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On September 17, 2019, ArtsFund hosted its first ever Cultural Partners Summit at Hugo House. The event brought together members of the Cultural Partners Network for connection-building with colleagues in the arts and culture sector and peer learning around creative solutions to common challenges that arts and cultural nonprofits face.

Left: Moderator, Tim Lennon sets the tone of the morning.

Tim Lennon, Executive Director of LANGSTON kicked off the day by inviting attendees to “open yourself up to the possibility that someone in this room has answers that you didn’t even know you were looking for, and that person might not be who you’d expect.”

In fast-paced, five minute presentations, members of the Cultural Partners Network shared case studies based on their own experience with different challenges and opportunities at their organizations. Attendees heard from Robert Babs and Kelly Clingan of Seattle JazzED with “JazzED Responds to Community Needs,” Catherine Nueva España of Velocity Dance Center on “Stakeholder Engagement During Leadership Transitions,” Vivian Hua of Northwest Film Forum on “Sharing Cultural Space,” Kristen Ramer Liang of Pacific Northwest Ballet on “Growing Young Audiences at PNB,” and Tree Swenson of Hugo House on “Leaping into a Capital Campaign.”

After the short presentations, the group split into breakout sessions to discuss the case studies presented, and share their own experiences. Attendees were asked to head to one session related to a challenge that they were facing in their work and another session related to a challenge they haven’t yet faced. With the presenters hosting the rooms, each breakout session was an opportunity for attendees to have a deeper conversation about their experiences and engage in peer learning. Attendees and presenters got to know colleagues from other organizations that are working towards similar solutions, expand their network, and share resources with the group.

Left: Vivian Hua’s breakout session, “Sharing Cultural Space;” right: Tree Swenson’s breakout session, “Leaping into a Capital Campaign.” 

When the breakout sessions wrapped up, the entire group came back together. Each presenter shared one takeaway and the audience was able ask questions and surface challenges that weren’t discussed in the breakouts. Attendees reiterated lessons they learned from both the breakouts, as well as their own experiences. Setting the stage for future and on-going discussions, one final reflection from an attendee commented that at their organization, ” . . . we’re looking at habit changing. How we’ve done things in the past is not how we’ll do things in the future.”

Left: Summit attendees between sessions; right: Summit attendee Michelle Dunn Marsh speaks during open conversation. 

Tim Lennon best summarized the value and talent that each participant brought to the room: “As an administrator I often think of my job as making it possible for the real artists to do the work, but in fact, arts administrators are some of the most creative people I know. Arts administrators are able to make something out of very little, and sometimes nothing at all.” We want to thank all our Cultural Partners who attended and shared their expertise and experience with the network.

Left: Attendees networking after the program; right: Attendees stand in front of notes from breakout session during networking.

To learn more about the Cultural Partners Network, visit artsfund.org/CulturalPartners.

All photos by Robert Wade Photography. To view more photos, visit our Facebook page.

Thanks to Hugo House for generously hosting the Cultural Partners Summit 2019.

Thanks to the 2018-2019 Cultural Partners Network Sponsor: The Boeing Company.