Learning along the way, together

Learning along the way, together

Originally posted on ArtPlaceAmerica.org on September 21, 2012.

Pillsbury House + Theatre (PH+T), an award winning theater embedded in a human service organization, will engage community residents, artists, youth, businesses, arts nonprofits and others in this highly diverse, burgeoning cultural district to animate the community through a concentration of art-based projects.

ArtPlace recently caught up with the Arts on Chicago initiative in Minneapolis and asked the following questions:

ArtPlace: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

AOC: Our ArtPlace initiative was born out of a progressive, multi-year institute process led by three primary consultants; Bill Cleveland, Erik Takeshita, and Harry Waters Jr.

This team was instrumental in leading our entire staff and community stakeholders through the immense process of envisioning how to merge a social services based neighborhood center with a professional arts organization to create an arts integrated cultural community hub for the future.

This two year process helped our staff highlight existing organizational assets and identify the breadth of artistic expertise that was already embedded at PHT. It also forced us to investigate cross program collaboration, challenged us to identify our assumptions and biases, and encouraged us to develop innovated programmatic relationships outside of our existing silo-ed modes of operation.

In 2011, Grantmakers In the Arts published Nancy Fushan’s article “Designing a Twenty-First Century Cultural Hub” to Build Community which highlighted this very process.*

ArtPlace: Are there secrets to good partnerships?

AOC: All of the work of the Pillsbury House and Theatre is predicated on layers upon layers of partnerships. Our ArtPlace initiative was intentionally designed and proposed to involve 5 key partners (2 arts organizations, 1 neighborhood organization, the office of our city council member, and a professional artist). English to Chinese . This is an ever evolving process, and we are learning along the way, together.

None of these things below are really “secrets” but they are vital ingredients to any successful partnership: Comfort, expertise, articulation of shared vision and goals and whom benefits, mutual respect, ongoing communication and organization, transparency, clearly defined roles and expectations (MOU, partnership agreements, etc.), positioning partners to work from strengths, value the process and seek opportunity to learn from one another, a broad range of skill sets, being able to recognize others needs and see beyond individual benefit, being able to have hard conversations and understanding that disagreements are healthy, consistency, ethics and standards of practice, always saying “yes” until you have to say “no”, and maybe most importantly…PASSION!

*Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Vol. 22, No. 2 Summer 2011.