Why You Should Work For The Arts Alliance

Hello again! This is Jamie Feinberg, former Program Manager of the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire.

If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll remember that back in the spring of 2016, I wrote my last blog post in my role with the Arts Alliance. I left my position so that my husband and I could travel the country, search for a place to settle down and pursue our work in music and theater full-time. (I share stories about it here.) But I’ve been finding work as a writer and virtual assistant as well, and I’m thrilled to be assisting the Arts Alliance with their next big task: finding a new Executive Director!

Frumie Selchen, the current Executive Director of the Arts Alliance, is retiring in early 2018. So as we congratulate her on her retirement, we are hard at work finding the next arts leader for northern New Hampshire. I think it’s an amazing opportunity, and I’d be thrilled if you’d share it with your networks or even consider applying yourself.

Why Work in Northern New Hampshire?

The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire (AANNH) serves over 50 towns and
cities across northern New Hampshire. There are lots of challenges in working in this
region, but there are some wonderful and compelling reasons to consider working here.
We hope this helps you decide if northern New Hampshire is the right place for you!

Fact #1: Northern New Hampshire Is Beautiful

Yup. There’s really no debating this. When people think about New Hampshire, they
think about the gorgeous mountains, lakes and quaint communities and farms. You’ll find all of those things in northern New Hampshire! Northern New Hampshire thrives on tourism, and people from across the state, New England and even international travelers make a point of visiting the region. Highlights include hiking and skiing the White Mountains (Mount Washington is the most famous peak, and the Mount Washington Cog Railway is a popular attraction), kayaking and swimming in the incomparable Connecticut Lakes region and experiencing the changing leaves in the fall. Nothing beats a glorious drive through the mountains as you head to a business meeting or conference.

Fact #2: You’ll Be Living in a Vacation Destination

That’s right — work with the Arts Alliance and you’ll have a vacation destination in your
backyard year-round! Whether you like to hike, ski, watch professional theater, eat farm-
fresh food or experience cultural programs offered by local and international artists, there are a surprising numbers of opportunities to live like you’re on vacation year-round in northern New Hampshire. Why commute hours to a second home when you can be a part of it all year-round?

Fact #3: Northern New Hampshire Can Feel Isolating if You’re Used to the City

The Arts Alliance serves over 50 communities. While some, like Littleton and Plymouth,
are right off the interstate and relatively easy to get to, many towns are a half hour or
more away from large groceries or Big Box stores. There’s definitely the potential to feel
isolated. Some children may never leave the area. And adults may find that if they lose a
job, finding a new one is really difficult unless they take temporary, seasonal or lower-
paying work or decide to commute an hour or two. AANNH works with many
underserved towns, all of which must reckon with their relative isolation in some way.
The plus side of this? Our communities feel pretty safe. You’ll recognize your neighbors
and make meaningful connections more easily. Many of our schools are excellent, despite ongoing funding challenges. And real estate, with a few exceptions in “second-home” communities, is very affordable.

Fact #4: Northern New Hampshire is a Great Place for Families! And Adults!

One of the surprises you’ll find in northern New Hampshire is that while many residents
have lived in small local communities their whole lives, many residents are relatively
recent transplants. It’s extremely common to run into people who’ve moved to northern
New Hampshire to raise a family or to enjoy their later years in an area they used to
vacation in. You’ll meet adults and families from New York City, Lake Tahoe, San
Diego and beyond. And you’ll meet people who grew up locally, went to college and
moved to a city, then ultimately decided to make their way back to New Hampshire.
Those who’ve lived in cities and who are used to diverse cultural offerings are great
supporters of the work of the region’s cultural institutions like the Arts Alliance and
many are artists themselves. They have a great awareness of – and interest in — what’s out there, and they know the importance that arts and arts education play in our lives.
You may be surprised to learn that there are places to hear punk rock or study hip hop
dance in our region!

Fact #5: Working Remotely with a Flexible Schedule

One of the perks of working for the Arts Alliance is that while a good deal of time is
spent traveling, the majority of your work will be done from home or wherever you are.
You’ll have the flexibility to work when and where you prefer, as long as you can
coordinate with Arts Alliance staff, partners, schools and other contacts. Being able to
prepare lunch at home or have a late start for a doctor’s appointment is a wonderful
bonus. So while there will be days when you’ll need to drive an hour or two to attend a
conference or meetings, give a talk or pitch a residency, most of your time will be for you
to structure in the way that works best for you.

Fact #6: The Arts Alliance Staff Does It All!

As a small organization with a very small staff, the Arts Alliance has historically faced
the challenge of wanting to do it all (Arts in Health! Arts in Nature! Arts in Education!)
with limited personnel and resources. Like many small nonprofits, AANNH needs to
continuously re-evaluate its commitments to ensure that it’s fulfilling its mission in the
most efficient ways possible.

On the other hand, having a small staff means your job never gets stale. Your focus will
shift from grant writing to marketing to donor relations; you’ll also be developing and
overseeing artist residencies and coordinating early learning workshops and convening
meetings. Honestly, most weeks (and days) will be a combination of many of these
things!

So if you like the idea of hands-on leadership, and you think of yourself as a writer, a
speaker, a leader and a collaborator, this just might be your dream job. It’s a rare
opportunity to be a jack-of- all-trades and the go-to resource on the arts for people across
northern New Hampshire.

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Saying Goodbye, and Thank You

 

It’s a little bit bittersweet to write this as I step down from my role at the Arts Alliance after more than two and a half years on board. I’ve learned so much since I began, and I’ve truly loved meeting artists, educators and arts supporters in our region and beyond.

During my time with the Arts Alliance, I’ve happily embraced our marketing & social media work, and developed our pilot youth arts program. I’ve learned from incredible teaching artists like Deborah Stuart, Lida Winfield and Stuart Paton (of Burlington Taiko), and I’ve been honored to share stages in Littleton, Gorham and Plymouth with my theater company. I’ve also spoken with business owners and local leaders about ways to support and sustain arts and education, and I’ve seen the power of the arts in our communities more times than I can count. Hopefully if you’ve participated in our artist residencies during this time, you’ve experienced improved marketing and curriculum materials & strong communication across the board. I’ve recently worked on refining our program plans for the 2016-2017 season – it should be a great year!

I am such a believer in the work of the Arts Alliance, and I will continue to be an advocate for arts in the region. Although I’m ready to return to the world of the performing arts and try my own hand working as a teaching artist & performer in music and theater, it is still just as important for arts educators, innovators and advocates to come together in our region. Fight the isolation and connect with one another & get the word out about your work. Work with the Arts Alliance to hold gatherings, spread best practices and offer artist residencies. The Arts Alliance is an incredible resource, whether you need help with grant-writing, promoting your event or finding a mentor in your field or an artist to present at your site. Please continue to support the work of the Arts Alliance so that it can continue to support you and represent you regionally, at the state level and beyond.

Thank you so much to everyone who has made this time so special for me. As a newcomer to the region, I appreciate the work you’ve done to welcome me (and Not Your Mom’s!). I am especially proud to have been able to contribute to the growing arts scene in the Bethlehem/Littleton region, and I look forward to staying a part of it and seeing it grow in new ways. Thank you also to all of the businesses and individuals who’ve donated their time, money and opened their homes to make our residencies as successful as possible. I hope you’ll continue to do so. You make it such a welcoming place for our artists, and the arts world is small – we know for a fact that some of our artists have said yes to working with us because they heard from other artists about what a great residency they had in northern New Hampshire.

As of June I’ll be the musical director at Jean’s Playhouse in Lincoln. If you’d like to keep in touch moving forward, you can find me on Twitter at jamiefeinberg and at jamie (dot) feinberg (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m also maintaining an ice cream travel blog if that combination interests you! I anticipate this Arts Alliance blog will be quiet for a couple of months, but hope you’ll stay connected with the Arts Alliance and contact Frumie Selchen, our Executive Director, by email at frumie(at) aannh (dot) org or at 603-323-7302 with any ideas or questions.

Thanks and all the best,
Jamie

Takeaways from the National Arts Marketing Conference

Last fall I spent three days in Salt Lake City at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference, which attracts arts marketing professionals of all backgrounds, from small organizations like ours — where just one or two staff members handle everything from programming to fundraising to marketing — to large, well-known theaters and museums, local and regional arts councils, plus artists of all stripes on their own.

The Arts Alliance doesn’t have much of a budget for professional development for its employees, but in this case, that didn’t really matter. Americans for the Arts, the organization that puts on this conference (and does incredible work on arts advocacy, communication and much more throughout the year) makes it a priority to offer scholarships, including some full rides, to arts professionals that need them. I submitted an application, just in case I qualified for a full ride – and I was chosen! This particular scholarship was given for individuals who work with underserved populations, including the rural, isolated communities that we represent throughout northern New Hampshire.

Since my return I’ve continued to think about all I learned there, and before I leave (I’m stepping down on May 27th), I wanted to reflect back on my experience. Here’s what I came up with as three major takeaways from the conference.

First: the importance of finding your authenticity. This was a prominent theme, beginning with Jad Abumrad’s brilliant opening keynote and continuing in smaller sessions on branding, audience engagement and marketing. Having an authentic voice is what makes people trust you, is what makes your emails and your promotional materials compelling, and it is also what tells you if a program is right for your mission. It informs your website and makes your social media interactions feel genuine and real. I think it is especially beneficial for a diverse organization like the Arts Alliance, with many branches of programming and many members to represent, to distill its authenticity, whether from the existing mission statement or through future work, and use that as the benchmark moving forward. It’s equally important for all of our member organizations and really any community organization. And for me as an individual, my work as an arts leader and maker should always come from my own genuine, honest self.

My second takeaway: the importance of taking calculated risks. When we are caught up in the day to day responsibilities of our work – and there are a lot of them! — it can be hard to do this.

Just staying one step ahead is a challenge, but building in the time to not only research options, but to actually take risks is really important. I can especially see this in my email campaigns -rather than doing the same old thing, why not build in riskier new ways of promoting? Some will work, some won’t, but we should make space for experimenting, and then follow it up with tracking. The same is true for programming risks. We need acknowledge that some of our programs are risks –  and we need to accommodate that fact in our planning, perhaps pricing higher to cover ourselves when we don’t break even. This approach can strengthen programming for the long term and give us room to try new things that might not lead directly to success. It’s hard for me to think of an artist or arts organization that this message wouldn’t apply to!

My final takeaway is a bit broader: it’s about the importance of putting the audience, and audience engagement, at the center of everything we do. I was very familiar with Audience Engagement as a topic, and in my theater work it was always on my mind. But I hadn’t realized that an entire organization or major project could be driven from this perspective, even in more complex nonprofits with disparate audiences. As I sat in on sessions on this subject, I realized how it connects to our efforts to broaden our audience base, focus on inclusion, and demystify the arts we’re presenting. All of these efforts are related. Being audience-centric doesn’t mean dumbing down programming. It means making sure we are genuinely reaching out to and connecting with people. And if we can use this concept to frame all our thinking, it clarifies our mission and the purpose of all our work: the point of supporting, promoting and sustaining arts programming in a region is to build, hold and communicate with the current – and potential – audience in that region.

So there you have it – authenticity, calculated risks and audience engagement. How do you think these concepts relate to you, whether in your work for an organization or as an individual artist? I’d love to hear your thoughts! And if you’d like more details from my notes on branding, marketing on a small budget, surveying and more, let me know about your interests and I’ll be glad to share my notes on specific topics.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll share your thoughts!

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Holiday Gifts and Something Wonderful You May Have Missed

It’s that time of year when I’m torn between wanting to cherish every moment and make time for what’s important while feeling the need to hurry through a long list of responsibilities, partly in compensation for the time off for the holidays and partly out of “obligation”.

So in finding the balance, I’m reflecting on what’s going well, and what we’ve accomplished this year. I’m proud of all of the events we’ve brought to northern New Hampshire and proud that we’ve represented our members and expanded the benefits to them. This November’s artist-in-residence was Shamou, a musician, composer and educator originally from Iran, and his message of how we’re all connected and the power of music and drumming really resonated with audiences in Plymouth, Franconia, Conway and beyond.

This Sunday, we’re bringing Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater up from southern New Hampshire, and Littleton is in for a treat. If you didn’t catch these performers in May, you won’t want to miss their new touring show – and if you did catch it, you’ll know why you DEFINITELY want to come see them again! This tour is centered around holiday music featured in or written for musicals, and it’s got some fantastic numbers and their history, including “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises with full choreography, some great tunes you haven’t heard yet, plus some classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Save on advance tickets here, or purchase at the door. The show is at the Littleton Opera House at 3 p.m. this Sunday and will be done by 5 p.m. – we recommend it for ages 10 &  up. Learn more here. We won’t turn anyone away if the price is a hardship! Just pay what you can – or join us as our guest.

Since it’s Giving Tuesday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Arts Alliance is greatly appreciative of any and all gifts you can give us today and throughout the year. We’re in the midst of our Annual Fund campaign, and your donations make it possible for us to provide discounted and free arts programming throughout northern New Hampshire. We hope you’ll support your local arts organizations as well as the Arts Alliance this year – and if you prefer, learn about our membership program here. And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to become a volunteer! We have lots of opportunities throughout the year to get involved, and we’d love to have you.

Thanks for reading. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and have a restful and joyful holiday season!

All the best,

Jamie

 

Writing on the Land: Exploring the nature of the place we live with poet Verandah Porche

Wanted to share a quick post – we kicked off our fall residency with poet Verandah Porche yesterday and you can still join us in Bethlehem tonight or in Lincoln tomorrow if you’re interested in a place-based writing workshop for educators or in a (free) community poetry reading & scribe training where you’ll learn to record people’s stories as a “told poem”.

Fascinating method, fascinating poet, and all a part of our beginning efforts to capture northern New Hampshire’s relationship with the land through the arts. We’ll hold a wider community discussion on October 8th (Bethlehem) and 9th (Lincoln) as well, facilitated by North Country Listens.

Join us if you can, and spread the word – and thanks!

p.s. High school students who want to join our new youth arts program can email me or click here to learn more. We’d love to see some high school students trained as scribes too!

Developing Perspective Through the Arts

Perspective – the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

– Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

 We all have our own perspectives through which we view the world.  Our perspective on any given issue is influenced by our upbringing, our education, the people we encounter, the advantages we’re born with and the stumbling blocks we face as we grow. During adolescence, we begin to consciously develop our own perspectives, as we learn about moral complexity and encounter the often conflicting views of those around us.

The more isolated we are, geographically, economically and socially, the less likely it is that we will be exposed to – and learn from — perspectives different from our own.  Yet this exposure is a critical part of growing up.

At the recent Carsey Institute conference on Coos Youth at White Mountains Community College, a session was dedicated to the importance of out-of-school experiences for young people in Coos County.  The data from the Coos Youth Development Study shows that involvement in structured activities outside of the classroom — from clubs to extended learning classes, outdoor excursions to volunteering — is a key indicator for success beyond high school. This finding seems to me to be directly connected to the importance of diverse experiences as opportunities to gain new perspective.

With this idea in mind, the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire is launching a new regional youth arts initiative.  The goal of this program is to help students find their voice – and their views. Arts education, as Matt D’Arigo, founder of A Reason to Survive (ARTS) recently put it, is the perfect place to “[help] youth express themselves and to find their voice in creative ways…the art instruction comes secondarily and intrinsically as youth strive to hone their voice by learning a chosen medium and wanting to express themselves.”

Our pilot youth arts project in July was a partnership with “Girls of Summer” in Lincoln. This wonderful program, which brings middle- and high-school girls together to hike, read and write, was broadened this year through an Extended Learning for Youth grant from the NH State Council on the Arts to include time with a photographer, painters, a poet and an eco-artist.

When we interviewed “Girls of Summer” participants on the culminating day of their program, they reflected on the benefit of connecting outdoor experiences with the arts. The resounding theme of their conversations was, in fact, “perspective.” One girl said that photographer John Anderson “gave me new perspective…taking pictures or out in nature,” and another mentioned that each of the “different artists had different perspectives… different views than our teachers had.” A third student talked about how something simple, like a rock, that most people would overlook, could become a really important focal point for an artist — it “made you look at something way different than you would” ordinarily. Each student was able to see the land around her in a different light, framing the world through the perspectives modeled by the artists, combined with her own individual interpretation and flair.

As one participant explained, “One of the big things we learned was how your perspective changes [depending on] what you’re doing. We were accustomed to just hiking and writing. When you’re writing, you’re given a prompt, and then you find your perspective, and what you want to connect that to, whereas in painting you have this much smaller picture: You already have a focus and you’re adding in your characters and other things… And then in photography you’re given this landscape, this big beautiful picture and you slowly start taking things away to come to a much smaller focus — but it turns out to be actually much bigger! So we learned how to look through the world and the woods in these three different perspectives that each of our different teachers and hikes taught us.”

We can all benefit from experiences that offer us a different lens through which to view our surroundings.  Learning through nature and the arts offers youth perspectives – both literal and metaphorical – that expand their horizons and make them think about the world in fresh new ways and share their discoveries through paintings, poems, photographs, sculpture, music, dance, and more. We are excited about offering youth throughout northern New Hampshire the opportunity to learn from respected professional artists and also to provide community service through volunteering for local cultural organizations. I hope you’ll send youth interested in the arts (from Coos and the rest of northern NH) our way to get involved during the upcoming school year.

What opportunities do you see in your own communities? Where do you see the greatest need for youth arts in northern NH?  What partnerships should we pursue?

We’re looking for a few students from each high school in the region, as well as adult advisors, mentors and volunteers. You can contact us at programs@aannh.org with names, ideas or suggestions, or learn more about the program here.

Note: a version of this post recently appeared in the Coos Networks site. 

Exploring Arts & Nature in Northern New Hampshire

Although I may not have been able to articulate it six months ago, I think one of the areas in which the Arts Alliance most distinguishes itself is environmental arts. Between showings of the documentary “Mother Nature’s Child”, workshops on Environmental Literacy & the Arts (where lessons included the creation of nature journals and discussions addressed ways to develop writing and other curricula with students in an outdoor learning environment), and of course the White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence summer program, I’ve gotten to learn about and experience the power — and natural fit — of arts in nature in myriad ways since I began my work with the Arts Alliance last fall.

Living where I do in Franconia, I am closer to – and more in dialogue with – nature than I’ve ever been. As a kid, I felt connected to the outdoors, spending entire days in the woods by my suburban home, communing with caterpillars and writing journal entries and stories by the light of the sun filtering through the trees. Now I am constantly bombarded by new experiences in the North Country. From starting my car at -8 degrees, to walking across the street to go for a hike and a picnic by a waterfall, to seeing my first moose cross the road by my apartment, to standing in our driveway, surrounded by fields and fields of fireflies — we are so lucky to have these incredible nature-based experiences at our fingertips. Not to mention that while I could see lots of stars growing up, the skies here definitely have suburban New Hampshire beat!

It’s no wonder that artists have been coming up here to capture the beauty of our area throughout the past two centuries. We of course continue the tradition with our White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence – Susie O’Keeffe is this year’s artist, and I can’t wait to see what insights come from her time in the Wilderness! She’s an artist of many talents and interests, and her main area of study explores the power and importance of spending time with and in nature – a good bit of therapy for all of us! You can learn more about her here.

This summer, we kick off a new youth arts program at the Arts Alliance of Northern NH. We’ve wanted to do this for a while: the goal is to give high school students interested in the arts a place where they can meet other young people from around northern NH, get hands-on opportunities working with professional artists of all types and become more connected to the arts organizations in the region. We anticipate that volunteer options, job shadowing and lots of leadership opportunities will come out of this, and we’ll be designing the program with the students themselves.

Why do I mention this here? Well, we’re actually beginning with an arts & the environment program this summer. Students entering grades 9-12 can join us in Bethlehem, where they’ll work with a photographer, a poet, two painters and an eco-artist and curator. By the end of the program (which starts July 1 and meets over four days in July), they’ll have worked together to create a variety of artwork inspired by the environment – and they’ll have curated their own art show to share with the community. You (and any youth who might be interested) can learn more about it here. I can’t wait! (We’re also partnering with the “Girls of Summer” program in Lincoln, offering participants time with the same artists.)

Do you ever make art in, or inspired by, nature? I’d love for you to leave your comments here. We’re also looking for adults interested in helping us to craft the youth program, so don’t hesitate to reach out on that either. Thanks for reading, and enjoy all of the beauty around you this summer!