat down with Steven to learn more about his path to the graphic design field. Here’s our interview:

Colleen Cook: What inspired you to become a graphic designer?

Steven Au:  Part of it was my older brother, he was actually involved in graphic design and got the same degree in school that I ended up pursuing. Also, in high school I gained an interest in graphic design from taking graphic arts and photoshop classes. I had a light up tracing table and did a lot of tracing as a kid, and played around with design in Powerpoint too.

CC: You mentioned that you took some graphic design courses in high school. Tell us about your collegiate training.

SA: I graduated from a 2-year program at North Central State College, an Associate’s in Visual Communications and Media Technology. My main track was based on graphic design but also involved some video production, animation, and web design. I also interned at the Renaissance as part of the program, which is how I landed my job.

CC: Do you see graphic design as an artistic expression? 

SA: I think it definitely can be. I can be a little obsessive about getting details right. I like the ability to look at the current design trends and use that as inspiration for the Ren’s marketing materials.

CC: What do you enjoy most about your job, and what do you enjoy least or find challenging?

SA: I like being able to design things that I see in places, like on a billboard, that I never would have seen something I created before. I don’t enjoy doing direct mail, and I also find it a little tedious to rework a design for multiple formats. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship with retooling a design. Sometimes it’s really easy to do that, and it can be nice to not have to create something from scratch every time.

CC: How do you engage with the arts outside of your day job?

SA: I am very involved with music outside of work. I also do a limited amount of graphic design for our church. I’m a violinist and I sub with the Mansfield Symphony, and enjoy recording and making videos for my YouTube channel, and I sing with a choral group at church and I also arrange music for our choir, as well as accompany.


If you’d like to learn more about our internship opportunities, keep an eye on our employment page where we frequently post internship opportunities.

Shenandoah Performing Arts Leadership Students in Greece

Careers in the Arts: Arts Administration, part 2

by David Edelman

Attending the recent Social Theory, Politics and the Arts conference in Minneapolis reminded me just how rich and diverse is the field of arts management and cultural policy.   I met with teachers, researchers and graduate students from all over the globe who came together under the conference theme “Creative Disruption in the Arts.” There were presentations on cultural entrepreneurship, cultural planning, museum management and policy, the professionalization of careers in the arts, international cultural relations, and on and on.   It’s an exciting and intellectually nourishing time to be engaged with this field. And it is wide open for emerging professionals and leaders in the arts. As a relatively young field (in the US, the proliferation of non-profit, professional arts organizations only dates back to the mid-1960s) it has taken us a while to build up a critical mass of professional employment opportunities as arts makers, producers, researchers, and educators.   But now, well into the 21st century, the field is exploding.   We can see this surge in the increasing desire of arts organizations to hire only trained management professionals and in the degree to which independent artists and small arts groups are required to be skilled in marketing, social media, finance, fundraising, legal issues, and strategic planning. We also see it in the extraordinary growth of international cultural exchange, international professional touring, and cross-cultural arts projects, much of which has been facilitated by the concurrent rise in connectivity, social media, migration and immigration, and global arts networking.

Showbusiness ain’t what it used to be.

And one of the great drivers of this explosive change in the cultural landscape is disruption. In the area of jobs, this disruption can be looked at through the lens of competitiveness.   As the arts landscape has evolved over the past twenty years or so, the demand for an increasing skilled professional workforce has evolved alongside.   This demand has, in turn, driven a significant increase in both arts management/cultural policy higher education degree programs and professional development opportunities for those already in the workforce. And thus, the supply of a skilled workforce has grown.   It’s the classic supply and demand relationship, except we don’t quite know where the equilibrium lies because the pace of change is so rapid in our field. For the foreseeable future, we can reasonably expect that the demand for skilled, professional arts managers will rise.   A large number of senior level arts managers – my pioneering generation who entered the field in the 1970s and 80s — are aging out.   This is opening up new employment and advancement opportunities. The rise of entrepreneurial risk taking in the production of art by individuals and ensembles, requiring sophisticated professional skills, is a new strand in the employment fabric. So too is the need for professionals whose skills facilitate global arts connectivity and creation.

Am I optimistic about the opportunities for skilled, professional arts managers? You bet. The pre-requisite for success, however, is training and education (shameless plug: visit su.edu/conservatory for more information about my graduate Performing Arts Leadership and Management Program).   I’m particularly keen on the need for artists to get the training and experience they need in order to move their projects forward in this complex world.   Artists can no longer simply wait for the next audition. Opportunity must be a self-creation.

Several years ago, one of my graduate students, a young woman from Saudi Arabia, proposed a culminating project for her master’s degree that described the creation of a program to foster the work of Saudi women-crafters.   I thought it was a lovely idea and encouraged her to write it up.   She returned from winter break at home in Riyadh with approval from the government to create a foundation, seed money, a board of directors, and the first cohort of craftspeople that she wanted to support. I wasn’t so much astounded by her capacity to do all this. It was the fact that she did it in 30 days that blew me away.

Creativity + training + gumption is an awesome combination.

David Edelman is Associate Professor of Performing Arts Leadership and Management at Shenandoah University. He is also co-editor of The American Journal of Arts Management.

 

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Careers in the Arts: Arts Administration

by Colleen Cook

Arts Administration (also called “arts management”) is a diverse field of employment in the arts, with a broad range of jobs and workplaces. An arts administrator is a business-minded leader of an arts and cultural organization/festival/institution. Degree programs in the field of Arts Administration have been available in higher education since the 1970s, and focus on elements of business administration, non-profit administration, advocacy, fund development, marketing, arts law, along with other elements of the arts and cultural industry.

At the Renaissance, we employee arts administrators in the departments of fund development, marketing, executive leadership, bookings, box office, finance, and direction. Many of our staff have experience in both the arts and business, and some of our staff members hold degrees specific to arts management. Successful arts administrators possess a dual understanding of what it takes to make great art, alongside what is required to run a viable business.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in roles in both marketing and development at the Renaissance, as well as some positions and internships at institutions of higher education and non-profit arts advocacy. Before entering the field of arts administration, I studied music education and worked as a voice teacher and vocal music teacher in the public schools. In my experience, it has been especially helpful to be familiar with the composers, artists, shows, and elements that come together to perform a show so that I can communicate that story with our patrons, donors, and community at large.

An arts administrator needs to be organized, a self-starter, hard-working, and passionate about the arts to be successful, in my opinion. While the field is broad, many arts administrators are responsible for multiple job roles, particularly at smaller organizations. There’s always more that you can do to support a performance or exhibit, and being on top of your workload is key. In my specific roles in marketing and fund development, great communication skills are essential as well.

If you boil down my job as Director of Marketing to just one phrase, it would be “communicate with the audience about the organization and its programs.” In my previous role as Director of Development, that phrase would be, “communicate with donors and potential donors about the organization’s programs and opportunities to give.” We communicate through dozens of channels, in an effort to reach each individual in a meaningful way that is comfortable for them.

All of our arts administrators have to be great communicators, but often for different reasons. Our executive leaders (for us, that’s our President and CEO, Artistic Director and our Executive Director) need to be effective communicators with the staff, board, volunteers, and artists to ensure that the organization runs well, that the performances are successful, and that everyone stays on the same page.

Our Box Office and Front of House team need to be great customer service representatives, helping to communicate with the audience directly at the point of purchase and at our events, or when a problem arises. Our Bookings Manager must be able to negotiate and communicate with agents and with our artistic and technical staff to land on contracts that are reasonable for our team, profitable for our organization, and bookings that are attractive to our audience. Our Finance team needs to be detail-oriented and communicative with the staff and board about the financial position of the organization so that we are sustainable in the achievement of our vision and mission.

Interestingly, great communication skills make a great arts administrator, as well as a great artist. In my opinion, it’s one of the things that makes working in this field so much fun, and the people who work in it so fantastic.

Careers in the Arts - Renaissance Performing Arts photo by Jeff Sprang

Spotlight on Careers in the Arts

by Colleen Cook

High schoolers are often expected to determine their career path at the ripe old age of 16, planning out colleges, programs of study, and future careers they’d like to take up in their adult life. In some cases, students have a broad exposure to a wide field of employment, but students are human beings who tend to follow the paths that are familiar. When choosing their future careers, they consider those of their family members, mentors, and idols. They think about what they enjoy doing as a teenager and translate that into a profession.

When I was a high school student, I loved to sing. I enjoyed the camaraderie of being in a musical or an ensemble, and I had been mentored by my music teachers, so naturally the career path I chose was music education. I might have chosen music performance, but music education seemed like the more viable career option of what I thought were two choices in the music field.

Years later, I discovered the field of arts administration, along with many other careers, and I’ve often wondered: if I was aware of these career paths when I was in high school, would I have pursued something different?

Arts and culture as an industry contributes $704 billion to the economy in annual revenue.  There’s a wide range of careers and jobs in the arts, and many creative local economies are beginning to shift to an arts and culture-based model from an industrial economy.

In an effort to build awareness about careers in the arts, we’ll be doing a multi-week series of blog posts about the various career paths one can take in the arts in the coming weeks. You’ll hear from people working in the field as entrepreneurs, administrators, artists, and more. We can’t wait to share with you the depth and breadth of this fulfilling field.

SingOut2016_PhotoByJeffSprang

Three Things You Learn in Choir

by Colleen Cook

Like many singers, choir has been an important part of my life since I could walk and talk. My earliest choral experiences were at church in a “Cherub Choir” made up of preschoolers for the holiday concert. (Kudos to those of you corralling preschoolers to stand in one area and do anything!) Throughout my education, I was involved in several choirs at church and school, and even ended up working with choirs as music educator at the beginning of my career. A few things are always true about choirs: they bond people together.

For the past six years, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus has partnered with several high school choirs to create a magical concert we’ve called “Sing Out! A Choral Celebration.” This event has a synergy that’s palpable, with so many voices coming together in harmony to fill our theatre with beautiful singing. Young and old, experienced and novice, side by side singing together. It’s nothing short of magical.

The singers in these choirs and the people that lead them know that singing together truly evokes an experience unlike any other. It also teaches you some very important truths about yourself and others. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from singing in choirs:

Every Voice Matters

It is truly remarkable how necessary each voice can be to a choir. The timbre of the chorus is impacted when a new voice comes or someone leaves, but so is the culture of the group. Anyone who has been in an ensemble can attest to certain voices that made the time together in rehearsals and performance special in one way or another. Each person brings something to the table when you sing in chorus.

Listen to the People Around You

It’s easy to tell a novice choral singer from an experienced one: the novice will sing without listening, but the experienced singer has learned to listen to those around them to match tone, vowel shapes, and timbre to create a seamless blend of voices. A beautiful choral sound comes from compromise: adjusting your own individual voice to match those around you, which can only happen if you listen.

Power Comes from Unity

There’s a piece being performed on our upcoming Sing Out! concert called “The Awakening,” by Joseph Martin. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and if you’ve heard it you’ll probably agree. There’s this really incredible moment when the chorus goes from singing multiple lines and parts to a powerful unison, singing “Awake, awake my soul and sing!” When performed well, you can’t help but have goosebumps from the intensity and the heart behind it. Voices in unison speaking the same message has power unlike much else.

Learn more about the Sing Out concert here.