David Hoppe is to be commended for the optimistic and eloquent spin he put on his Aug. 4 column entitled “Exit: Ramona Baker.” After 10 years the Arts Council of Indianapolis is now looking for new leadership and has yet another opportunity to grow the arts in Indianapolis.
The article re-emphasized that the Arts Council is still in position to play a key role in the mayor’s on-going Cultural Tourism Initiative. And since the next person in this position will determine much of where the arts in Indianapolis may go from here, I would like to propose some qualifications to look for in the next executive director.
• Credibility. The next head of the Arts Council needs to first be a credible person in the eyes of the arts community. They should have either local name recognition or an established history in the local arts or business community. They should be knowledgeable, inspire confidence and reflect the professionalism of the artists and performers in Indianapolis. They should be able to articulate the mission, passion and optimism that all the arts organizations in the city have been exhibiting for so long.
• Spokesperson. As head of the Arts Council this person also needs to be an articulate and visible spokesperson in the city for the arts. Very few arts organizations have developed any relationships with the media, the general public and in some cases with their own members.
• Media savvy. The arts needs a leader who is media savvy and understands what the different local media need to support the arts. All of the local media have expressed an interest in being involved with the arts. They are interested in being event sponsors and providing exposure for interesting programs but they want long-term strategic partners and they want arts information packaged in an interesting way that works for their particular media.
• Sponsorship. Sponsorship and fund-raising are a part of any non-profit organization, but understanding how to develop strategic partnerships, leverage existing resources and provide cooperative multilevel programs with the business community is vital for the arts community at this time. It’s important that all stakeholders in strategic partnerships feel that the relationship is working for them.
• Leadership. Finding quality leadership in the arts presents different challenges than in some other fields. Leading an organization with the diversity of the Arts Council demands an appreciation for creativity at many levels. Being a creative person sometimes helps that but being a “people person” is absolutely essential.
• Vision. The most important quality to look for is a person with a vision for the future of the arts in Indianapolis. Some people say they have a “vision for the future” but the most successful visionaries also “envision” a plan to achieve their vision. The arts community has had many visions, many dreams and many promises and while some dreams have become a reality, only a few have achieved success and stability.
Having a vision is seeing taxicabs with flat screen monitors in the back seats playing CDs that welcome guests from out of town and promote the activities going on each week.
Having a vision is training people from each arts organization to be the best spokesperson for that organization that they can be. Then inviting the local media to cover the arts and introduce them to the people from each organization that can talk informally about their organization and the value the organization brings to the media’s audience.
Having a vision is helping broadcast news stations find sponsors that will support news about the arts in the newscast (just like sports and health care). This will also mean developing reporters with as much knowledge about the arts as sportscasters have about sports.
Having a vision is engaging individuals from the small business community in arts and philanthropy projects that truly work for both parties (something with which the CICF has made tremendous progress).
• Marketing. Lastly, the new head of the Arts Council needs to be a person who understands both basic marketing and strategic marketing. The arts no longer needs to meet or talk, or study the issues in Indianapolis. The research has been done, the reports have been written. Even the time to implement the programs is long past. Any marketing professional can create a campaign and achieve what the arts has needed for several years.
The arts needs to create awareness of the wonderful programs and activities that are here in the city and going on all the time. When our own residents don’t know what is going on in the city, they can’t be expected to be supportive. And “supportive” here means filling the seats in the performing arts venues and increasing memberships, subscribers and sponsors for everyone else.
The arts organizations have done their part by creating the excellent product, performers and events worthy of a world-class city. But many of them never reach even 5 percent of their subscribers with renewal mailings each year. The arts needs to communicate to the other 95 percent of our city because our own residents will be the best ambassadors and long-term supporters.
We need to market the arts across our own state because the arts bring tourists to Indianapolis and Indiana. And we need to market strategically to the rest of the country because we are (and will continue to be) the national and international headquarters for several recognized arts organizations and their programs.
Now it has been suggested, on occasion, that Indianapolis lacks the leadership, the vision and the talent to find quality candidates with the passion and knowledge to lead the arts. I disagree. The leadership, the vision and the business savvy are all here and so is a city willing and eager to participate and support in a number of ways. So when the time comes for the Arts Council of Indianapolis to select a new leader I challenge them to find an articulate, knowledgeable, visionary leader who everyone feels can represent the best that the arts has to offer.
President of Image Master, a local arts activist and son of Dr. Alfred Edyvean, founder for the Edyvean Repertory Theatre
I had to go back and read last week’s column after the reader’s reference to your column in this week’s NUVO (Mail, Aug. 4-11), which I hadn’t yet read because of foot surgery. I had to get up out of my bed to say how much I appreciate your devotion to this country.
Patriotism should be defined by the values you espouse: veracity, integrity, honor — all qualities this administration eschews. Mendacity, not truth is their raison d’etre. You said yes to the Sisyphean call. Your unstinting devotion to the truth will be rewarded. (I am not Cassandra and cannot say when.)
P.S. The fact that the entire convention was not covered by the major networks is a national disgrace, but that is a topic for another time, perhaps. As Edwards’ mantra is: there are two Americas; last week it occurred to me we are, indeed, a divided country, but not by red and blue “values” but rather whether or not our TVs are hooked up to cable. Indeed, the haves and the have nots are those with cable or other communications satellite systems and those without access to such multichannel systems — C-Span and the like.
Claudia J. Zacks