Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network

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

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Just Say No

This is not a campaign against drugs…but then again, while I’m here, don’t do drugs ūüėČ

The struggle with saying no is a really interesting and relevant topic to me.

As an individual, I enjoy being needed and appreciated so if someone asks something of me, I am inclined to say yes without considering if that’s really a smart choice.

As a burgeoning small business owner, it’s really tempting to take business that isn’t a good fit for our brand and how we do business, because “well, at least it is some money instead of no money.”

As a non-profit arts administrator in a small yet multi-faceted organization with limited resources, I want everyone to love my organization as much as I do and fear that saying no can engender ill will in the community.

In all three of these cases (though I plan to focus mostly on the non-profit arts organization for this blog), learning to say no is so important. ¬†Why? Self/business/organizational preservation. ¬†Just as we talk about work/life balance all the time among arts workers (perhaps it will be featured in an upcoming blog post,) we have to apply the same principle to businesses and organizations. ¬†When it really comes down to it work/life balance is all about managing resources: time, energy, etc. ¬†And as we all know, organizations have resources too. ¬†There’s only so much time in a work day, there’s only so many employees, there’s only so much money, and so on.

So when a request for a favor, a potential collaboration, or donation inquiry comes across my desk, how do I go about deciding to say yes or no? ¬†I want to ensure that every time we say yes to something that the result will be of some value to the organization. ¬†That value doesn’t have to always be monetary. ¬†Value can be found in new connections, community good will, and of course, strengthening the mission, among others.

What is valuable, how valuable it is and if it is valuable¬†enough¬†has to be determined by each organization. ¬†In our case, we’re one year into a new five-year strategic plan, so much of our discussion on these items revolves around the question of whether or not “this” will help us achieve one of the major goals in the plan. ¬†But for other organizations, that evaluative process might be very different–your organization might need cold hard cash to make something worthwhile, or butts in seats. ¬†Again, every organization is different, assigns value differently and therefore has different reasons for saying yes or no to the opportunities it’s presented with.

The key is having some system in place to evaluate on your value criteria. ¬†If you don’t have any process in place, every time a question presents itself, it’s just overwhelming and stressful and adds to the difficulties in saying no.

I’m a huge proponent of learning to say no, clearly and confidently. I’ll admit that I’m actually much better at it with my small business owner hat and non-profit administrator hat on that my personal life hat, but nobody’s perfect, right? ¬†And it wasn’t always easy–it’s definitely a learned skill.

As with many things in life, practice is key. ¬†I also find that having the evaluative system above as incredibly helpful in providing a reason for saying no. ¬†I feel much more confident telling someone, “thank you so much for this opportunity, but the glass center is not in a position to pursue this at this time” rather than just “no,” because I’ve actually done the work to determine that we’re not in the place to pursue this right now, or it’s not a good fit, it doesn’t align with our mission, or whatever other relevant determinations I make.

And since working on saying no can be tough, let’s have a little humor to wrap up. Whenever I think about saying no, this scene from 27 Dresses, where James Marsden’s character tries to help the people pleasing Jane (Katherine Heigl) to practice saying no.

So, let’s all take our inner people pleaser on a vacation for a few weeks and just say no.

Do you have a hard time saying no?  Do you have particular strategies to deal with it at work?

Sam Laffey is the Marketing Associate at Pittsburgh Glass Center and a partner at Porter Loves Photography.  She is always looking for groovy patterns, cute puppy dogs and all things green.  She can be found on a myriad of social media platforms, including Twitter @samlaffey.


Why you should care about the state of arts education

Arts education is my passion. So forgive me for what follows, but you know what? If you’re in the arts, it should be your passion, too.

Whether you are an arts maker, arts decision maker, arts advocate, arts consumer, or an arts educator, what happens in arts education–and by this, I mean the whole gamut, from itty bitty babes to the young-at-heart sect–determines the vibrancy of the community we work and live within and the realistic scope of what we in the arts world can successfully accomplish.

“Blah blah blah,” you say. “Your previous sentence is loaded and vague and like everything else I’ve ever read about arts education. I’ve heard this all before. Why care now?”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that within the last month, an enormous amount of literature has been released involving arts education because there’s a lot of value in arts education that many are only now beginning to recognize. But here are two facts from recent reports to that have been sticking in my mind, and although they speak specifically to K-12 education I feel they are reflective of arts education as whole:

1. If, as EPLC and the Arts and Education Initiative’s report, Creating Pennsylvania’s Future Through the Arts in Education puts forward, over 80% of Americans believe the arts are an integral part to a well-rounded education and the arts are seen as a vital component for addressing 21st century workforce skills by key business leaders, why are fewer than 50% of children studying the arts? (I should note that these stats are being re-reported from other literature. To actually read their recs for what we should do in PA, go here).

2. From the gist of the just released Arts Education in Public¬† Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 from the National Center for Educational Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education (how’s that for having some clout behind it?), it appears that fewer students across the board are studying an art area (but this is substantial when you take into account that visual arts and music are still more widely offered, while dance and theatre is offered in less than 4% of elementary schools, for instance), and that the decline is even larger for lower-income students.

Why should you care? Wait wait, before you answer, let me ask you this: did you take art in school? Did it shape you on your path to where you are today? My answer, at least, is a resounding, “yes!”

So I’ll ask again: why should you care? Oh, before you answer again, think about this: How did you learn to be creative?

Why should you care? Does artistic genius only come to those who can afford to pay for after-school training?

Why should you care? Do you want an appreciative consumer of your art in 20 years, or were you planning on retiring before then? Oh, you haven’t started an IRA yet? Well, I guess you’ll still be working right along with me!

Why should you care? Is the rest of the world investing in arts education? (the answer: yes).

Why should you care? Are you in dance or theatre? Do you see the lack of representation we have in the schools? Breaks my heart.

Why should you care? Why should you care? Pick a reason, any reason. Add a reason below.

Because the reasons are all here. How we handle arts education today will affect how we create art (and hopefully, we have artists who have been taught techniques for how to create art), consume art, criticize art, market art, etc. with the next generation of emerging arts leaders. THAT is why you should care about the state of arts education.

[whew…stepping off soapbox and heading towards the kitchen for a beer, thinking about the inevitable follow-up blog post, “Now what to DO about the state of arts education…”]

Alyssa Herzog Melby is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. All opinions expressed herein are hers alone and not those of PBT.

Pittsburgh Delegation to the 2011 One Young World Summit September 1-4, 2011 – Zurich, Switzerland

Hope you all will consider applying for this remarkable opportunity!

Pittsburgh Delegation to the 2011 One Young World Summit
September 1-4, 2011 – Zurich, Switzerland
Bringing together and connecting the best and brightest young leaders from around the globe to address major global challenges

The One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership invites young professionals from Pittsburgh‚Äôs not-for-profit community to apply to participate in the 2011 One Young World Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, from September 1 through 4, 2011. Launched in 2010 in London, One Young World is the premier global forum for young leaders from around the world. One hundred highly recognized global corporations sponsored or sent young leaders to the conference, which has been referred to by CNN as the ‚ÄúYoung Davos.‚ÄĚ

More than 1,600 delegates under the age of 30 are expected to attend the 2011 Summit. Participants are selected through a nomination process by global leaders from the private sector, government, and the non-profit sector in each of the world‚Äôs 192 countries. One Young World convenes the best and brightest from the ‚Äúsuccessor generation‚ÄĚ from around the world to discuss the most pressing global challenges ‚Äď and to develop solutions to meet those challenges. The goal is to develop a global network and to ensure that the concerns and opinions of the next generation of decision-makers and opinion leaders are heard.

Pittsburgh has been selected by One Young World as the sole U.S. bid city to host the 2012 Summit, and the One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership wants to field a strong delegation at the 2011 Summit in Zurich. The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh is coordinating with other southwestern Pennsylvania organizations to sponsor five delegates to attend the Zurich event. Candidates interested in applying must be between 21 and 28 years of age and should be affiliated with an area non-profit. Successful candidates will be team players who demonstrate leadership potential, and who have the ability to grasp complex concepts and provide valuable insights, as well as a commitment to cultural diversity. They should show an interest in global affairs and in helping define Pittsburgh’s place in the world.

To apply, candidates must:

  • Complete the registration form
  • Submit a personal statement (of no more than one page in length) which outlines what the candidate can contribute at the Summit and how the candidate hopes to benefit personally and professionally from attending the Summit.
  • Provide a current resume and/or narrative biography.
  • Submit two letters of reference from people who can assess the candidate‚Äôs personal and professional qualities. (Ideally, one letter should be from an employer and one from the leader of an area non-profit.)
  • Agree to use Social Media to share experiences during and after the Summit.
  • Candidates should email their application to oyw@worldpittsburgh.org by Friday, June 24, 2011.

Candidates will be notified if they have been selected by Monday, July 15, 2011.

For more information about One Young World, please see http://www.oneyoungworld.com.

For more information about being a part of Pittsburgh’s delegation to the One Young World Summit in Zurich, please contact oyw@worldpittsburgh.org.

The One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership is a consortium of local companies, non-profits, and community organizations which are working together to bring One Young World to Pittsburgh in 2012. The founding partners include the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, VisitPittsburgh, and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

More information: http://www.worldpittsburgh.org/oyw.jsp

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