We asked the apprentices in nonprofit management to tell us more about themselves, their work, and their future plans. Here are one apprentice’s reflections on what the program has been like so far.
What attracted you to the apprentice program? Why are you doing the program?
I was immediately attracted to the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization; in shaping my post-graduation professional goals, I am committed to promoting social justice and engaging the ideas and needs of the community. It is important to me that I work for a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization, as I want to contribute to an entity that is socially responsible and that promotes an ethos of egalitarianism and of humanitarianism. Through the apprentice program, I am gaining skills in nonprofit management as well supporting (and connecting with) a community that, before this academic year, was largely unfamiliar to me.
What background or skills do you bring to the program?
I have focused my internship and professional development experiences in the nonprofit sector: Last summer, I worked as an intern at ACLU of Nebraska, and I worked as an intern for a nonprofit daycare in Lawrence, Kan. in 2010. These experiences have allowed me to learn about writing grants, working with different segments of the community, and adapting to the unpredictable environment that often characterizes such dynamic organizations. My academic focus in German language and literature, political science, and psychology has also strengthened by ability to communicate verbally and to collaborate with others.
What drew you to the Arts Council?
I was interested specifically in working with the Grinnell Area Arts Council because I believe that the promotion of the arts enlivens and enriches a community. The local arts center was also a very important part of my childhood: I spent countless hours in drama, dance, puppetry, and art classes, and I felt as though the arts center was like my second home. The presence of an arts center, as well as the local university’s galleries and performing arts programs, made me feel that I was never missing out on cultural experiences. Therefore, I grew up with the mindset that one can see world-class performances and feel creatively enriched in a midwestern town of under 100,000. I want to help bring this mindset to Grinnell by further developing art education opportunities and programming. I also want to bridge the gap between the town and the College’s art programs so that the community as a whole can share in creative pursuits.
What about the Arts Council’s mission inspires you?
I am passionate about promoting and developing the arts and other cultural activities, because a community that allows creativity to flourish is one that is more enriched, interconnected, and able to respond to change. I am consistently impressed with what the Arts Council sets out to accomplish: We work as an umbrella organization for various programs and activities, and it is an enormous undertaking to ensure that we are properly supporting so many different outlets for the arts.
What kinds of projects do you do?
My projects in the office vary widely: One of my primary projects has been taking on and setting into motion the new ArtBox program, a resource that brings volunteers to homebound individuals to do arts and crafts. I also update the website, communicate with the teachers and organizers of the different programs under the umbrella of the Arts Council, work to publicize gallery shows, and design the occasional poster or flyer. I am also beginning to develop a newsletter, including a feature that highlights individuals and the roles they play to promote the arts in Grinnell. My tasks can also be administrative — often, I work on updating spreadsheets, organizing enrollment information, assisting with the financial aspects of the organization, answering phones, and sending out mailings. On particularly exciting days, I have also filled in as an art teacher (or as an assistant to the art teacher) for the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade after-school arts program (Arts Academy).
What kinds of skills have you been learning?
The apprenticeship has, first and foremost, taught me to be flexible, since every day has a different rhythm and I work on such a variety of tasks. My work here has certainly strengthened my communication skills, both written and oral. I am always speaking or collaborating with different people: my director, the director of the artist residency, gallery artists, six-year-old art students, parents, or members of the College. When I come up with new ideas for improving programming, I am always seeking to establish or improve connections with members of the community so that I can realize these ideas. Working with the administrative aspects of the office has also sharpened my skills with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Publisher. Since our office oversees so many different programs, I am learning how to help balance and organize several entities.
The Impact Her Apprenticeship Has Had on Her
How has having a close working relationship with your director impacted you and your future education plans?
Working with Judy Arendt has given me great admiration for her ability to collaborate and network with so many individuals in order to oversee several programs. My work with the Arts Council certainly increases my commitment to work in the nonprofit sector—although I am still unsure of what that work will be.
I can’t say that the apprenticeship has made my future education plans any more concrete. As a second-year student, I am at a point in my undergraduate education where I am figuring out my academic trajectory and where my true passions are really only beginning to crystallize. I am unsure, however, whether I want to continue on to graduate school for a Ph.D. or to law school, or whether I should enter the workforce before seeking a higher degree.
Working for a nonprofit organization is truly meaningful to me, and it has been very satisfying to know that I can be involved in the community of Grinnell as a whole, not simply just that of the College. On my first full day of work at the arts center, one of my first projects was helping the artists in residency install their art pieces in the gallery. I remember being so excited as I thought to myself: I am helping to make art happen.
How has the apprenticeship program changed your perception of Grinnell? Nonprofit work? Your future?
Prior to my apprenticeship, I had very little perspective on the scope and role of nonprofits in Grinnell. Working with my fellow apprentices has allowed me to see how interconnected these organizations are within the community, and it is very satisfying to see distinct organizations work together because their fundamental values and goals are very much the same.
I have a broad array of interests, so my career goals are unclear, but this apprenticeship solidifies my commitment to nonprofits. Also, the diverse set of skills I am learning with the Arts Council will equip me for a variety of roles in the future. This is a valuable asset in a constantly fluctuating job market.
I am truly grateful for the opportunities that my work at the arts center has provided: I have developed professionally, made connections with members of the community, and learned about the town of Grinnell as a whole. It is also such a joy to see children every day engage in art during Arts Academy.