As BSA’s Strategic Planning Committee worked to answer the question “What do our kids need to become thriving adults?” and discussed where to find the vision, the wisdom and the experience that would lead us to meaningful answers, we consulted several main sources – BSA alumni, national surveys of arts alumni, artists who did not attend BSA, innovative post-secondary school leaders, and loads of written materials.
We looked to alumni who are living the life of professionals—in the arts and in other fields. They are able to see clearly what BSA provided to them, as well as what went unsaid while here. They were a very valuable resource. We were able to gather information from them in different ways.
- At our 35th Anniversary celebration last fall, about 20 alumni gave short talks to our current students about their work and how they prepared themselves for that work.
- In a panel discussion, 12 alums responded to specific questions about how BSA helped them prepare for their current professional life and what BSA might have missed in that preparation.
- BSA students conducted structured interviews of pairs of alumni as part of an oral history project and reported those results to the Strategic Planning Committee.
- BSA staff also spoke individually to many alumni about their lives and their work.
BSA also participates in the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, the largest Arts Alumni survey in the U.S. We’re able to look at the responses of BSA alumni as well as the responses of more than 100,000 other arts graduates over a very wide range of questions.
All of these conversations were fascinating, helpful and not a little surprising. For example, who would have thought that an alum working in the film industry combined her interest in environmental sustainability to create a business to provide product placement in films of “green” products? Or, who would have thought that several of our professional theatre alumni would find lucrative work in helping business people in their presentation skills?
All of this rich information helps us understand today’s professional landscape and helps us think about preparing our graduates to thrive in it.
We also talked to young artists who didn’t attend BSA. What kind of work do they do and what skills are necessary—artistic and otherwise?
Finally we talked to innovative leaders of post-secondary schools. What trends in do they notice in the careers of artists and what will they be doing to maximize the effectiveness of their programs? And what do they notice about BSA grads in their schools?
There was also a lot of reading—reading about creativity, about the creative workforce, about trends in the creative economy and about the myriad effects of technology on the arts.
The interesting thing about this process was the convergence of experience of the present and opinion about the future. Many of our interviewees noted similar experiences and the great thinkers we consulted had similar ideas about how artists will work in the future. Our interviewees believe that artistic practice will be increasingly
- Involved with technology
- Artists will do more work independent of large artistic organizations
They also talked about the almost blinding rate of change. MICA President Samuel Hoi had a shocking fact for us to consider: 65% of the jobs that students under 18 will have don’t even exist yet. 65%!
So, if we don’t know these specifics of the jobs or the expectations our kids will face, how can we prepare our students for the future? By focusing on goals, skills and values that will help our students address the identified trends and the unknown specifics of that future.
I am excited about where all of these talks led us, and about the future for our students. I hope you will take a look at BSA’s Strategic Plan (click here), the result of all of this input from so many thoughtful, talented and successful working professionals.
More soon as implementation gets underway!