To build awareness of the unique challenges involved in developing sustainable and effective dual leadership structures, TCG, Dance/USA, the national service organization for dance, and the Institute for Cultural Policy and Practice at Virginia Tech developed a program for artistic and managing theatre and dance leaders. Topics addressed included: building leadership as an institutional capacity, increasing organizational cohesion and adaptability, establishing and maintaining a culture of trust and managing the tension between artistic vitality and organizational sustainability.
In response to the need for human resources training and professional development opportunities for managers and artists who manage personnel, TCG partnered with Target Corporation for eleven years to create, Expanding the Theatre Manager's Repertoire, a human resources training program. Building on Target's own human resources training methods, which exemplify the best practices in the corporate sector, this program gave theatre professionals the opportunity to step back from day-to-day demands and let them explore best practices and management principles. Topics addressed included: coaching and development, managing conflict, influencing others and mastering the change curve.
Field Conversations was a listening initiative funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation. TCG conducted Field Conversations in 2010, 2006 and 1999. TCG gathered listening research through Round Tables, Town Halls and Surveys. Each of the three sets of Field Conversations had its own set of issues, its own tone and its own dynamics. There was no attempt to reach consensus on any particular issue. TCG’s goal was to listen to the field, synthesize the findings and report back to its members.
During the 2000 summer, Theatre Communications Group, supported by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, convened literary, financial and production managers, as well as development, education and marketing directors focus groups. These groups assessed the challenges confronting their unique professions, their institutions and institutional theatres at large. TCG sought to reach out beyond artistic and managing directors to develop a more comprehensive and detailed awareness of field activity.
Leadership for Artistic Directors was developed by National Arts Strategies and was presented jointly by TCG and Dance/USA. This program was designed for the existing or prospective artistic director who wanted to understand more clearly the organizational leadership responsibilities of the position. Topics addressed included: functions of leadership, positioning, managing relationships, organizational culture and leadership in action.
Leadership Teleconferences are offered throughout the year featuring presentations and moderated panel conversations by experts in and outside of the field who give their unique perspective on a topic. Participants have an opportunity to hear challenges, strategies and solutions that affect the field, and to engage in question and answer sessions. Past Leadership Teleconferences have focused on topics including the economy, generating contributed income, using social media, navigating the visa process and organizational risk-taking.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the New Artistic Leader Institute’s goal was to help orient new and prospective artistic directors to the non-artistic aspects of leading a theatre. Topics addressed included: audience development, community relations, personnel management, working with a board of directors, relationships with managing directors and financial management. The meetings were open to first-time artistic directors who had been in their positions for no more than three years.
Generously funded by the MetLife Foundation, the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF)Professional Development Program was a two-year initiative to strengthen the nation's leading arts and cultural organizations. NFF provided members of TCG, Dance/USA, and the League of American Orchestras with financial guidance, tools, training, and support to address the challenges precipitated by the economic downturn. The services offered were customized based upon need and included webinars, workshops, and “office hours” for free consultations.
TCG and Theatre Puget Sound collaborated on an intensive media/advocacy training workshop at the APASO (Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations) conference. The media training focused on the basics of speaking with the media, framing and messaging, spokesperson skills, strategic media planning and general promotion. The workshop’s goal was to provide participants with concrete tools and tactics for influencing public debate through the media regarding important issues for theatres.
In 1995, TCG executive director Peter Zeisler and director of artistic programs Fran Kumin reached out to a variety of artists, inviting them to reexamine many of the issues first raised in The Artistic Home, a 1988 TCG report that served as the impetus for the National Theatre Artist Residency Program. Generously funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Tarrytown Symposiums were a series of breakout sessions, open mic sessions and other gatherings that addressed a variety of issues facing the future of not-for-profit theatre.
The TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp offered a two-day leadership development program that brought together Established and Emerging Theatre Leader pairs. This workshop fostered intergenerational dialogue, explored effective methods of communication, increased participants’ self-awareness for personal and professional growth and aligned vision with strategy.
Theatre Professionals Teleconferences are held each year on a rotating basis for groups of theatre leaders and staff. Moderated by experienced professionals from the field, these series offer geographically separated theatre professionals the opportunity to share information and ideas and to work with peers to find solutions to common problems.
TCG conducted retreats in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003 at White Oak Plantation in Yulee, Florida. The Howard Gilman Foundation runs the White Oak Plantation and Conservation Center which consists of 7,400 acres of woodlands on the banks of the St. Mary's River, 30 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida. White Oak Plantation provides varied meeting facilities in a bucolic setting. This atmosphere creates a unique space for reflection and growth, strategic and analytical thinking and development and implementation of new ideas.