News from the Arts Administration Graduate Program
                                        Top   Spring 2014
In This Issue
Welcome from the Editor and Program Directors 
ArtsLine Editor

Cara Scharf, Graduate Assistant

Editor's Letter


Spring quarter, and my time as ArtsLine editor, is nearly over. This has been a wonderful experience--I've learned how our faculty contribute to the field through research and participation in conferences, how students contribute to the field through their theses and careers, and how the field overall is growing and changing to adapt to political, economic, and societal pressures. 


Perhaps one of the most important lessons I've learned is that challenging the status quo is critical to moving forward. In my first issue of ArtsLine, I asked alumni and other prominent players to talk about the challenges they faced in their work. In the second issue, I wrote about forward-thinking leaders in the areas of management, entrepreneurialism, and advocacy.


In this last issue of the 2013-14 academic year, I am excited to focus on alternative ways the arts can produce value for individuals and society. You'll read a recap of Alan Brown's campus visit, when the renowned arts researcher and consultant shared his thoughts on the intrinsic benefits of arts attendance and how to build demand. There is also a Q&A with Americans for the Arts' Senior Director of Arts Policy and program alum Marete Wester, who makes sure the arts are part of important policy discussions in the U.S. and abroad. Another article is about the New Brooklyn Theater and art for social change, which is when the power of the arts is used to create lasting change around societal issues. Along with these articles, you'll find contributions from my fellow students about the experience of attending Arts Advocacy Day and the state of the San Diego Opera.


Thank you so much for taking this journey with me. I'll be around through the end of this quarter mid-June, so, as always, don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments about what you read in ArtsLine! It's been a pleasure.



Cara Scharf


Arts Administration Faculty

Julie Hawkins,  Campus Program Director

Jean Brody, Online Program Director 
Neville Vakharia, Assistant Professor & Research Director

Andrew Zitcer, Assistant Teaching Professor & Thesis Director
Program Directors' Letter

Dear ArtsLine Readers:

It's been an incredibly lively Spring term, with more to come as we write this letter, and lots to look forward to this summer. The arts community in Philadelphia and at Drexel has more to offer than any of us can keep up with, and as faculty we continue to enjoy being involved in a wide array of teaching, research, and arts-related activity. We also continue to be impressed with your work in our classes and as leaders in our arts community. Here's a brief look at what we've all been up to recently, and some of what's coming up in the near future.
  • Many of our Arts Administration students have participated in National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. This year, on April 22, Arts Admin campus program director Julie Hawkins helped to lead the charge for the first Philly Arts Advocacy Day, an effort to increase city support for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. The campaign began online and culminated in presentations by Julie, Michael Norris, and other advocates to City Council, as well as arts demonstrations throughout City Hall. You can see pictures and video here.
  • Please join us in congratulating Online AADM students Wayne Petro, Ed Estrada, and Danni Rumsey for winning the Academic Excellence Award for 2014. This award is given out annually to the three students in the online Arts Administration program with the highest GPA. Candidates must have completed at least 24 credits and be active students to be eligible. These three students have all maintained a straight 4.0 for their entire time in the program. Anyone who has taken an online class knows how demanding a pace we set. All of our students manage their commitments to work and graduate school, and to their communities, and some of you are also raising children at the same time! So this level of sustained excellence is truly an accomplishment. Congratulations, Wayne, Ed and Danni!
  • On April 28 and 29, the program was pleased to host a 2-day visit by renowned researcher Alan Brown.  Brown's visit was sponsored by the Rankin Scholar-in-Residence program, and hosted by Jean Brody and Neville Vakharia. Brown presented some of his recent research in a public event that drew luminaries from Philadelphia's cultural community, as well as Drexel students, faculty and staff. You can view photos of the event on the AAGA blog. In addition to this public event, Brown held a master class for a select group of AADM students, met one on one with several students, and also met separately with program and department faculty to discuss trends in the field and potential research collaborations between his firm and Drexel's programs. These thoughtful conversations will bear fruit for some time into the future, as we consider the ideas generated during this visit. You can read more about WolfBrown here, along with many of Alan's publications.  
  • All of the AADM faculty congratulate the new slate of AAGA officers, which for the first time includes an online student, Olivia Morton. We look forward to working closely with all of you next year. Congratulations to incoming President Brittnie Knight, Vice President Mike Tanis, Advocacy Director Cara Scharf, Communications Director Olivia Morton, and Events Director Naima Murphy.
  • And congratulations and a big Thank You go out to our phenomenal outgoing board: President Michelle Baxter, Vice President Morgan Gengo, Events Director Kristine Medley Farmer, Advocacy Director Asim Naqvi, and Communications Director Moriah Shtull. Thanks also to Neville Vakharia for being such a dedicated faculty advisor to the AAGA.
  • PAR - What Is PAR? You may have heard about this process already, which your full-time faculty have already gotten started on, and will continue through next year. PAR stands for Program Alignment and Review, and it is Drexel's internal self-assessment process. Following a 7-year cycle, all programs and departments within the university are engaging in an extensive review process, and this coming year it will be our turn. Julie, Jean, Neville and Andrew have already begun to meet to review where the program has been in the past, where we believe we are now, and where we think we have the potential to go in the future. The alumni survey that some of you participated in was part of our information-gathering process, and we'll be looking for additional input from all of you and from other stakeholders in our program such as adjunct faculty and our local cultural community. Your response was fantastic: 120 alumni and current students participated in this survey, including 25% from the online program. Thanks to all of you who volunteered to provide additional feedback through focus groups - stay tuned next year!
  • Research Activity:
    • All of our Arts Administration faculty will be travelling to Montreal at the end of May to attend and present at the annual conference of the Association of Arts Administration Educators. Arts administration alum Amy Scheidegger will also be attending the conference.
    • Along with the convenings and presentations, the association will be considering a new draft of the Graduate Standards in Arts Administration, a set of curricular guidelines for all arts administration programs, written in part by Dr. Jean Brody.
    • Director of Research Neville Vakharia has been awarded a two-year, $93,500 research grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS is the federal agency dedicated to innovation, learning, and engagement through museums and libraries.  Through this grant, Neville will undertake national data collection and analysis, develop new web and mobile technologies, and create educational materials.  He will be able to hire graduate students from our program and others and collaborate with faculty who can bring specific expertise to this work. According to Drexel's Office of Research, this is the first IMLS grant for Westphal College.
    • This summer Julie, Andrew, and Neville will release a report on their community research project, conducted over the past year with the support of students from the program and across the University. The report takes a look at the cultural assets of the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to Drexel, seeking to understand how they can best be supported to benefit the neighborhoods' residents and the civic life of the community.
    • Andrew Zitcer has been knee-deep in data collection and writing on a number of interesting research projects. In addition to working on a final report with Julie and Neville on their research into arts and culture in the neighborhoods surrounding Drexel, Andrew has conducted over 50 in-depth interviews on a project to study community based acupuncture clinics and a collectively managed Philadelphia dance company.
Enjoy summer--ArtsLine will be back in the fall.

Dr. Jean Brody

Julie Hawkins


Theater For Social Change: New Brooklyn Theater Company and The Death of Bessie Smith, by Cara ScharfNewBrooklyn

New Brooklyn Theater Actors Jamyl Dobson and James Patrick Nelson in The Death of Bessie Smith. Photo: Kristina Williamson. 

A hospital is an unlikely venue for a theater production. For the New Brooklyn Theater, however, there was no more appropriate place to stage a production of Edward Albee's The Death of Bessie Smith than Brooklyn's Interfaith Hospital. The hospital was in danger of being shut down in January and the play, about an African American jazz singer in the 1930's who dies after being denied treatment in a whites-only hospital, addressed many of the situation's looming issues.  


This production, and most of New Brooklyn Theater's work, falls under the realm of "art for social change," a movement that uses art to explore and alleviate societal ills such as poverty, crime, inequality, and marginalization.


"Theater creates a common vocabulary for conversations," says New Brooklyn Theater's artistic director Jonathan Solari. "Without Albee's play to ground everyone, I don't think the conversations that happened during our talkbacks would have happened."


New Brooklyn Theater was originally founded to restore and take up residence in Brooklyn's historic Slave Theater. After realizing that acquiring an aging building was not going to be fast or easy, Solari turned his attention to building the company up through cause-based productions such as The Death of Bessie Smith.


Solari's foray into theater for social change began in high school, when he used a theater production to successfully convince the school's administration to hire back a director they had fired due to a false accusation from a student. This convinced Solari that theater could effect change, and he's been working toward this goal ever since.


The idea for the Interfaith production started with a board member who had been active in the fight to save the Long Island College Hospital, which was also in danger of being closed down. Solari got involved in rallies to save both hospitals, but after reading The Death of Bessie Smith, he knew it was a perfect opportunity to use theater to supplement the community's activism.


"I can't speak to any type of formula or approach to my productions, but when you sit with an issue that you care about long enough, you'll find a story for it," says Solari. "There are so many playwrights who addressed issues in their time and, unfortunately, humanity hasn't changed much."


New Brooklyn Theater Artistic Director Jonathan Solari. Photo: Sarah Wolff. 

The hospital was eager to work with New Brooklyn and audiences and the media were eager to attend. The show was set to run from January 9th to January 19th, the day the hospital was scheduled to close. Luckily, the governor gave the hospital a lifeline, which extended its operations. The show ultimately stayed open until February 9th.


Solari is hesitant to credit his show with keeping Interfaith's doors open, at least for a little while. "It's hard to gauge impact for this or any show," Solari says. "You don't know what people are thinking when they leave. The beauty of our work is that it's ephemeral."


New Brooklyn is still working toward a home in the Slave Theater; it would be used as a home base to explore larger issues in theater and bring theater for social change from other areas of the world to a New York audience.


"I want to expose as many people as I can to the world around us through theater," says Solari. "In a city of 8 million, there are enough active minds to be engaged in these worthy causes." 


Alan Brown speaks at Drexel about Building Demand for the Arts, by Laura SanckenAlanBrown

In the life of an arts administration graduate student, it's not uncommon to get "weak-in-the-knees" when a distinguished arts researcher emerges from behind the veil of his papers to be physically present in the same room as you and 150 leaders of the Philadelphia cultural community. This is precisely what occurred on the evening of April 28, when Alan Brown, a renowned arts research consultant at WolfBrown, joined us in the URBN Annex Screening Room to discuss "Building Demand for the Arts."


Increasing participation and interest in the arts is first and foremost in the minds of arts administration students and practitioners, though the field has not yet settled on a common language with which to talk about developing audiences. Brown introduced his language of "building demand"--which encompasses all activities that attract new and existing audiences to attend, participate, and engage more deeply with the arts. During his presentation, Brown shared examples of how real arts organizations are creating new methods to build demand, something he will study in a seven-year research project with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Brown emphasized that his research repeatedly emphasizes that audience demographics are a direct reflection of the type of performance or exhibit offered.  As a result, he challenged us to think about our own experiences and organizations; if we wish to engage new audiences, how can we rethink the way we present art?


"Innovation" was a theme in Brown's participatory lecture. In today's world dominated by social media and online interest groups, what can the arts borrow from their success? First, we should consider "taste communities," or what Brown describes as the affinity-based networks to which we belong. Can the arts market directly to or curate targeted experiences for a particular taste community? In addition, Brown introduced the online sales technique called "preference discovery," suggesting items the buyer didn't know they wanted or needed, as a transferrable marketing technique in the arts. How can we make an audience member, who never thought she liked Beethoven, discover a preference for the composer and buy tickets to his Fifth Symphony? While these exciting, large-scale ideas open a realm of possibility, Brown reminded us that engaging new audiences is a long-term, incremental process. 


As the audience filed out of the screening room, I heard thoughtful discussion and ideas floating through the reception space. I am hopeful that Alan Brown's lecture will inspire those in the audience to take risks, experiment with artistic programming or presentation, and emphasize innovation as the key to our industry's success.

For more pictures and a video from the event, check out the Arts Administration Graduate Association blog


Sancken, currently in the program, works as Associate Director of Annual Giving for Alumni and Friends at the Curtis Institute of Music. 

Field Spotlight: San Diego Opera at a Crossroads, by Sarah Johnson

The struggles of two large opera companies have made news lately. First, the New York City Opera announced back in October 2013 that it was closing and filing for bankruptcy. More recently, news that the San Diego Opera was shutting down created new concerns about the future of the art form in America (for instance, see this broadcast from NPR affiliate WBUR in Boston, titled Is Opera in America In Peril?). Opera companies at home and abroad have a long-standing tradition of producing the finest quality work for audiences, both visually and aurally. But many don't realize that along with world-class productions come hefty production costs, which are hard to recover given declines in ticket sales.


The San Diego Opera case illustrates challenges in fundraising and board relations. After 49 seasons, the opera company found itself with severe deficits and the Board of Directors was divided over whether to throw in the towel. Those who were for the dissolution of the company cited decreasing donations and ticket sales, as well as a desire to end the company in a dignified way and then pay back creditors. More than half of the Board resigned between March and April, causing a firestorm within the opera and arts community. The shutdown vote of 33 to 1 in March was a surprise to constituents as there was no suggestion that this 10th-largest opera company (by budget size) was in danger of folding. Ian Campbell, the General Director and Artistic Director, and his wife, Ann Spira-Campbell, a top administrator at the company, backed the board on this decision and have now been given paid leave.


On April 17th, San Diego called a Town Hall to discuss the fate of San Diego Opera. Marc Scorca, CEO and President of Opera America, and David Devan, General Director of Opera Philadelphia and board member of Opera America, were called to speak at the event. Now, the San Diego Arts Commission is urging City Council to continue to support the opera, and fundraising initiatives have been made through crowdfunding. On May 5th, 200 members of the San Diego Opera Association, an advisory group to the company, voted to prohibit selling the company's assets, which include costumes, sets, and property. Previous board members were in favor of selling the assets to increase revenue in conjunction with shutting the organization down.


As of May 22nd, the opera is not slated to close and, according to the Save San Diego Opera website, it has raised nearly $2.2 million and announced a 50th season for 2015. Carol Lazier, who has acted as President of the Board since previous President Karen Cohn's resignation in March, pledged $1 million towards the company's rescue, and Opera America and other organizations around the country have rallied support for and provided financial assistance to San Diego Opera. More information on the Save San Diego Opera campaign can be found at


The LA Times recently announced that the state will audit the opera company, which could be a blow to its current fundraising efforts and consumer confidence. It remains to be seen whether the San Diego Opera can keep the momentum going, and if they can develop strategies for sustainability going forward. Surely whatever happens will be closely watched by the arts world and regarded as a situation that is both cautionary and influential. 


Johnson is Donor Services Coordinator at Opera Philadelphia and a current Arts Administration graduate student. 

Working in Arts Policy: Q&A with Americans for the Arts' Marete WesterMarete

Marete Wester's professional journey started in the mid-80s with a Masters in Arts Administration from Drexel University and landed her at national arts service organization Americans for the Arts in 2006. As Senior Director of Arts Policy, Wester brings the voice of the arts field to policy discussions nationwide. This means cultivating partnerships and convening meetings with a diverse group of organizations to show how the arts play a role in quality-of-life issues such as the environment and education. One recent example of her work is the National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military, which works to expand access to and research on the arts as effective tools in the care of service members. I spoke with Marete about her work and experience in Drexel's program. 


What is your typical day like?                                                          

I always have a lot of emails and phone messages to go through, but I also travel out of the office a lot. The exciting thing about my work is that it involves making connections between Americans for the Arts and other groups, to advance the arts as a part of the solution to larger societal and quality of life issues. I spend most of my time building those kinds of relationships.


How is your work related to advocacy?

Americans for the Arts' Research and Policy Department is fundamental to our advocacy. We contribute to the Arts Advocacy Day position statements, produce the one-page Arts Facts and provide customized Creative Industries reports for every Congressional district. Feedback from the field and our partners drives the issues we focus on.


How does your work relate back to art and artists?

We are in the business of creating a sustainable environment for art and artists to flourish. My colleagues and I work to enhance the structures that allow people and communities to access artists' work. We believe the arts are an important part of everyone's lives. We give advocates the tools to make the case for the arts to federal, state, and local elected officials for why funds are necessary.


How did you end up at Drexel and then in public policy?

I trained in piano performance in undergrad but I injured my wrist, putting a crimp in my performance career. I saw Drexel's program as a catalyst to involving myself in music in a different way, such as working for a symphony. I was fortunate to be a graduate assistant to Ed Arian (creator of the Arts Administration program in 1973). He was a radical pioneer in so many ways, and the Drexel Arts Administration program reflected that. Beyond the standard arts and business topics, he made sure we were in tune with cultural policy and community cultural development. He made me interested in how the arts ecosystem works, what influences it, and why it is important to be a knowledgeable advocate as well as a competent administrator.


What trends was Drexel talking about in the mid-80s?

One major debate was the impact of "new technology" such as VCRs and cable TV. Some arts professionals said that these technologies would destroy the market for live audiences because people would just sit in their homes. Obviously that did not happen! But the explosion of technology over the years has definitely influenced the marketing expectations of arts administrators as profoundly as it has influenced art-making. Subscription programs and a mailer are not enough anymore; we need to think creatively about how we use technology to engage audiences and demonstrate our value.


What was your thesis topic?

I interned with a contemporary, artist-run music organization called Relache. I loved the administrators, composers and musicians there because they were not only pushing the boundaries of the art form, they were doing it in a city that housed the oldest and longest-running "establishment" music institution-the Philadelphia Orchestra! I wrote a business analysis and case for Relache's potential future direction and management structure post-founder involvement and examined how organizations move forward while still focusing on artists.


Learn more about arts policy and the work of Americans for the Arts here.

The Arts Advocacy Day Experience, by Alice Anne Dolbin

Drexel arts admin students pose at the Kennedy Center after the Nancy Hanks Lecture.

I was up before daylight, a rare occurrence for this full-time graduate student. I put on a very professional outfit and even used a lint roller on every inch of it. Needless to say, I was excited for my first ever Arts Advocacy Day.  


The two-day event started Monday, March 24th with an orientation by host Americans for the Arts at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest Washington, DC. When I arrived, I registered, grabbed a much-needed coffee, and took my seat at one of the tables designated for the advocates from Pennsylvania. Many of my fellow classmates were there representing Pennsylvania, but also New Jersey, Ohio, and Michigan. 


That day we were briefed on bills affecting our industry and we viewed mock advocacy meetings. Then we broke out into workshops that we were able to choose based on our specific interests or background. I participated in two sessions about tax law in the arts. Finally we met with Jenny Hershour, executive director of Pennsylvania Citizens for the Arts, who briefed us on how our congressional meetings would work the next day.


After the long day we had a chance to rest and then went to the fabulous Nancy Hanks lecture given by Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist. Irish dancers and musicians opened the ceremony, and then who, you ask, introduced our lovely orator? Why, yes, it was the beloved Y chromosome (played brilliantly by Mr. Alec Baldwin).


The next morning we scuttled to Capitol Hill and stood in a long security line to enter the Canon House Office building for the kick-off breakfast. Key political stakeholders, Alec Baldwin, advocates from various states, and press all filled the room. Then everyone went to start advocating! I was nervous, but we had a plan and our congressional handbooks provided by Americans for the Arts. Our job was to use those tools and articulate our story of how impactful the arts are for each of us. 


I first met with a staffer from PA Senator Toomey's office. Later I met with Congressman Cartwright; he is the representative for my hometown district, so this meeting was very meaningful to me. It went fabulously--he expressed his admiration for the arts to us (I was there with Jenny Hershour and a fellow student Cara Scharf) and even recited a poem.


All in all, Arts Advocacy Day was enlightening. I realized that our government works for us, and we should never be afraid to speak up and let them know what we want.  We should write, email, and visit them in person. However, we should make sure we are educated on the changes we want to make, the bills we want to pass, and the avenues to approach our politicians.  


In addition to being a current student in the program, Dolbin interns for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and she works as a Survey Assistant for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Student and Alumni News

Bridget Goldhahn became Graphic Designer and Communications Specialist for Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, PA. Located just 14 miles west of Philadelphia in the Main Line area, Harcum College is gearing up for its Centennial celebration. 


Student Emily Ambash received a 2014 Research Day Award in Creative Arts & Design Research for her presentation and poster based on her thesis, "Meet Your Seat: Performing Arts Accessibility for Audiences on the Autism Spectrum."


Student Ricardo Torres was recognized as the 2014 Technology Connector of the Year by the Philadelphia Arts & Business Council for his work with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.


Alum and adjunct professor Kendra Lawton accepted the position of Manager, Projects and Workflow at Living Beyond Breast Cancer.


Student Kate Dowd recently accepted a job in Visitor Services at Eastern State Penitentiary.


Student Marnie Lersch is now interning as a curatorial assistant at CFEVA.


Student Alice Anne Dolbin is now a development intern at Historical Society of Pennsylvania as well as an advocacy and administrative intern at Philadelphia Cultural Fund.


Student Laura Sancken recently accepted the position of Associate Director of Annual Giving for Alumni and Friends at the Curtis Institute of Music. 


Student Sarah Johnson is now working at Opera Philadelphia as Donor Services Coordinator. 


Kyle Jackson, AADM Online student, had his play EVERYBODY ELSE'S LIGHT accepted into the Fresh Fruit Festival in New York City. Kyle will also act in and produce the play, which will run for three performances during the first two weeks of July. 


2014 AADM Online graduate Asya Zlatina is featured in this new video. Look for the solo dancer in the grey sweater. 


2012 AADM Online graduate Eddie Sugarman has a new job as Executive Artistic Director of Theatre of Western Springs, an 85 year old community theatre close to Eddie's home outside Chicago. Eddie's other good news is that he was awarded the Best Thesis Award among all 2013 AADM theses for "New Digital Media Transmission of Live Theatre."


2014 AADM Online graduate Rebecca Brown completed her thesis in Winter term, and was promptly hired by her former thesis advisor, 2011 AADM Online graduate Susan Matyas, to do fundraising and development work for Partners for Sacred Places.


2011 AADM Online graduate Susan Matyas started a new job last fall as Director of Development and Communications for Partners for Sacred Places.


2010 graduate Cathy Hernandez, became Executive Director of the Louisiana State Council of the Arts in June, 2013.


Thom Wall, Arts Admin student and professional juggler, just got a new job with Cirque de Soleil.


Alum Meg Clifton will be starting on June 2nd as the first Director of Major Gifts at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Arts Administration Graduate Association News
Thank you to everyone who contributed, volunteered, and attended our 11th Annual Art Auction. The event was a success--bringing in more than enough funds to cover our students' trip to D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day. We hope you will return next year!
The AAGA has announced the new executive board members for 2014-15:

President: Brittnie Knight 

Vice President: Mike Tanis
Advocacy Director: Cara Scharf
Communications Director: Olivia Morton
Events Director: Naima Murphy


Thank you to everyone who participated in the nomination process. Both the outgoing and incoming boards are excited about what's been accomplished this year and what is on the horizon. 

More information about these and all AAGA activities can be found on the AAGA website

2013-14 AAGA Contacts

Michelle Baxter


Morgan Gengo

Vice President

Kristine Medley Farmer

Events Director 

Asim Naqvi

Advocacy Director 

Moriah Shtull

Communications Director

Marnie Lersch


Laura Sancken

Public Relations Manager

Cara Scharf


Brittnie Knight

First-year Liaison


Emily Hart

First-year Liaison


For general inquiries, please contact
Drexel University Arts Administration |
3501 Market Street, Suite 210
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Please use the email above to send any ideas for articles or news items. ArtsLine invites alumni and students to contribute relevant articles for future issues. 

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