Females Are In the Lead

Written By Josie Gulliksen
October 8, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Females Are In the Lead

The Miami Emerging Arts Leaders, a leadership development program of the Department of Cultural Affairs, identifies and cultivates the next generation of arts leaders in our community. Modeled and named after a successful program initiated in 1999 by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America, the program invites arts professionals of any age and any demographic to participate.

The initiative provides networking and resource sharing opportunities to encourage arts administrators to explore professional development issues and opportunities.

Although the organization has been waning for the past few years, 2014 saw a resurgence of activity thanks to a few passionate female arts leaders in Miami-Dade County who are working to re-structure the mission and strengthen membership.

Members Sonia Hendler, director of communications for the Arts & Business Council, and Ashlee Thomas, marketing specialist and community outreach coordinator for the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, are leading that movement, along with Amy San Pedro, co-founder of Buskerfest and dance and administrative assistant at 6th Street Dance Studio.

Hendler sees herself as a conduit for ideas and collaboration, and through her role with the council says, “I enthusiastically contribute most of my time to finding new ways to showcase our cultural community. From marketing to social media, the arts need as much visibility and exposure as possible. As you might imagine, in working for Miami’s oldest and only arts service organization, the opportunities are endless.”

She joined The Miami Emerging Arts Leaders in February 2014 because she wanted to be involved in re-launching the group. “I have witnessed first-hand the arts as a powerful catalyst for change within our community. Arts leaders and administrators provide key support for the arts and every day we work towards fostering a truly connected community.”

She hopes that through Emerging Arts Leaders they can foster cross-pollination and collaboration between different sectors, exchange insights and ideas and work together toward common goals. By uniting emerging leaders she says “we are taking steps toward a connected and empowered community. Our group can be a cultural changemaker.”

Thomas also came on in February 2014 during her search for organizations she believed would plug her into the leaders of the arts community. “Emerging Arts Leaders was in line with what I was looking for.”

The fact that the organization connects her with other leaders is what inspires her most and also the sharing of ideas, challenging norms and more than anything, have a place to bounce around creative solutions that so many Arts Administrators face.

“Being an Emerging Arts Leader puts me at the forefront of representing innovative ideas to the community, arts and government organizations. It’s very fulfilling to speak about issues you’re passionate about, especially with other leaders facing similar challenges,” Thomas says.

Having transitioned into an administrative role with the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, she says, “I can be a voice for artists and create opportunities for collaborative engagement between artists, schools, and the surrounding community.”

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