Photo credit: Conference attendee

I recently had the honor to again participate as a “visionary thought leader” at the SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge, which was held the first week in June at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

This pioneering and revolutionary professional development program for performing and visual artists, as well as arts administrators, helps the participants become better entrepreneurs, collaborators and change agents. The program is the brainchild of David Cutler, professor, author, consultant, musician and entrepreneur. With the assistance of David and the thought leaders, the participants received an experiential education and valuable tools to help them cultivate transferrable skills applicable to arts careers and arts institutions; nontraditional connections, insights into creating community impact, and empowerment to build a diverse network of resources.

This year, I was excited to bring with me five arts-centered people whom I’ve been mentoring. “My SAVVY 5” are not only among the most talented people I know, but they are also committed to using their work to help change the world! They joined 70 more of the country’s brightest artists, arts administrators and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds—including race, ethnicity, gender, geography, religious beliefs and life experiences—attending SAVVY and it was an extraordinary conference!

I want to thank “My SAVVY 5” for attending and for their 100-percent participation. In an era where there are still limited opportunities for People of Color in the arts—especially on the administrative side—my raison d’etre includes my commitment to their success and helping them cultivate the leadership skills they need to thrive! I also want the readers of Arts & Culture Connections to know about them, so that you can keep your eye out for what I know will be a meteoric rise:

 Alicia Evans/Fiber Artist: I have known Alicia for many years through her work in public relations. But she is also an amazing visual artist, designing and crafting artworks from crochet. Most recently, she added medical actor working in hospitals to her repertoire. (I had never heard of this field until Alicia told me about it.)

Brittany Henderson/Vocalist: A recipient of the New Jersey Governor’s Award for Arts Education as a high school student, Brittany has a bold sound and a big life. We first met when she was a college student in Newark, NJ. She is determined to take her SAVVY skills to expand upon traditional thoughts about and the experiences of a vocal artist.

Joyous Pierce/Curator and Administrative Director: Although I’ve known Joyous less than one year, her reputation precedes her. She is part of the Harlem Arts leadership community and serves as Administrative Director of Programs for the Harlem Arts Alliance. She is known for her strategic approach and planning.

 Shenika John Jordan/Vocalist and Performance Arts Administrator: Shenika is a classically trained singer and a very smart arts administrator. Her tremendous work ethic and quest for excellence has made her a sought-after performance arts administrator. At the SAVVY conference, she received the “most positive personality award,” and she truly has a bright and dynamic spirit!

 Christopher Anderson/Assistant Marketing Director: Christopher has a bright smile and a determined demeanor that instills confidence that he will get the job done. As the Assistant Marketing Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center, Christopher was the steady voice in the room. He presented for his group on the final day and demonstrated confidence and knowledge that was extremely gratifying to witness.

I believe “My SAVVY 5” will change the world—not from a mountaintop, but rather from the ground up. They each will make tremendous contributions to the arts and provide access to an even broader audience because they are smart, poised, holistic-minded, committed and open to diverse ideas. I am proud of them, as well as proud of all of the attendees at the SAVVY conference.

I hope my sharing information about “My SAVVY 5” will inspire you to share your knowledge, insights, experience, challenges and growing pains with five artists/arts administrators of color in order to ensure that the future of the arts is as diverse as our nation’s population.