Leadership in Art

December 9, 2019
Post contributed by Sunny Singh
The great American Scholar Warren Bennis once said “Leadership is the capacity to translate Vision into Reality.”

As I was staring at guests from the Arts industry in the third session of the 2019 Leadership Winnipeg program, I thought, “What do these people have to do with Leadership?” I was not able to find the direct connection between them and the Leadership program.

After listening to the people from Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Manitoba Theatre and Winnipeg Art Gallery, I realized how difficult it is to pull together things in the Arts space. From managing employees and volunteers to meetings and concerts, everything is difficult in the Arts industry. One of the biggest problems is the funding from the government organizations, as all these are non-profit organizations. The most interesting fact is that the government thinks “Art is a luxury” and hence money should not be allocated for its growth.

I was impressed to see that all the leaders of these organizations were women and they had great diverse and vast experience.

Then we were introduced to this young and dynamic speaker Adam Glynn, who runs the Nostalgia radio. It was really fascinating to learn how the radio operates for the community and generates income through small business advertisements. One of the neat components of their business model is running a mobile radio station which can be stationed at any local business, thereby promoting that business for a month.

The most thrilling moment was to see the team of the movie “Stand!” which is based on the historic strike of Winnipeg that took place in 1919. The journey from idea to becoming the movie in total took about 14 years. The journey involved convincing different parties like the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW Canada), Canada Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, the investors that did not know what the result will be and even trying to get American politicians involved. It was a very risky venture but one that they knew they had to take on. It was a very strong team with people like Jeff Peeler from Frantic Films, Rick Chafe, the co-screen writer, Danny Schur himself and Louise O’Brien-Moran from Manitoba Film and Music.

Danny stated that “To pull together something like this in cash and time crunch situation, you need a good team.” But interestingly, everyone else talked about how Danny was so persistent that he never gave up. There was this cohesion between the team that could be seen on the table.

My perception completely changed that day from “Why Leadership in Arts?” to “Why not Leadership in Arts?” I realized that strong leaders are needed in a field like Arts where usually there isn’t enough support. Also, the thought “Leadership is the capacity to translate Vision into Reality” was seen in every leader in that room that day.