“Artists and arts leaders are some of the most visionary and creative people in our society. Have the courage to speak up and the tenacity to stay engaged when the going gets tough.”
Artists and arts organizations face a different world today. Kenneth Foster, Director of the Arts Leadership Program in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, the former director of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and an arts leader for more than thirty years says the way forward is through strong, innovative leadership.
Foster is part of Art Creates Change, an important speaker series presented by OCAD U to commemorate the work of Kym Pruesse, a cross-disciplinary artist, educator, writer, design activist, popular culture expert and theorist who taught at the university in the Faculty of Art and the Faculty of Liberal Studies. Pruesse passed away in 2009.
Foster’s work highlights the importance of nurturing and developing new arts leaders like Pruesse today. “There are substantial environmental shifts happening in the world that are creating stress on arts organizations and their ability to thrive in the contemporary world,” says Foster. “Leadership in this environment requires truly creative thinking and arts leaders need to step up in order that our collective culture can survive and thrive.”
Leading from where you are
In the discussion of arts leadership, it’s important to not limit the definition. Whether you’re a student or a faculty dean, an apprentice or well established in your field, your leadership qualities are vital to the sustainability of any arts ecosystem: “in terms of forward thinking leadership can come from all parts of organizations,” says Foster. “I also think artists can and should be leaders not only in their own work and their own arts world, but also in the life of the community. Find your voice and don’t hesitate to express your ideas and your visions.”
Making an impact
Foster believes challenges present opportunities and this is an exciting time for artists. “This is not a time to retract or to scale back,” says Foster. “It’s a time to step forward and engage the world fully. I believe that both the artist and the society will be much better off for the active and engaged participation of artists in civic society.”
Foster’s lecture at OCAD U follows a recent Art Creates Change series presentation by internationally renowned multidisciplinary artist Emily Jacir held on October 3 during the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival. Jacir is also a professor at the International Academy of Art in Palestine.
Attend Kenneth Foster’s talk on Thursday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Find out more about Kenneth Foster