Recently, Life as a Modern Dancer Blog sat down with Caroline Yost, EMD's Development Associate. We are so excited to share Caroline's insightful answers with you.
Becoming an Arts Administrator: 5 Questions for Caroline Yost of Elisa Monte Dance
Can you talk about your role as Development Associate? How many hours a week do you work, and what are your main tasks?
As Elisa Monte Dance's Development Associate, my main task is to research, cultivate, follow up and (hopefully) bring to fruition an opportunity for the company, be it domestic or international touring, master class experience, lecture demonstration or any combination. Speaking specifically to Elisa Monte Dance, the company is entering its 35th Anniversary Season, which in and of itself is an incredible accomplishment, especially in this day and age with the state of arts funding. Therefore, I am fortunate to work for a company that has already created a name for itself, as well as meaningful relationships. That being said, as we forge into the future, new partnerships are just as important as reigniting old, and that is somewhat where the position holds areas of opportunity.
Speaking to hours a week, it has fluctuated quite a bit since I stepped into the role back in 2013. I believe operating from a place of urgency, seizing opportunities the minute they become available or there is interest, is key and therefore can adjust "work hours" drastically, especially when dealing in varying time zones. We have set staff meetings in office, and Tiffany and I have set times we meet. Around that I am always answering email correspondence and researching opportunities for the company.
What is the Junior Board for the company? How does it differ than the Executive Board?
The Junior Board was reignited as a vessel through which to cultivate interest as we enter our 35th Anniversary Season. Our mission statement is: "To complement the mission and goals of the Elisa Monte Dance Executive Board, the Junior Board aims to ensure the longevity of Elisa Monte Dance by exposing a younger generation of patrons to dance, and enlisting new supporters to carry the company into the future." This speaks very clearly for what we have set out to do. As a former performer myself, it is undeniable that the arts are majorly funded and appreciated by an older patron demographic. The Junior Board was created to expose a younger generation to dance and therefore fuel the company's success into the future. Personally, I feel the Junior Board is an incredible platform for young artists and art-lovers to come together and pinpoint the "why" behind the lack of funding and to create a plan for future so that dance, specifically Elisa Monte Dance, can continue to thrive well into the coming years.
Are you performing, choreographing, and teaching as well in 2016?
I actually am not performing, choreographing or teaching in 2016. In addition to my time spent at EMD, I also work at a boutique fitness studio, managing the staff, studio and doing all the marketing and community building for the location. For me, leaving dance was an organic transition. While I am actively involved in the dance community and am so very passionate about it, I no longer have a thirst to perform and to be quite transparent, I always knew teaching wasn't for me. I did explore the idea of choreographing briefly, but fell in love with my role as a manager and marketing agent. Working for EMD has really been such a fulfilling experience, and I think it truly satisfies my artistic self.
What do you love and enjoy about arts administration?
The arts, dance specifically, are not for the fainthearted. Anyone who has dedicated even a fraction of his/her life to studying dance, pursuing a professional career, or working in the non-profit sector has a true appreciation and fervor for the art form, and it is evident in all ways of his/her being. I think I love, appreciate and am drawn to the intensity of the lifestyle and perhaps even more so, the act of succumbing to the struggle because the love is so great. The truth is, when people dedicate their livelihood to the arts, they know full well that there may never be any big payoff, that a five or ten year plan, while smart to have, might be a huge waste, as successes are measured daily in simply getting up and keeping on. I've come to find I'm not only in love with the art form but I'm in love with the type of person it demands, and that is what has been so fulfilling regarding working in arts administration and specifically working for EMD for the past almost four years. Our team, our dancers, our board and the patrons we bring in are there with the same vigor, and they return year after year in the same manner, because they are true artists and true supporters themselves.
Advice to dancers who are interested in arts administration, but have little experience in it….where and how to begin….
This is a great question, and if allowed, I would always be happy to have a personal conversation with them. The best place to start, perhaps not the most lucrative, is an internship role. I interned with Conde Nast Traveler, Paul Taylor Dance Company Foundation and Doug Varone and Dancers, and all three experiences allowed me the opportunity to zero in on differing facets of an administrative role. Additionally, the opportunity to simply be present to what goes on "behind the scenes," so to speak, is invaluable. If you don't have time for a full time internship, simply reach out to a company's general informational email (we all have them), explain what you're looking to gain and who you are, and I am sure they would be willing to have you donate your time. One of our current team members did just that and now is in the office over ten hours a week helping out; we couldn't imagine our world without him (here's looking at you, Demetrius!). The dance nonprofit world is always looking for additional support and wanting to grow young minds into intelligent, passionate and supportive arts advocates. If I have learned anything from my young adulthood, it is that there's simply never any harm in asking; and if you want something, go out and get it.