This spring, I wrote for Createquity.com as part of the site's inaugural Fellowship. Our charge was simple: write at least two shorter blogs, and two longer blogs, about topics that interest you. One of the longer blogs needed to be a piece for the Arts Policy Library, to read, summarize, and analyze arts policy literature.
When I learned that I'd received the fellowship, I already knew two topics that I wanted to explore: El Sistema, and jazz audience engagement. I was also interested in learning more about the No Child Left Behind Act, and why schools in the U.S seemed to be suffering under its law. As for the Art Policy Library piece, I was curious about Catterall's work, and eventually read "Critical Links." Ian David Moss, the fellowship and site director, wrote a nice culminating piece about the Fellows' writings.
Here's what I didn't know: how unbelievably long it would take to research and write these pieces. I'm generally a slow writer, but this was ridiculous. Part of the painstaking amount of time I spent on each piece (besides the El Sistema blog, which took maybe an hour to draft) came from a feeling of inadequacy to write about certain topics with any authority. Furthermore, it was hard to balance my inclination to write in a professional tone for this prominent blog, and my interest to not write something that was unreadable in its dryess.
I was happy to recently stumble upon Andrea Sachdeva's research report for the 2009 20UNDER40 book, in which she describes this very same feeling of inexperience among other young arts practitioners. (Disclosure: I had submitted a chapter to the book in 2009, proposing an idea for a Teaching Artist international exchange.)
The initial "Call for Chapter Proposals" for the 20UNDER40 anthology... solicited innovative ideas about the future of the arts and arts education from forward-thinking arts leaders under the age of 40. In considering my own thoughts about preparing a chapter proposal for the anthology, I began to feel that my youth and inexperience made me woefully unqualified to have a voice in the conversation about envisioning the future of the arts sector... [My] colleagues echo[ed] my uncertainties... Evenutally, the concept of 20UNDER40 had stirred up so many raw feelings within the field that project director Edward Clapp was compelled to write "This is Our Emergency," a widely-distributed essay addressing the startling phenomenon of young leaders' feelings of irrelevance and self-doubt that was based on countless emails he had received and conversations he had engaged in with under-40 arts practitioners who repeated the same sentiments."
The good news is, we're not alone! But the even better news is that leaders like Edward Clapp and Ian David Moss have paved the way for some of us to practice writing and hone our style as we develop our ideas about the future of our field. We need not feel intimidated by more experienced arts practitioners and writers; instead, we have a platform to ask questions, discover, and take risks. Writing for Createquity was one of the scariest and time-consuming projects I've ever done, but it also was one of the most important in helping me build confidence as a writer, arts professional, and questioner of the world around me. Many thanks to Ian for this wonderful opportunity. I look forward to cheering on the next class of Createquity Fellows.