The Emerging Leader Council: Camille Goes to DC

Emerging Arts Leaders Council



Camille Schenkkan recently attended the Winter Meeting of the National Emerging Leader Council through Americans for the Arts.





You know those surreal professional moments where you're overwhelmed with the coolness of the situation but have to act like, you know, you travel to DC for conferences all the time?  You have to focus extra hard to avoid doing a happy dance, and say things like "I love your city's public art policy" instead of "THIS. IS. AWESOME."


I had one of those moments on January 13th, standing in front of the Americans for the Arts offices just blocks from the White House.  After being elected to the National Emerging Leader Council (ELC) in December, I was about to attend my first two-day ELC Winter Meeting.

After meeting the rest of the council (all fabulous thinkers and, as I found out on Friday evening, great dancing partners), the AFTA staff and Council co-presidents Charlie & David gave the three council newcomers a brief introduction to the ELC.  


The Emerging Leader Overview.

Emerging LeadersThe Council represents the many emerging leaders in the field of arts management nationwide.  The term "emerging arts leader" gained popularity in the 90s, as the field looked ahead to the retirement of the Baby Boomers and identified a need to foster the next generation of high-level arts leadership.  Americans for the Arts defines ELs as arts administrators under the age of 35 or with fewer than five years of experience, and facilitates the creation and guidance of local Emerging Leader Networks.

Since 1999, the Emerging Leader Council has served as a bridge between Americans for the Arts and emerging leaders throughout the country, using local Emerging Leader Networks to disseminate information and resources.  There are currently a whopping 30+ Emerging Leader Networks nationwide, from larger cities like New York to more rural areas.  Although their missions vary, most focus on professional development and networking activities for their members. 

I'm proud to say Los Angeles had one of the first Emerging Leaders networks, which included several people who are now the bosses of their own crop of EAL/LA members.  In fact, my Executive Director and boss extraordinaire, Danielle Brazell, was involved in the original EAL/LA.  Others include Leslie Ito, Program Officer at California Community Foundation, who also served on the ELC, and Sofia Klatzker-Miller, Senior Advocacy and Development Manager at Los Angeles County Arts Commission.  EAL/LA was revitalized in 2006 by John Arroyo, who recently finished his own term on the National Council, and core EAL/LA member and Civic Art Project Manager at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Letitia Ivins is in her second year on the ELC.  Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles welcomes anyone who self-identifies as an emerging leader, regardless of age. Get involved by joining our Google Group or Facebook Page, and coming out to a meeting.


But back to the Winter Meeting.

Emerging Leaders Council 2011

As the group of 15 ELC members moved into a marathon annual planning session, we identified four overall goals to focus on for 2011/2012:

  • Audience Development: Growing the connections between AFTA, local networks and independent (non-network) emerging leaders.
  • Major Events: Advising AFTA on emerging leader involvement in its major events and in Creative Conversations, professional development events held by most Emerging Leader networks every October.
  • Resources for the Field: Creation and dissemination of resources for emerging leaders, including toolkits and the Emerging Leader blog.
  • Emerging Ideas: Seeking out exciting new ideas and strong young leaders, and sharing them with AFTA and the field.

All four are focused on the core principles of capacity/scalability (how much we could realistically accomplish), listening to the field, supporting innovation, and utilizing available resources to make the greatest impact.  We split into committees, and I chose the Audience Development committee.  

The committee discussed how the national council relates to local networks like EAL/LA.  Did local networks need us?  Did they know about us?  I really hadn't, before Letitia was elected in 2010, and until I got into the room with the rest of the Council I didn't have a good sense of what they did.  I came away from the meeting with a strong desire to ask my friends in EAL/LA and other Emerging Leader networks how the national council can help them fulfill their missions and extend services.  


AFTA rocks.  

Jay Dick, Americans for the Arts

Americans for the Arts is the nation's leading nonprofit for advancing the arts in America.  The affiliated Arts Action Fund, a separate 501(c)(4), is free to join and helps individuals make a major difference in federal and state arts policy.  

I was already a fan of the work they do, but it turns out the people are fantastic, too.  Stephanie Evans, Local Arts Agency Services Coordinator and the ELC liaison, and Mitch Menchaca, Director of Local Arts Advancement Services, were our guides throughout the weekend, both in the conference room and for our evenings out in DC.  Huge thanks to both, especially Stephanie, who does a ton of legwork throughout the year and during Winter Meeting for the ELC.  

Iwas able to meet with Jay Dick, Director of State and Local Government Affairs and an Arts for LA Board Member, on Friday morning.  We spoke about several California-centric policy issues and Mayor Antonio Villagraigosa's pending DC trip for the United States Conference of Mayors.  He kindly posed for a photo for me-- thank you, Jay!

Bob Lynch, President & CEO of AFTAOf course, a highlight of the time in DC was our conversation with Bob Lynch, AFTA's President and CEO.  Bob graciously sat with the ELC and answered our questions, and let us all cram into his office (from which you can see the White House through the winter DC trees along Vermont Avenue).  I asked Bob a question I think about a lot at Arts for LA: once you've hit a particular number of letters sent or actions taken by constituents, is that your new normal?  In other words: If we generate 4,000 letters in one campaign, do we need to hit 4,000 in the next?  His answer: Nope.  "I was told years ago that ten good letters from actual constituents of a policymaker is all it takes," he said, adding that elected officials know that every person who actually sends a letter represents quite a few more who feel the same way but don't necessarily take action.  

Mara Walker, AFTA's COO, and Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Executive Director of the Arts Action Fund, both were kind enough to spend time chatting with ELC members.  Mara sat in on several of the ELC sessions, listening to us drilling down on our plans for the year.  We also had a visit from Membership Marketing Coordinator Nora Koerner MacDonald, who spoke with the Council about getting emerging leaders involved in AFTA's programming. 

Huge thanks to all of you at AFTA, both for the kindness you showed to the ELC and your hard work year-round.


Emerging Arts LeadersSo let me know: Emerging Leaders and EAL/LA, what do you think?

If we set up a national conference call, what would you want to ask people from other networks?  
How do you feel about social networking opportunities for emerging leaders across the country?  
Are there resources or information you'd like to get from other emerging leaders, other networks, the national emerging leader council or AFTA?  
If you're an emerging leader and an AFTA member, have you taken advantage of their resources for Emerging Leaders?  

I hope those questions will be jumping-off points for fostering dialogue and resource-sharing between local and national emerging leaders groups.  Please use the comments section below to tell me what you think.  I'll share responses with my colleagues on the ELC and with Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles.  

By the way, we want you involved at EAL/LA.  We want your brains.  But not in a zombie way. We've just completed a strategic plan, and we're working on a new website and elected leadership structure that will help us expand our programming opportunities.  It's all-volunteer and a great way to network and get to know your peers.  If the first Emerging Leaders Los Angeles group is any indication, in ten years we'll still be working together... just with different titles.  



Camille in Washington DC


Camille Schenkkan is Arts for LA's Development & Operations Manager, and was recently elected to the National Emerging Leaders Council for Americans for the Arts.  This is her visiting President Obama at the White House.  Outside the fence.

The Chrysalis Blog features emerging arts leaders writing about their professional adventures.  Interested in submitting your own Chrysalis Blog post?  Email

Photos: The ELC on the move in DC; the entrance to the AFTA offices; ELC council members Emily Spruill Labows, Charles Jenson, David Seals and Camille Schenkkan; ELC council hard at work, AFTA Director of State and Local Government Affairs Jay Dick; AFTA President & CEO Bob Lynch; ELC members literally emerging, from an elevator; Camille Schenkkan.  Some photos courtesy Berkshire Creative and Helena Fruscio.

On the cusp of...something... :-)

Bravo Camille and Letitia for representing not only L.A., but the west coast!
I agree with Tara's comment re: ELers having little to no money to schlepp to a national convening. Perhaps the ELC could dabble with zoning it's chapters and allowing each "zone" (for lack of a better term at the moment) to convene between national meetings...and such zones should not be limited to geography, but could expand through other factors like population densities, length of activity in the EL network, etc.

We have something quite special here in L.A., but even more than that, (speaking for ourselves) we have an eager group of EALers that wants to CONNECT with our peers more often: on a larger scale.

I have heard that budget may be an issue, but it costs close to nothing (save time) to put together a cyber-location or to teleconference quarterly (perhaps?)

Imagine the possibilities...

~Kristin Runnels

Yay LA!

Although I'm currently living and working in the D.C. area, I'm so happy to see my hometown represented on the ELC. Yay LA! :)



Megan Pagado

Marketing & Events Manager, Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County

What to ask?


Camille, I echo your sentiment – 'THIS. IS. AWESOME.' We LA EL’ers have loads to be this enthusiastic about right now. Having both you and Letitia as our reps on ELC now is just one such exciting development. Our other development, which relates to the questions you posed, is our strategic planning process. As we all begin to re-envision EAL/LA and what we can do with it, it seems like the possibilities are endless. With that in mind, I’m interested in knowing what the other networks are up to. What do they do that’s great? What would they say has been one of the top resources/programs that they provide for their members? 

Kudos on the post. Very informative!

-Rebecca Nath


I just read something in a

I just read something in a post by Stephanie Evans that I didn't know: There's 32 local Emerging Leaders networks nationwide...WOW! I would have never guessed. I've only come up with like 9 in Google searches in the past.


I think that the ELs would be doing a service to their local members as well as encouraging nationwide connection-building if they each had links to the other EL networks nationwide on their websites. If this exists in some format already, please share a link, I'd love to have it included on the upcoming website for EAL/LA.

P.S. I'm being selfish in wanting to add this...mostly because linking to other sites similar to our own actually increases our own Search Ranking--specifically on Google and Bing but also on Yahoo! and others. I think that it's of benefit to all of us to be "searchable", nay, "goo-bing-ahoo-able!"

Jorge, right?

Pretty sure this was written by Jorge Fiffe, core member of EAL/LA.

Cross-city collaboration

I'm so glad we have 2 outstanding EAL/LA members on the ELC.  You guys rock!


I admit that I do have rather short-term and tunnel vision now, from being focused on the EAL/LA strategic planning process... but here are my ideas.


- I think it would be intensely helpful for two groups of ELs from two cities to be able to converse or mingle.  I think the group interactions would increase a sense of having a national network for ELs.  Then people with similar roles in their groups could chat how they fill their role, such as how to track the budget, how to recruit new members, etc.


It's great that there are EL-specific events at AFTA national conferences, but, realistically, how many young people working in the arts can afford the time and money to attend?  If two EL groups set up this kind of exchange (whether in person, video conference, etc.) it could drill deeper into operations and policies and include the social mingling ELs are so good at.


- Like Camille, I was aware of the national EL Council, but didn't really know what they did until members from my local EL chapter were part of it.  The blogs and toolkits are great, but I think the ELC could start to close the feeling of being distanced from local chapters by taking in more information, rather than just disseminating information or creating content.  Let all of the ELC members interact with all of the chapters-- I love Camille and Letitia, and would also love the chance to interact with other ELC members.


Sorry!  Wasn't signed into Arts for LA.  Didn:t mean tp post anonymously.


-Tara Scroggins

Great Synopsis!

Great synopsis Camille! I shared the rare VIP feeling of traveling to D.C. for not a convention, but a meeting. Was giddy and humbled at the same time. It was such a priveledge and much fun to peak "behind the scenes" at AFTA. What a gracious, open and knowledgable staff. There really was a spirit of listening on both ELC and AFTA staff end. I echo Camille. We want to reflect that spirit at theclocal level. Let us know if you have any questions, i.e. "So really break it down for us, what exactly are you doing on the Council?" or "How can you provide more access to EL discussions and resources given AFTA membership requirements?"


Viva AFTA, ELC and EAL/LA.




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