USITT's 21st Century
Sylvia Hillyard Pannell
USITT is looking forward to June 20, 2008 when McCarthy Arts Consulting (MAC) will present to the USITT 21st Century Task Force its final report. This report will include exciting plans for improvement and suggest manageable goals, strategic initiatives, and action items to pave the way to a brilliant 50th birthday and lead the organization into a robust new half-century.
The genesis of this external assessment of USITT was the Board of Directors Retreat in October 2006 entitled USITT in the 21st Century: Vital, Visible, Sustainable, Marketable, and Innovative. Concern for USITT's future brought together staff, contractors, and committee members, who developed White Papers calling for significant change for USITT as we strive to adjust our organization in ways that anticipate the transforming world and the resulting needs of our profession in the 21st Century.
A summit to consider the White Papers, in January 2007, determined that, while many of the ideas presented were not new, embracing them, for a variety of reasons, has eluded USITT. Thus, to move these valuable ideas forward and to help avoid that inevitable stumbling block, "That's the way we've always done it," the Summit participants recommended, and the Executive Committee concurred, that an external professional arts organization assessment would be useful. MAC was chosen to "provide a big picture perspective and solution-based strategies that allow non-profit arts and cultural organizations to clearly define and meet planning, research, and communication goals and objectives," in a year-long appraisal and future planning for USITT. Taskforce members are:
Bill Byrnes, Task Force Director, Dean of Fine Arts at Southern Utah University, Past President and Fellow of USITT, and author of Management and the Arts, a textbook widely used and now in the third edition.
Carol Carrigan, Administrative & Finance Manager, USITT
Carl Lefko, Chairperson and Professor, Department of Theatre and Cinema, Radford University and USITT VP Programming and President-Elect
Lea Asbell-Swanger, Assistant Director of the Center for the Performing Arts, Pennsylvania State University, USITT Management Vice-Commissioner for Programming and a member of USITT's Board of Directors
Tom Young, Vice President of Marketing for J.R. Clancy, Inc. and member of USITT's Finance Committee
Lawrence J. Hill, Professor Emeritus, Western Carolina University, Past Treasurer, Advancement Committee Chair, and Fellow of USITT
Travis DeCastro, B.F.A. Stage Management Program Head, School of Theatre, Pennsylvania State University; and USITT Treasurer
Sylvia Hillyard Pannell, Professor Emerita, University of Georgia and President, USITT
MAC is now eight months into an intense and comprehensive review and assessment of USITT. At the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Houston in March 2008, Kerry McCarthy and Helene Blieberg of McCarthy Arts Consulting, together with Task Force Director Byrnes and the Board of Directors discussed plans and directions that are emerging from their study of our organization which included researching USITT's nearly 50-year history, focus groups with frequent and occasional users, electronic surveys of members and lapsed members, an analysis of six comparable organizational models, and group and individual interviews with internal and external people engaged with USITT.
After much study and discussion, MAC and the Task Force evolved "The Bridge Model" -- a shift toward defining ourselves as the organization that provides the bridge between the education and entertainment industries. This model will provide a centerpiece for USITT as we strive for growth, improved efficiency, and relevance in this rapidly changing world. Highlights of the proposed Bridge Model follow:
The Bridge Model:
- Focus on how to create bridges to those segments of the industry where relationships aren't as strong as others.
- Create a position for a staff member to give executive direction toward an inclusive approach to the industry and to provide continuity and the public/external face, providing a bridge for the organization.
- Consider a strategically composed Board targeting representatives of all segments of the membership.
- Activate and energize Regional Sections by reinforcing the bridge to strengthen that connection.
- Target staff in the national office to travel to centers of the industry and work together with the Institute's volunteer leadership to become the bridge between education and the entertainment industry through robust programs with an increased external focus.
- Acknowledge the critical role of the volunteers and consider with great care how any shift in staff/volunteer/board responsibilities would be executed so as not to lose this, the Institute's most valuable asset.
- Seek a stronger balance in the membership to reinforce the bridge to the multiple sectors of the industry it serves, including diversity in all its forms.
- Programming in the new model will strengthen the bridge to those outside of the organization such as speakers and participants.
McCarthy Arts Consulting and USITT's 21st Century Task Force will meet again in June 2008 to study the final report, which will be forwarded to the USITT Board of Directors soon thereafter for consideration, and to make plans for implementation.
We are looking forward to a final mapping of strategic directions for USITT as we prepare to make courageous decisions, changes, and build new bridges to the community of theatre and entertainment designers and technologists of the 21st Century.