Musings from Cohort 1’s First Seminar – Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators

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ALACI Cohort 1 had their first national convening at the Rhode Island Foundation in Providence, RI from June 1st-3rd, 2015. This three-day convening brought ALACI fellows, faculty, Executive coaches and EmcArts’ staff into contact with each other. The seminar featured inspiring and educational presentations on adaptive leadership topics from Seminar 1 Faculty. Fellows had a chance to connect with the national ALACI network, and dig into some big, complex questions around their own leadership and community engagement practices.

The group collaboratively explored conversations about adaptive leadership, change management, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, organizational systems, and so much more. Here are some complex questions that fellows examined in relationship to their own leadership practices at this convening:

  • With EmcArts’ President, Richard Evans and Managing Director, Melissa Dibble: “What does it mean to be an adaptive leader in your own organization?”
  • With Julia Fabris McBride, VP of Kansas Leadership Center: “What can you do to lead authentically, with emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual alignment? How can you manage your leadership for the long haul?
  • With Timothy O’Brien and Michael Koehler from KONU: “What’s the difference between leadership and authority? Why are we resistant to change?”
  • With EmcArts’ Lead Facilitator, John Shibley: “How can we be strategic about understanding organizations as systems?”

Some thoughts about ALACI from our community:


Anne Kohn, Associate Managing Director, Shakespeare Theatre Company and ALACI Fellow

“Throughout my career I’ve been progressively moving up through organizations, and for several years I ran my own company. There were leadership skills I was interested in developing, but when you’re working, that’s not really something you ever have a chance to stop and think about. ALACI is an opportunity to learn about my own leadership style and learn from peers as well…As the economy is constantly changing, and as patrons – both ticket buyers and donors — change the way they support and come to organizations, we have to look at fresh and new ways to do things. This idea of heroic leadership, and one person guiding overall purpose of the organization — I’m not sure that’s going to the be way of the future.”



 Joseph Benesh, Director, Phoenix Center for the Arts and ALACI Fellow

“I was really intrigued by the complex challenge and adaptive leadership focus of this program. Really at it’s core, one of the big things it’s asking us to do is listen more. And I agree with that as a philosophy. I’ve been aware of the hierarchical constructs of our society — old white men with beards running things and making decisions, trickle- down community engagement…It’s obvious that this program is aimed at breaking down the old constructs and looking for new solutions, new voices, new people.”

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Mary Parish, MVP Associates and ALACI Executive Coach

“My desire in the coaching is to help people be really practical about applying what they’ve learned here and in their daily lives, and also to reclaim for themselves their own abilities and skills and strengths to be able to use them in their leadership roles.”

“There’s something in the design of this program that allows participants to feel safe enough to go deep, and also to share from that space with others. I think that’s really unusual in a three-day program.”



Regina Romero, Executive Coaching Roundtable and ALACI Executive Coach

“My role as a coach is to help individual participants deepen their learning over time, and to help them build their experiences as leaders in the context of adaptive challenges and community engagement.”

“At the end of the seminar, fellows had gotten to a place where they could define themselves as a support system for each other. Another thing that strikes me as unique about this program is that is it centered in the arts…the embracing of creativity is a given.

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Daniel Kertzner, Senior Philanthropic Advisor for Funding Partnerships, Rhode Island Foundation and ALACI funder

“Rhode Island Foundation came on early as a local funder for ALACI because we wanted to make sure that our emerging leaders  are best equipped to deal with constant change in the sector. Instead of arts leaders replicating the same patterns that limit our field now, we want to support them in trying new things in their organizations and communities. The ALACI program is giving folks an opportunity to develop their skills and capacities around adaptive in their organizations and in Rhode Island and to also connect with leaders doing the same thing around the country.”

Learning about Adaptive Leadership Together

Here’s a handful of photos from our three-day Cohort 1 seminar at the Rhode Island Foundation in Providence, RI. For more photos, check out our Facebook page.











For more photos, check out our Facebook page.

For more information about ALACI, visit our EmcArts program webpage, or contact our National Programs Manager, Liz Dreyer at

Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.