“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Ghandi
It is our pleasure to introduce our magnificent and talented Administrative Assistant, Sicily Ledford. She is a Kennesaw State University graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in Dance, an impressive resume, a huge heart, and a shining future. She created and founded her own organization projectENCORE and her own research initiative projectMOVE. She recently returned from Boston, having represented Dance Canvas at the Americans for the Arts Conference. Read on as she shares with us her role in Dance Canvas, her experience at the conference, and her explanation of the beauty and importance of the arts through her eyes, “art as an agent for change.” We hope you are as inspired as we are.
For the longest time, I was under the impression that I could not make a career out of working in the arts or helping others. Since coming to college, I have learned that I want a long and sustainable career working in the field of arts administration and nonprofit management.
“When I make art, I am a protest” / Art as an agent for change.
While at the conference, we spent time discussing how we, as advocates, can influence factors such as policies and procedures, political decisions, and allocation of funds. In our ensemble groups during the 21st Century Community Visions groups, we considered the value of a story, otherwise known as effective case making. The positive power generated by being able to articulate the story of impact that your particular cause has on the “arts and ____” is essential to making a case for support. This support could derive from an entire community, an individual donor, a colleague, etc. This particular conversation caused me to evaluate and reconsider my duty as an advocate for the arts in contrast with my duty as an artist. As an advocate, I can tell a passionate story specially crafted for each specific audience. However, where does that leave me as an artist? While at the conference, I heard someone say “when I make art, I am a protest”. This statement struck me as a potential answer to what I have been contemplating for quite some time. Am I an Advocate? Am I an Artist? Can I be both simultaneously? I know we can use our art as an agent for change. However, there is a controversy that arises with this idea. Should we allow art to speak for itself?
When we make art, we are articulating a story to our audience through a creative medium. Is that enough to gain support from the necessary audiences? Should we have to explain our art? No. Do we have to? Here I find the difference between telling “the story” or telling “my story”. As a passionate advocator for the arts, I often tell “the story” of “the cause”. However, as an artist, I tell “my story” through my art (dance). There are various opinions and a plethora of correct answers. All of this considered, I have learned that there is actually no “correct way” to articulate a story. As long as there is genuine intention in advocating and / or in the creation of art in pursuit of generating further conversation, art wins as an agent for change.
The battle between the urgent and the important.
In every organization, especially non-profits, there is a battle between what is urgent and what is important. We may want to change the world, but first…paperwork. There is a level of administrative work that is needed in order for an organization to stay afloat. Things such as soliciting funds, attending important meetings, and creating marketing supplies usually fall under the category of urgent as they involve the backbone of the organization. However, service related organizations are driven by a mission that is important. Comprising this category are components such as new programs, outreach activities, quality control, etc. I compare this dichotomy to an email inbox. When a message is urgent, you see the message and respond immediately. Unfortunately, when a message is important, but not urgent, it tends to make its way to the bottom of the inbox to be attended to when the fog of urgent clears. When we allow ourselves to push the important aside, we lose sight of the mission and vision in regards to our organization as well as how we operate our everyday lives. As of now, I am making this my new challenge to myself, my organization, and my colleagues. Finish the urgent in a timely fashion, but take time to tend to and nurture the important.
“You must find yourself a seat at the table, even if you have to bring a folding chair.”
At the pre-conference and the main conference, there was a lot of conversation centered around the metaphor of “the table”. What is the table? Who owns or can someone own the table? How can we find a place at the table? How can we make a space for others to feel welcome to come to the table? Should we speak for anyone other than ourselves while at the table? Should we ask people to come to our table, or should we extend our reach to their table? Do the individuals at the table represent a community? Are the people at the table a community in and of themselves? Should we even use the word community? Should there even be a table? All of these questions are centered around the idea of discovering the most equitable and efficient way to go about serving through art. Being introduced to all of these paradigm shifting questions challenged me to question how I go about advocating for my cause (whatever it may be at the time). Through this conference, I realized that I have a specific and valuable voice. In this way and parallel to this discovery, it was shared in one of the sessions that emerging leaders are considered the empowerment culture. I thought to myself, “I certainly do feel empowered to make change happen! I have about 101 ideas on how it could happen, but where to I start?” This example begs the question of how can we, as emerging leaders, focus this energy and wealth of ideas to serve as efficient agents for change in pursuit of our mission and vision (for both our organization and ourselves)? With fuel from this conference, I intend to find a way to do so!
Overall, this conference was a wonderful experience! The pre-conference and main conference were insightful, engaging, and challenging (in a great way). I feel charged to generate change, and I feel as though I am more prepared to do so after my time with Americans for the Arts.
Thank you kindly,
All About Sicily
Sicily Ledford is a recent graduate of Dance from Kennesaw State University as in now a post-baccalaureate student studying Arts Administration. While at Kennesaw, Sicily served as the President of the Dance Honors Society through which she led Kennesaw State University students of dance through outreach initiatives, community events, and the Choreolab Choreographic Intensive. In the Fall of her senior year, Sicily was honored with the KSU College of the Arts Community Service Award. She had the opportunity to fill the roles of company member (Pyromania by Dr. Ivan Pulinkala and The Inner Child by Angela Novelli), Stage Manager, and Sound Operator for the KSU Dance Company. Sicily’s concert length work, “Nobody’s Business” was also selected to be included in the KSU Dance Spring Concert in 2016.
Sicily has worked as a dance educator for 7 years and enjoys teaching students from 2 years of age through adult. Sicily has experience working as Director of Community Outreach as well as Impact Performance Group Director at Cumming Dance Academy. Under the position of Director of Community Outreach, Sicily had the opportunity to lead the library dance arts program and local charity events. As a dance instructor, Sicily has had the opportunity to set a work on the Cumming Dance Academy Company as well as teach summer camps and intensives at various studios.
In 2014 Sicily founded projectENCORE, an organization created to collect and redistribute gently used dance costumes, apparel, and shoes. projectENCORE was developed when Sicily realized how her small donations of dance costumes and shoes influenced the lives and creativity local public school students. She noticed a surplus of unused dance supplies at local dance studios and decided to begin soliciting donations of the unused supplies for redistribution to those in need. projectENCORE is now run by Kennesaw State University students or recent KSU graduates, and serves to provide young, artistic minds with the supplies that will bring smiles to their faces where there may otherwise be hardship. projectENCORE inspired Sicily to research dance education in public schools as her senior capstone project. As a result, she developed projectMOVE, a free and efficient kit created for dance education in K-12 public schools.
Most recently, Sicily recently attended the Americans for the Arts Conference in Boston, Massachusetts to represent Dance Canvas. Sicily has served as an intern and recently accepted the position as Administrative Assistant at Dance Canvas. Sicily will be supporting many facets of the administrative team, including but not exclusive to dance education and productions. She is also responsible for managing the patron and donor database, designing and maintaining our website, supervising social media outreach, and assisting to develop marketing strategies for our organization.
Want to contact Sicily? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check our newly designed website here, created by Sicily! Come back soon for our next exciting blog post. Continue to follow all the fun on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as DC NEXT takes the summer by storm and we gear up for our 2016-2017 choreographic season!
YOU’RE INVITED to our DC NEXT show “Evolution: Coming Together as One”, this Thursday, July 28, 7:00 p.m. at the Ferst Center! Come see the show our students have created and all their hard work this summer! Tickets and info on sale here!
Thank you for reading!