Why I'm Going Back to School
by Elisabeth Rose Astwood
“Career objectives.” The idea holds such gravity that it seems sometimes unconnected to the human lives we lead. I remember my passions growing, evolving and transforming as a young girl transitioning into womanhood. I remember dreaming of the arts and one day presenting my work to the world. I became a theatre intern, writing and directing my own plays. I threw myself into learning everything that I could about succeeding in the arts, driven to prove to the world how impactful and extraordinary the arts are in a world where arts programs seem to be disappearing from education.
Before I knew it, my undergraduate degree hung on my office wall and it became almost impossible to put on shows or exhibitions. I felt like I’d tripped and fallen into a void where only my fellow male colleagues continued upwards towards success - together in groups of three or four - supporting each other and taking the world by storm. For some reason, I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously despite having the same amount of experience and recognition as my male colleagues. So instead of compromising on my values, I founded The Purple Stapler Arts Society – a nonprofit organization in Vancouver, BC, Canada - to provide opportunities for artists of all styles and walks of life to come together to support each other instead of perpetuating a climate of cutthroat competition.
We have produced three short films featuring women both on screen and off, screened twenty eight short films by local emerging filmmakers, exhibited paintings from twenty one visual artists, showcased four musicians, held over ten creative writing workshops, four art workshops and have more on the horizon! Now, having been a nonprofit organization for a year and small production company for three, The Purple Stapler is reaching a critical point in its development – and so am I. I have worked with other nonprofit organizations and founded my own but I need to take my education to the next level. I need to continue my education so that I can become a top notch Artistic Director and Producer; can reasonably compensate artists for contributing to our productions and exhibitions; have the budget to rent the equipment and supplies we need to operate; understand the laws and regulations placed upon nonprofit organizations in both British Columbia and Washington state; hone the leadership skills needed in order to communicate strategic planning goals and extend our community along the west coast; promote international collaboration; and most importantly provide valuable opportunities to disadvantaged artists.
I need to learn all that I can about advocacy, strategic planning, fundraising, grant writing, finance, marketing, community relations – everything that the MFA in Arts Leadership at Seattle University teaches. I spent a long time researching the best masters program to achieve my goals – did I not want an MFA in Creative Writing, Film Production or Theatre specifically? While I would love to continue my artistic development in a university setting, I also know that I can continue creating works of art outside of school. The skills that the MFA in Arts Leadership offers are unique with only a couple other programs similar to Seattle University’s in all of North America. I have to say it was hard to hold back my excitement when I looked through the Arts Leadership curriculum. Budgets and strategic planning may not always be the most thrilling subjects in the world but they are absolutely imperative to my future career as a women leader in the arts. I want to promote education, healing, diversity, conversation and compassion. What is art, if not a way to communicate and explore the complex diversity and wonders of life?