From Boots to Brushes - First Two Weeks of Fellows
By: Charlie Poag, Arts Leadership Fellow
So here we are, two weeks into the first run of CNY Arts’ Workforce Development Program. There are three of us total, each specializing in a specific “track” related to the organizational support and promotion of the arts and culture here in Central New York. My path into this program is a little out of the ordinary, and certainly, in speaking with my former peers about this program, I received a lot of raised, curious eyebrows. Those raised eyebrows weren’t, unfortunately, of the “That sounds great! I’d like to know more!” type of curiosity; sadly it was of the “Is your head on straight?” variety. I’m coming into this program after 15 years in the Marine Corps where I served as a Communications Strategy and Operations Chief, though my background was more heavily weighted in Visual Media (what the military calls Visual Information), which is basically photography, videography, and graphic arts.
To be honest I was a bit skeptical when I applied to this program, not of the program itself but of the feasibility of a group of artists wanting to work alongside a “military guy.” The military, especially the Marine Corps, is known for a rigid sense of conformity, obedience, and a level of discipline that is almost devotional (if not cultist). Why, oh why, would someone from that background jump into a work pool oriented to artists that aren’t exactly known for any of those things? Just to look at this view of course!
Wouldn’t you love to come to work every day and look out at that? All kidding aside though, we exist in a society that requires you to commit 4+ years of college to do a wide variety of occupations, and while I have a little college under my belt (and well over a decade of experience) it can be a little tough to get past the all-mighty computerized Human Resources computerized resume scanning software. So this program by CNY Arts looked like a great opportunity to showcase my knowledge, experience, and capabilities. Beyond that, what better way to transition into the “civilian world” than by working with an organization that has its finger on the pulse of the arts community in the area? I’m hoping that in the very near future I’ll be able to get out into this local community and share the experiences of what various artists and arts venues are doing here in Central New York.
The transition so far hasn’t been without its turbulence, on my first day here the staff of CNY Arts had to come in on a Monday morning and respond to updated information on a particular grant. In the military your taught to learn fast and adapt quickly, this is mostly because almost any and all plans that you make are going to be pummeled by unforeseen events. The best maps, the best Powerpoint presentations, the best of everything can’t prepare you for the fact that things just seem to get in the way. It was interesting to watch this crew come together and work the problem, networking with others involved and establish an action plan in a very short amount of time much like we do in the military. It was a little overwhelming at first, simply because there wasn’t much I could do to help, but it gave me an all too familiar sense of comfort in knowing that those exciting, hectic times aren’t quite over yet.
I’ve also learned quite a bit about how much effort and work it takes to keep an arts culture alive in a region that is struggling economically. Emergency services, education, potholes...these things get immediate attention when it comes to budgets and funding (and rightfully so), when you start asking for a budget for The Arts” it’s almost like watching your parent pay the bills and then shove their hand into the corners of the couch to dig out a few dropped quarters and some unidentifiable food crumbs that are handed over as your allowance. The CNY Arts staff, however, have done amazing things in the local communities with what’s been made available, and learning about the comprehensive span of programs that they run has been mind-blowing. All in all, I’m excited to be here and look forward to the challenge ahead of molding my past experience into this newfound avenue. Be sure to “stay tuned” as the other Workforce Development fellows key in with their blog posts as they will most certainly have different and unique perspectives on their experience through this program.