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Anna V. Pauscher: Using Passion for Igniting Community Arts

Anna V. Pauscher’s passion for the arts was ignited at a young age through music, and her interests later drew her to the DIY culture. This passion and curiosity would lead her to a city with an established art community and department. Now Anna is using her knowledge from experience and the Arts and Culture Management program to make an impact in Salina, Kansas. We asked Anna about her career path and the advice she has for those looking to make a difference through community arts.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the arts?
Since my earliest memories, I’ve been attracted to the arts. As a young student, I was fortunate to have private instruction on the piano and viola and played in orchestras and ensembles throughout high school. When I started my undergraduate studies (in sociology and psychology), I became interested in “do-it-yourself” (DIY) culture, independent music production, and event coordination. Little did I know this was the start of my interest in arts administration and creative entrepreneurship!

Q: What influenced you to pursue your master’s in Arts and Culture Management?
I knew I had found the right program when I wrote my personal statement for the application. Previous attempts to fit myself into an academic mold for sociology or clinical psychology programs were unsuccessful, this time the writing happened naturally. Uniquely blending my studies in social science with my passion for creative expression led me to practical application in the arts – this mold fit me!  The course load was flexible and customizable, allowing me to pursue interests in leadership studies, project management, and poetry while working full time.

Q: How did you end up deciding to work for the Salina Arts & Humanities?
I was at an industry conference when I interviewed for the position of Arts Education Coordinator at Salina Arts & Humanities, a department of the City of Salina, KS. I was interviewing for positions across the country and knew my work needed to involve community collaboration around the arts. What better way to serve the community than to work for a municipality – one with an established arts department! I also had University College instructor, Dr. Charlotte D’Armond Talbert, who was familiar with the agency and was an incredible resource as I made the decision.

Q: What is the day to day like in your current job?
My day usually starts in the office, and I schedule meetings throughout the community. Many of the programs I coordinate are publicly funded, so nearly everything I do has the input of a stakeholder committee or jury panel. My work-flow is seasonal. During the Smoky Hill River Festival last summer, I found myself working with musicians from across the country and observing how the community responded to their music. I also enjoyed time with and with artists dressed as pineapples and living topiary while driving a golf cart with a fierce black bear sculpture on top. Most days I work with school administrators, present to teachers and students, arrange contracts with artists, coordinate artist accommodations, book festival entertainment, problem solve onsite during events, review grant applications, connect artists to resources and more. I also regularly meet with city planners and other city departments to improve access and opportunities for approximately 50,000 people who live in Salina. Many of the programs I coordinate involve collaborations across the state.

Q: How has your education at University College equipped you for your current role?
University College uniquely prepared me with a toolbox of theory and experience that continues to guide my professional work and inform my leadership practice. In my first year on the job colleagues and supervisors noted that, as a newcomer, my ability to deeply understand the complexities of the community and its strengths and challenges was exceptional. I owe much of this insight to the foundation built by the University College instructors and fellow students. I also consider writing academic papers in the liberal arts as using skills similar to grant writing, a proven strength of mine, both as a successful grant writer and grant program facilitator.

Q: What motivates you the most at your current job?
Connecting the arts throughout the community! As a city arts administrator, my work stretches across all creative practices and provides exciting interdisciplinary opportunities. My audience is people of all ages and cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, from preschool to retirement and beyond. With an audience of this scale, I have the responsibility of representing community interest and creatively building programming around that interest. Seeing people engage with their community in new ways and hearing that my work motivates creative practice and personal growth means the world to me. It’s a career dream come true, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Q: What do you think the future looks like for community arts? Do you foresee new trends and opportunities?
Community arts are powerful motivators of social change. By empowering community members with resources and examples of success, we can support that change. Demystifying the arts for those who are intimidated is an ongoing challenge. I hope to see more collaboration across community services and arts organizations to help facilitate opportunities that break these barriers. I also expect to see more collaboration between arts mediums that involve interactive and immersive programming, handing the opportunity to everyday people to express themselves creatively and more deeply understand the people around them. In Kansas K-12 education, we are discussing how arts integration can support social, emotional, and character development learning standards, in addition to the core curriculum. I am excited to be a part of the conversation and practice by supporting classroom teachers with professional development opportunities and brining teaching artists to the schools.

Q: What advice do you have for students who want to pursue a career in community arts?
Dive in and get involved! Build relationships with your instructors and fellow students. Use the wealth of resources at your fingertips, both at University College and in your community. If you are not already working in an arts or cultural organization, volunteer at one. The occupational experience will magnify the academic work you are doing while also help you build relationships in the field. When it comes to the job search, remain open-minded and remember, artists, are the best problem solvers.

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