Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network

Connecting emerging arts managers with skill-building and leadership development resources.

Networking as Community Building (or, Go to Arts Happy Hours!)

The Post-Gazette recently wrote an article about married and dating dancers in the Pittsburgh Ballet.  One dancer explained the benefit of having a partner in the same profession: “I think to understand a dancer’s mind you either needed to have danced at one point in your life or [to] have grown up in a household where somebody did dance.”  I’m not suggesting that we marry or date other arts professionals in order to feel understood.  But I do think we should be open to befriending them.  My partner is not interested in what elements of an annual appeal should be done via paper and what should be done via email.  My colleagues at Arts Development Peers Coffee will get into the mud of these questions and splash around for half an hour. 

Networking is sometimes dismissed as an ugly concept, especially in the arts. In this caricature, junior associates or sycophantic up-and-comers wear their nicest clothes, shake hands with just the right amount of firmness, hand over their business cards, and with luck obtain a job offer, promotion, or business deal. Over the past year of attending networking and professional development events in the Pittsburgh arts community, I have come to see what is often called networking as something else: community building.  What we are doing when we have Happy Hours or Creative Conversations is not simply selling ourselves or our organizations to others.  We’re sharing skills and ideas, finding new partners for artistic and administrative collaborations, being inspired, and making friends.

Networking is not just for emerging arts leaders, job seekers, or newly hired former interns.  The arts community in Pittsburgh is small, but the more we seek each other out, the more internal connections we create between large and small organizations, small organizations and individual artists, mid-sized arts organizations and arts funders, the larger our community will be.  So next time you see a notice about a happy hour or a coffee conversation, go. Build a bridge that makes our community a little stronger.   

Interested in upcoming “networking” events?  Sign up for the GPAC newsletter here to receive regular updates.


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