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Our Summer Intensive Fellowship Program

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Every July, as another hectic season comes to a close, I am reinvigorated by the appearance of our DeVos Institute Summer Intensive Fellows. This summer, almost 40 young arts managers from around the world are studying with us at the Kennedy Center. Each class of ten to 15 managers comes for the month of July, three summers in a row. So this summer we have students returning for their third summer, some for their second and a new group of 11 arts managers who are here for the first time. Our new fellows come from Sarajevo and Muscat, Cambridge and Bogota, Brisbane and Singapore and on and on.

Yesterday I welcomed the entire group of new and returning fellows with a class on the cycle, our approach to creating healthy arts organizations. As always, the first year students had many questions about the validity of this model for their countries in which private fundraising is modest at best and where the loss of government support has been devastating. They were skeptical that what works in the United States could work in their countries and were certain that there were advantages American arts organizations possess that they could never match.

What was so rewarding was I did not have to rebut their comments; so many of my returning fellows told stories of the way they had put the cycle to use. Perhaps most moving of all was Reem Kassem, our fellow from Alexandria, Egypt, who has created a festival in her home city during the political strife of the past two years and has created a membership group of ordinary people who wish to see her work continue.

Reem was not alone. Our fellows from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America had tried and succeeded in building new sources of support for their organizations. They realize they cannot simply copy techniques from the Kennedy Center in their own countries and organizations. They must modify what they learn to fit their unique situations. But they also are hopeful now that there is the possibility to create wonderful, exciting art despite economic woes and government cut backs.

We created this format for our international fellows five years ago after we observed that those from differing cultures who came to our nine-month fellowship program often were lost when they returned home. Their bosses did not know what they now knew and they were given little opportunity to implement what they had just learned. They got frustrated and angry and often left their jobs and even their home countries.

We hoped that giving our international students the opportunity to learn basic concepts, return home, get frustrated and return to us for another 'dose' three years in a row may help them have a better chance to experiment and learn and change their organizations.

This has proven to be a better solution to training international arts managers and gives us the joy of welcoming home these amazing people every summer.