When the Arts Shine Brightest

We at the Arts Extension Service (AES), have been preparing for classes to begin in this most unusual fall. Our faculty and staff have been updating courses to create lively and engaging virtual experiences, share how the arts are addressing social justice, equity and inclusion, and, of course, how COVID has changed how the arts work, and how arts organizations will need to be nimble and use their greatest strength and their resiliency in order to remain in operation. If you are returning to campus or online classes, we warmly welcome your return! If you are new to AES, we send a friendly hello to you.

As a program, we have significant experience teaching virtually. We piloted the first online classes offered at UMass in 1998 and on-campus in 2011-12. While online classes may have been new to much last spring, working and teaching in a virtual space is not new to us.

Now is a moment for all arts organizations to take stock of their work, mission, and how they conduct their operations.

Like many in the field of arts management, our faculty have teaching dexterity. The vast majority of our instructors have taught both online and on-campus and we are excited to explore some of the newer tools now available. As we have done in our fully online classes, we build a community of colleagues with lively group discussions, guest speakers, virtual event attendance, group projects, and more.

The virtual spaces we’ve created whether they are for classes, info sessions, or events offer expanded opportunities to connect and share information across the field of arts management. If you missed some of the work we have been doing this past summer such as connecting up-and-coming and established artists and arts managers to resources and opportunities, there is still time to join us!

  • Each week we release an updated funding and opportunity resource list;
  • AES continues to connect students with meaningful internship experiences through our internship pages on our website and events like the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative's Fall 2020 Arts and Humanities Virtual Internship Fair on September 10;
  • There’s still time to sign-up for AES fall classes! Add/drop is on September 7;
  • And, we invite you to save the date for the Creative Women Leading Climate Action, a virtual symposium of remote events that will highlight how artists and arts professionals are actively responding to climate change. This exciting and timely event will provide opportunities for students to both learn from arts leaders and forge their own network as they pursue leadership in arts and activism fields.

This summer’s call for change and for justice after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other people of color is a call we are answering, individually and in our courses. While we are educators, we are also lifelong learners and are actively and honestly assessing our role in the social justice movement and are taking steps to do our part with integrity. This summer we were fortunate to have our own Cultural Equity expert and instructor Vicki Meek lead us in a discussion (one of many) and guide us in how to best integrate this work into our courses. We look forward to ‘holding space’ for students to share and support one another as we explore what is possible together.

COVID has deeply affected the arts, and while the closure of organizations large and small was necessary to protect patrons, performers and staff, Americans for the Arts reports the economic impact to be $12.5 billion. How can the field absorb such a hit? Surveys from Colleen Dilenschneider have focused on the questions of who will return and what will they attend (not surprisingly, people said that they will attend outdoor events and those in which they have the freedom to move around). Until there is a viable vaccine, enticing someone to sit in a seat for several hours next to people outside one’s “pod” is going to be a heavy lift. SMU-DataArts’ reports that many arts organizations will not survive the closure, and the reduction in the number of seats and funding. Now is a moment for all arts organizations to take stock of their work, mission, and how they conduct their operations. AES classes are working to support arts managers in this assessment. The arts as a field is made up of a creative and dedicated workforce and we are here to help not only through our classes but as consultants to help you reassess, plan, and prepare to rebuild.

In this moment of extreme change, each of us has an opportunity to make an impact and keep one another healthy and connected. This is when the arts shine brightest. We created and have been regularly updating our Resource page to share examples of how artists, arts managers, arts and culture organizations, and others are stepping up to address the many issues enveloping us. As they always have, artists and performers have brought unity and solace to people across the nation and around the world, and while many organizations are physically closed, arts managers have worked to connect the arts to audiences, no matter where they are located. Especially now, while we are physically distant, the arts connect us.

We hope that you continue to take steps to stay safe, healthy and use this unique time to make art or experience a new art form, visit a new online museum or performance, and connect with AES, your instructors and peers.

Dee Boyle-Clapp
Director of the Arts Extension Service