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Access is “Both And”

 This month’s newsletter theme is accessibility, for instance, equalizing public access to the arts and providing safe facilities—but it's more than that.

As I spent time thinking about access in a broad sense, I began to think about the many arts leaders in Ohio. These individuals lead through their actions and deeds and provide access through their experiences and engagement with people—such as their board members, staff, volunteers, artists, donors, audience members, and students.

Arts leaders in Ohio cannot spend every waking hour thinking about their organizations. They are meeting people, joining committees, sharing expertise, and finding accessible entry points to a variety of forums or “tables” in the public and private sectors. These arts leaders are “managing up” both corporate and political leaders to understand the role of the arts as a “both and” proposition.

“Both and”—it’s a phrase you have likely heard before. For me, it means carving out a place in your daily conversations for both routine and disruptive thinking that will likely bring about positive change.

The “both and” philosophy provides both active and passive leadership. In her article Leadership Accessibility: Why It's Important, Colleen Kettenhofen, an award winning author and keynote speaker, describes the difficulties of being an accessible leader:

“The time you have is a zero-sum game. This is the crux of the leadership accessibility conundrum. When you give your time to one person or activity, you are also taking available time away from other people and activities. You only have so many hours in a day. Leadership accessibility becomes a delicate balancing act. However, you must have some level of accessibility, if you’re to be an effective leader.”

I agree with Kettenhofen: successful leaders must have a level of accessibility to be effective. We know the pleasure and reward of spending time with arts leaders. 

Every conversation has the potential to be rich and holds the opportunity to learn something new. We can bounce ideas around and dig deeply into the important, sometimes intimidating, issues. Yet, it is precisely these types of discussions that lead to innovative and effective practices that make us all better leaders.

As I've traveled the state to meet with some of the finest arts leaders in the world, I am always humbled by their willingness to give their time and share their ideas. Most recently I was at a meeting in the offices of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) with NEA Chairman Jane Chu.

Together we heard a fabulous presentation about the organization's mission, accomplishments, and dreams. If I didn't already know the individual titles of the presenters, it would have been hard to know which arts leader was the CEO! What a great credit this is to Marcie Goodman, the organization's executive director, and the entire CIFF team. Because Marcie creates an environment where access is key to the team's success, everyone was on the same page — enjoying their work, knowing when to play, and understanding the big picture. 

As you think about your role as an arts leader, consider the access points you provide to your customers, staff, board, and volunteers. What's working for you? What more might you consider to ensure you are an accessible leader?

When I arrived at the Ohio Arts Council last year on July 1, I initiated an open door policy with staff and even scheduled days each month specifically to meet with constituents in-person and on the phone. This policy has paid off ten fold. I've learned so much about our collective work to support arts and culture.

Together we have dreamed and set into action a new State Arts Plan. As we move into a new fiscal year, let's all work a little harder at improving our access to colleagues and using the “both and” philosophy so that we can make all kinds of access a priority! 

 Until next time, 

Donna Collins' signature

Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

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