By: GP McLeer, Executive Director of the Mauldin Cultural Center
It started with this exchange:
“How are you doing?”
“Great! … Have you noticed we’re the youngest ones here?”
Four months later, myself and a colleague decided to start the South Carolina Young Professionals Arts Network.
You see, Maggie (my colleague) and myself had just recently graduated from the Arts Management program at the College of Charleston and had both landed executive director jobs at small arts nonprofits on different sides of South Carolina. Aside from leading our organizations (and being the only employees of our respective organizations), we also were brought on the board of the SC Arts Alliance. After a few board meetings, where the above stated conversation took place, and some statewide arts events, Maggie and I realized that every time we get together we wind up talking about the same things: board issues, fundraising, marketing, local politics, and the industry as a whole.
So one day I sent Maggie a message…yes, on Facebook:
“quick idea i had – would you be interested in starting a young professionals networking group in the state for the arts?”
We realized that, while we were using each other as a sounding board for our grievances, success stories and ideas, it would be a lot better if we talked about all of these things with people our own age.
After about a 30 minute conversation it was decided. And at our next SC Arts Alliance board meeting (where many arts leaders from across the state are present), we decided to get some feedback on the idea to start the South Carolina Young Professionals Arts Network, or SCYPAN. [Side note: SCYPAN was not the intended name, but after the first time I uttered it in front of everyone…it stuck.]
SCYPAN was to be a networking platform for young professionals, ages 21-35, in the field of the arts. This included artists, nonprofit staff, for-profit company staff, consultants, young board members of arts groups, and college seniors studying the arts. We toyed around with different ideas and structures but ultimately landed on a free, membership-based, group that simply acted as a connection between young professionals in the field and their peers, and between the general public and the pool of creative young professionals. But ultimately, we wanted to lead a larger discussion on the positive impact the young professional can have on the state’s arts industry. We wanted to make a statement. A statement that read “we may be young, but you need us, and you need know that you need us, and SCYPAN is here to help.”
The group took off pretty fast. We officially announced the group at the SC Statewide Arts Conference in February of 2012 and since then have seen steady growth and reach across the state. We’ve garnered the support of not only the SC Arts Alliance, but the South Carolina Arts Commission, Clemson University, the College of Charleston, organizations both large and small across the state, and have a member base equally as diverse.
Now, we’re still growing, molding our vision and figuring out what SCYPAN should ultimately be and the role it should/will/can play in the greater scheme of things, but in the meantime we have done exactly what we set out to do – start a discussion, on a state-wide level, of the important role the young professional can have in the arts industry.
I am looking forward to hosting this #artsmgtchat on Emerging Arts Leaders Networks and am excited to hear what you all have to say on the subject. Based on previous chats held, there is a wide breadth of knowledge out there in the ‘twitterverse’ and I know that all of us will take something positive away from our discussion and, who knows, forever change the conversation.
Below are the questions I’ll be asking as your host:
1) In a broad sense, why should an Emerging Arts Leaders Network [EALN] exist? What do/would you look for?
2) What do you think is driving the recent (2 years or so) attention on EALNs and Young Professionals as a whole in the arts industry?
3) Should an EALN be something formal or informal? Structured as an organization or more of a peer network?
4) Where should EALNs lead the charge over the coming years in the arts field?
5) What challenges do you foresee for the Young Professional in the coming years?
6) What role(s) should/could EALNs play outside of the arts?
7) How should an EALN reach out to college students to expand the network’s impact?
I’ll see you all on Friday, September 7 at 2pm! Search #artmgtchat and/or follow me on Twitter at @gpmcleer.
George Patrick “GP” McLeer is the Executive Director of the Mauldin Cultural Center in Mauldin, SC. He is also the Co-Founder of the South Carolina Young Professionals Arts Network and a board member of the SC Arts Alliance. He is a 2010 honors graduate of the College of Charleston with a BA in Arts Management. You can follow GP on Twitter at @gpmcleer or at www.gpmcleer.org.
Join the Discussion
- Tune in on Friday, September 7 at 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 p.m. GMT) to participate in #artsmgtchat.
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