Back in 2019, we advertised for two new Board members, particularly looking to appoint artists and/or freelancers to balance the skills and perspectives already around the table.
When we met the candidates, several said that
they had never been to a Board meeting before. It struck me that we were asking
people to apply to take on a role that they had never seen in action.
This seemed like quite a simple thing to fix.
We always tried to operate openly and transparently at ARC, and with the
exception of a few HR matters, we considered very little to be confidential.
We decided to invite artists and freelancers we
were working with to observe future meetings, if they wanted to find out more
about how ARC and arts organisations boards worked.
This was not with the intention that they would
necessarily progress to join ARC’s board, but more to help our wider aim of
reducing the mystique around boards. We wanted to equip more artists and
freelancers with the knowledge and experience that might encourage them to
apply to boards in the future.
It turned out to be a brilliant initiative. We
invited two observers per meeting, so there was a balance with board and staff
members. We shared all the papers in advance, along with additional information
about who would be attending the meeting, what would happen and what being an
observer meant. At the end of each meeting, there was an opportunity, if they
chose to, for any observers to comment on their experience of the meeting.
Having them in the room heightened my awareness
of how things might seem from an artist’s perspective. They were often asked to
contribute to elements of the discussion where their experience would be
valuable, and their reflections and feedback was incredibly useful.
ARC’s Chair at the time, Lynne Snowball, was a
big supporter of this move and also felt it brought new perspectives into the
room: “We’re committed as a Board to reflecting each and every part of the communities
ARC serves. Bringing artists into meetings has opened our eyes to new
perspectives. It is another step in our drive to be more representative in our
thinking and planning to make ARC an even more welcoming place for everyone,
including making our Board more diverse in future recruitment.”
Most importantly, artists themselves found it
valuable. Here are a few things they said:
“It was brilliant to observe and experience
such a fab venue board in action. It felt like a really welcoming and supportive
team. The breadth of topics you covered was brilliant and it was really
exciting to hear your future plans.”
“What an absolute privilege to see behind the
scenes at the Board meeting like that. Such a great thing to offer artists and
incredibly impressive transparency. Thank you for the invitation and thank you
to all for such incredibly hard work and decision making in the interests of
ARC and its future.”
“As a freelancer, there is a huge amount of
uncertainty in the industry at the moment, and hearing how that was being
discussed at Board level was really valuable.”
“A really useful insight into how everything
“It gave me a real boost and has energised me
to get our Board developed, which is our next exciting step as a company.”
Maybe this is something other arts
organisations could offer too?