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This is an archived post from our old blog. It's here for the sake of posterity (and to keep the search engines happy). Our new blog can be found at

Never Stop Learning (A Challenge to Get Your Ass to Class)

(Win a ticket to the IAA Global Marketing Summit this April in NYC by commenting on this post! Scroll down for details…)

Hey, remember college? Your primary responsibilities included keg party attendance, trying to land an unpaid internship, and considerately scheduling dorm room makeouts around your roommate. Oh right, and learning.

Professional life is, admittedly, quite different: cocktail party attendance, trying to land an underpaid job, and (for most:) considerably less making out.  Alright, so it's not all that different.

So why do we give ourselves a free pass to stop developing our skills after school? Is on-the-job learning enough?

Contrary to popular belief, those of us in administration have something vital to learn from performers: you must constantly develop your craft.

Why is it that actors, singers, and dancers feel a horrible lack when they’ve been out of scene study, voice lessons, or any other craft class for more than a few months, and yet the rest of us feel our knowledge is sufficiently supplemented by reading a blog post every other week (ahem)?

Artists and arts administrators are terribly guilty of living and working in a self-constructed industry bubble. But how can we expect to make progress, build new audiences, create community-relevant work, and extend our reach without venturing out of the tried and occasionally true?

It’s vital that the entrepreneurial artistic spirit be fed well and often with new knowledge and awareness of what’s going on both inside and outside of arts and entertainment. Think of yourself as an athlete (there she goes again with the sports analogy) – to be great at your sport, you must train constantly, and the best professionals train not just in their chosen field but in surrounding practices to keep all their muscles in shape and ready for peak performance.

It's never too late - or too early - to build continued learning into your professional path.  Resist the allure of the "maybe I should get an MFA/MBA/JD" and create your own through a custom blend of workshops, conferences, reading, networking events, and one-on-ones with new contacts (resource links below).

> Check out Fractured Atlas’s posts from the SXSW Interactive Conference

One of my don't-miss annual conferences is the International Advertising Association’s Global Marketing Summit. That’s right, advertising, not arts. Let’s face it, our industry isn’t exactly leading the field in marketing innovation, so it’s vital that those of us interested in developing audiences and profitable projects borrow from the wisdom of other industries. At this conference alone I’ve learned best practices from the insiders at Facebook and YouTube, met valuable contacts, and become aware of trends that can transform the ways my clients approach their entire marketing strategy.

My spring challenge to you is this: commit to a conference, class, workshop, seminar webinar, or even just reading that business book that’s still sitting in its Amazon box. Take notes throughout on how what you’re learning can apply to what you’re doing on the ground – I guarantee you’ll come away with fresh ideas and new ways to approach your work.

*The IAA Global Marketing Summit is April 15 in New York City – one lucky commenter on this post will win a spot at my table (a $450 value). Simply post your favorite class, conference, book, or other clever way to stay on top of your craft by April 1.

More learning resources…

Ciara’s Recommended Reads


You’ve Cott Mail – the must-read daily for any arts professional

MediaBistro – media-oriented classes and workshops

Small Business Trends – free advice & webinars

Arts Conferences

Performing Arts Conferences

Free SBA Online Courses