Hello ArtsFwd readers,
I’m Anushya Badrinath, and I’ve been the Communications & Media Fellow at EmcArts and ArtsFwd for 6 months, from September 2015-March 2016. My fellowship is now coming to a close, and I wanted to write to all of you to share some of my learning, and also to say thanks for your active participation in our online community of learning, exchange and “next practices” for arts leaders.
It has been an enriching six months as the Communications & Media Fellow! During this time, I played a multitude of roles to support communications, marketing, editorial and web production for EmcArts and ArtsFwd. I produced blog posts and organizational newsletters, wrote and revised content, updated our web assets, managed social media engagement and tracked our engagement analytics. I’ve also been part of an internal team that’s been hard at work migrating to a shiny new EmcArts.org website. For the last few months, we’ve been on a steep learning curve on web design and production, which required us to experiment, fail and learn rapidly. I contributed my skills to design, editing, photography, image asset management, archiving, usability testing, project management, writing and research for our website. The EmcArts site will be going live soon, so stay tuned!
One of the important things that I have learned here is that there are interesting ways to create and integrate visual content to tell stories about programs that strongly emphasize theory. EmcArts’ programs are theory-heavy because they are rooted in robust analysis and research, and I was glad to be a part of the team that’s responsible for translating and communicating rigorous (and sometimes dense) concepts in an accessible and visual way. I was thrilled to see this in action with our documentation for Community Innovation Labs, where local artists in the pilot cities of Winston-Salem and Providence were commissioned to create photo-essays of the Lab workshops. What’s more, these essays were also accompanied by their own thoughts and perspectives about the local Lab activities.
Another project I’m proud to have been a part of was EmcArts’ Working Open initiative. Through this, I was able to liaise directly with our Working Open fellows, who are participants in EmcArts’ different innovation labs and are creating amazing media and art pieces about their organizations’ innovation journeys. I want to take a moment here to virtually hi-five the Working Open Fellows fellows for all their hard work, because it takes courage to be so transparent about experiments and prototypes in different stages of completion. Apart from their three media pieces, which I helped to produce and publish on our blog, the fellows also discussed their progress in the Labs with our larger community through our Working Open community calls. I helped support one such call, and as the note-taker, it was brilliant to hear the Working Open community share learning, trade strategies and hit upon new insights in real time. (You can see my notes from our last call here, and check out our fellows media pieces here).
Overall, the work that I did here helped me learn some things about innovation and adaptive change in the larger fields of arts, culture and social services. I had often thought of innovation as something that springs forth from a single person, the origins of which seemed to be shrouded in mystery. We live in a culture that only valorizes individual innovators, and as an artist myself, I see this idea of the lone creative genius reinforced so often in the arts sector too. But, after being steeped in the work at EmcArts, I’ve learned that innovation work is really a messy, iterative and collaborative process that requires dedicated time and commitment from a number of different stakeholders in an organization or community. And contrary to my perception that innovation suddenly “springs forth” from somewhere, as an all-encompassing change, I have come to see it as the cumulative result of intentional changes, with many small steps and experiments.
I want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone on the EmcArts team for helping me learn so much, from organizational and community change processes to editorial workflows, and so much more!
My next stop after four wonderful years in New York City is my hometown of Bangalore in India. I’m grateful to be taking all this learning back with me, and looking forward to continuing my communications work at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS). As a national educational institution, IIHS takes an interdisciplinary approach to the research and theory of the socio-political, cultural and ecological impacts of urban settlements in South Asia. I’m especially excited about IIHS because in conjunction with their academic research, they have a range of public programming that helps the larger community engage with and access their work. You can follow me on twitter, to read more about my work in the future.
Thank you again, ArtsFwd readers, for engaging with us online! I hope you’ll continue to read and share the stories, research, and experiments you encounter on this blog.