A reflection on management in non-income arts, occasioned on Lara Smith leaving Dad’s Garage

By Guest Columnist DERIN DICKERSON, outgoing chairperson of Dad’s Garage

Currently being a chief in the arts is not an easy task, and in particular so above the past year dealing with COVID-19. I have figured out that, as the outgoing chair of the board of Dad’s Garage (in truth, July 31 was my last working day).

Derin Dickerson

As a board chair, my work was to support supply strategic route for the group and guarantee the staff members leaders experienced what they desired to succeed. Through my time on the board, I was extremely fortuitous to operate with Lara Smith, the prolonged-time taking care of director of Dad’s Garage.

Even although remaining a chief in the arts is a tricky position, Lara has excelled in the confront of setbacks, issues, and frustrations. Possessing served faithfully for about a ten years, Lara is stepping down from her position this year and passing the baton to Stacey Sharer, the new taking care of director. Above her 10-year tenure, Lara has exemplified management in techniques that I would like to share with you right here. I hope that this can encourage other enterprise leaders to come to be far more engaged with arts businesses for the reason that we have to have robust management in this sector.

1) Likely the extra mile to ensure that team is taken treatment of, especially in the course of tricky situations.

The arts are not a robustly funded sector. The men and women who make the magic come about at a theatre do so on limited budgets, and a ton of what drives them is a passion for their get the job done. This also suggests that when moments are challenging, the burdens on artists appear amplified. Lara generally reported, “Theatre is the community of persons that make it,” and that it was a precedence to just take treatment of the individuals that make Dad’s Garage so amazing.

Lara Smith is stepping down as running director of Dad’s Garage just after primary the non-profit theater for a decade. Credit rating: Matt Terrell

As we had been all impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lara promptly jumped into action to support assistance our performers who have been unable to accomplish, as every little thing was shutdown. Lara carried out an aid fund for performers and team and took the initiative to raise cash from members of the broader Dad’s Garage spouse and children. As a result of her endeavours, lots of of our employees associates and performers ended up in a position to acquire the help they needed to fork out hire, obtain food items and medication, and remain on their ft all through a hard time for absolutely everyone.

This is a thing the corporate environment could learn a large amount from. It is vital to see employees as individuals very first, and not basically quantities on a spreadsheet. By placing the human requires of your crew to start with, you improve the entire company’s ability to grow and reach more.

2) Top with grace and strength

There are occasions when all leaders likely want to scream out of frustration. Your finest-laid plans have to be thrown out the door. New problems pop up unexpectedly. Lara, probably owing to her know-how of improv, showed how she can juggle these concerns and glance easy performing it.


Through the peak of the pandemic, Dad’s Garage hosted programming on twitch.tv and messages to really encourage viewers to donate cash that was to be shared by improvisers and the theater. Credit: Dad’s Garage

In 2019, our extensive-time inventive director decided to transition into a different function with the organization a week just before I took over as chair (many thanks, Kevin Gillese). Lara and I led an extensive nationwide search for his replacement. Immediately after a calendar year in the position, the new artistic director was supplied an opportunity of a lifetime to guide the renowned Next Metropolis theatre in Chicago, and we have been once once again in research of an inventive director (thanks, Jon Carr). And whilst all of this was likely on, Lara experienced to stabilize the company’s funds and internal lifestyle through the two COVID and societal transform. Extensive story quick, these final number of a long time have been – to borrow a phrase from Lara – a “dumpster fire.”

But, with Lara, there is under no circumstances yelling or panicking. To act with grace and toughness is to accept the predicament, and figure out the finest way to transfer forward. As with improv, exactly where the excellent solution is to reply to regardless of what prompt is offered with “Yes, and…” to transfer the scene ahead, the company setting frequently needs a “Yes, and…” tactic to difficulties and tough circumstances to locate the exceptional path forward.

Dad’s Garage. Credit: Matt Terrell

At a nonprofit like Dad’s Garage, nobody is executing this function for the money. Our board is all-volunteer, people like Lara place in the get the job done for their enthusiasm and commitment to the mission (aka: they could almost certainly make a large amount far more dollars in the corporate world), and all of our gains go back again into the organization somewhat than lining the pockets of homeowners.

In spite of the challenges of budget, or unexpected conditions, Lara has been in a position to provide a degree of leadership that can inspire even a corporate lawyer like myself. I consider all of us at Dad’s Garage are unhappy to see Lara depart, but thrilled to see what she does following. Potentially what is most remarkable is the legacy she has remaining – the leaders she has properly trained, the individuals she has influenced, and the ability she has constructed for the Atlanta arts group.

Be aware to viewers: Derin Dickerson is the outgoing board chair of Dad’s Garage and an legal professional at Alston & Chicken.