By Kaitlin Very
The San Francisco trek was truly invaluable to me. While both of the other treks were great learning experiences, what set this last one apart was the unique balance of nonprofit and for-profit industry leaders with whom we met. Our speakers represented a wide variety of industries and roles, and they all shared an awareness of one another as well as a shared sense of excitement about their work. It gave those of us in the program a glimpse of the vibrant cultural ecosystem within the city, which is the reason that it is seen as such a cultural leader in our country.
Whether we were meeting with Michael Holtmann, Executive Director of the small nonprofit Center for the Art of Translation, or John Hollar, President and CEO of the Computer History Museum, or even Kevin Seal, one of the first music analysts at Pandora, we were given not only an informative and sophisticated introduction to their work and their company, but also a broader picture of the cultural network that exists within the San Francisco Bay area.
It is still true that tech companies are the dominant industry in the area, and while that may have altered it, it has not prevented the growth of culture. Meeting with nonprofit leaders Michael Holtmann and Annie Kahane—founder of Alive & Well Productions—was so important because it showed me that there IS a thriving space for small, nontraditional nonprofits even in such a tech-heavy ecosystem as San Francisco. Both are having great success growing their organizations and provided me with considerable knowledge about the steps to take in founding such organizations.
Oliver Theil of the San Francisco Symphony then expanded that knowledge to include what more established and traditional nonprofits are doing to stay relevant in today’s digital landscape. Having just completed courses in both nonprofit arts management and entrepreneurship in the arts, these meetings, along with the site visit to the Computer History Museum, were the perfect reinforcement of what we spent the last ten weeks studying. “Story-telling” is a buzzword for both the nonprofit and business industries at the moment. It is an idea we have studied in one way or another in almost every class we have taken as a part of this program, and it was also present in every meeting we had and every organization we learned about during this trek. Seeing this proved to us that our theoretical knowledge from class is also practical knowledge that we can apply to our internships and careers.
I came into this program with a fair amount of experience working in the artistic side of the nonprofit industry, and the San Francisco trek gave me the validation that throughout the last nine months I have gained enough knowledge to start building up my administrative experience as well. In addition to the fantastic industry contacts provided by each trek, realizing with confidence that I am ready to pursue my dreams was the best part of our visit to San Francisco.