Cultural Leaders(hip) In Washington DC

Here’s a thought-provoking piece on cultural leadership by Jessica Solomon at Art in Praxis. This piece was inspired by Partners for Livable Communities’ Culture Builds Community Initiative.

“Cultural leadership is a leadership proxy rooted in community, family & cultural identity. Cultural leadership is creative leadership. It utilizes the arts and other assessable forms of creative public scholarship & open community spaces to educate and raise awareness.”

– Dr. Toby S. Jenkins

I crave open conversations about cultural leadership in Washington, DC with cultural leaders in Washington, DC. Oftentimes we are busy developing resources, facilitating leadership in others, making connections between collaborators and issues at hand, and listening reeeeally well…so conversations might look like this:

Ping: “Hey Pong, how are you? What are you working on these days?”
Pong: “I’m well, Ping! Busy. Collaborating with XX organization to pilot a YY program this summer!”
Ping: “That’s great! Let me know how I can support. Have you connected to ZZ?”
Pong: “Wow, thanks. I haven’t; that’s a great idea. Will you be at the Creative Ecosystem meeting next week?”
Ping: “Yes! I’ll be there for AA collaborative. Let’s grab coffee after, we should talk.”

We bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences with us everywhere we go…even in passing. most cultural leaders are walking arts/social justice/community development Wikipedias.

My burning question for the Pings and Pongs of the world…

Is there value in creating a shared vision for cultural leadership in the nation’s capital?

Imagine…a vision that guides our practice/praxis, informs our outreach, validates our resource development, pumps up our collaborations and dazzles our communications? I answer my own question with YES! If you are interested in moving this forward too, let’s talk.

The conversation between Ping and Pong leads me to explore types of cultural leaders. Yes, there are types. According to Culture Builds Communities, there are three major types of leadership that typify the field of cultural community work:

Visionary individual leader(ship). Projects produced are the result of an individual with a singular vision, a personality strong enough to pull people together, and the dedication to pull through hard times.
Communal leader(ship). The vision of a group has led to cultural community work. Sometimes the work grows organically as an organization evolves, and sometimes it is the result of a multi-organization partnership.
Instigators. People and organizations that help build partnerships. By providing a framework, instigators help ease interested parties through the complicated process of linking culture, community, and often diverse interests.

Note: Cross-Sector Partnerships are the backbone of Cultural Leadership

Even when cultural leaders are working from a background of both community issues and culture, they tend to seek out partners and co-workers who can complement their own efforts and strengths. As cultural leaders bring in other people to amplify their own work, particularly if they create an organization, they often move away from direct involvement to facilitating the leadership and the work of others. What I like to call, Creative Midwifery. Shout out to UnSectored for bringing this point home for me at their last talk about Cross-Sector Leadership and Collaboration.