I joined Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles (EAL/LA) three years ago and after having attended my first committee meeting, I knew this was the group for me. The dedication, talent and drive of the other volunteer members energized and pushed me to want to achieve more for myself professionally and for the arts nonprofit field in Los Angeles.
Year-to-year I sought out opportunities to become more involved with the organization, transitioning from an occasional volunteer, to Programming Committee Chair, then to overseeing the activities of the organization as part of the Leadership Council.
Meanwhile, I was enrolled in a full-time graduate program at Claremont Graduate University and was managing full-time employment in the field. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that I was able to juggle all of these commitments. However, the magic of EAL/LA is that everyone involved in the organization has a similar story – we’re a community of ‘do-er’s who actively seek out meaningful opportunities that provide lasting value. The problem with this type of enthusiasm is that it can undermine our individual capacity and lead to burn-out – something of an epidemic in the field of nonprofit administration.
To counter this and promote a culture of self-care, EAL/LA started a professional development fund for its members to engage in activities that promote wellness and alleviate stress. Of course, the funds can be used to further professional development in the traditional sense (workshops, classes, equipment, etc.) but many members, including myself, have used the funds for self-care. This summer, I used funds to purchase (three!) massage therapy sessions and ballet classes – two different activities that feel like indulgences and also provide an essential weight to bring me closer to sustainable work-life balance.
At a recent art therapy conference, one of the speakers was talking about the importance of ‘taking care of the care-provider’ and the importance of managing stress to be effective in one’s professional role. This idea greatly resonated with me and at a conference break I proudly shared EAL/LA’s professional development fund as an example of the way nimble nonprofit organizations are recognizing the need to support self-care. As ever, I’m proud of the work EAL/LA is doing to support arts professionals and I’ll continue to proudly boast of the ways it builds a new generation of leaders through traditional methods and responsive practices that consider work – and life – as part of their approach.