Leadership Arts in Okla. Planning Second Class in '09

Article excerpt

During the summer of 2007 while evaluating services provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council, discussion between staff members drifted to leadership training for arts organizations.

"We realized that there were rural communities that could probably use some leadership awareness training, especially in the arts," said Georgia Williams, cultural development director for the state agency.

The discussions during the evaluation of services resulted in the first Class of Leadership Arts, which graduated 28 members in May, less than a year after the initial discussions identified demand for the program.

"We talked about it in the summer of 2007, put it together in the fall and started the leadership program in February," Williams said.

A second Class of Leadership Arts is planned for 2009.

Members of the first class included representatives of business, government, education and arts groups, which are mostly nonprofit.

"We had a broad spectrum of people from across the state from Guymon to Wilburton," Williams said. "Some of them were from the arts but we also had community volunteers and business people who were interested in cultural development and economic development."

The program's goal was to promote developing arts in communities.

Members of the first class attended sessions in Enid, Ardmore and Muskogee. Each session included presentations from community and arts leaders and tours of area arts venues.

"During Leadership Arts, we learned how arts-active communities generate income, employment and tax revenue, and are widely recognized for attracting businesses and retaining a creative work force," Williams said. "If you want to know how the arts have made a significant contribution to the quality of life in Oklahoma, just ask arts active communities and the first Class of Leadership Arts."

Meeting and networking with representatives from arts organizations from across the state was part of the process.

"One of the most important things from the class was finding people from similar communities and seeing how they handled the arts in their communities and getting feedback from them," said Richard Ellwanger, executive director of the Seminole Nation Historical Society in Wewoka and a member of the first class. …