Introducing Peter AlexanderOctober 14, 2012
Executive Director in place at MAAE
Recently I met with Gail Scott who served as the Interim Director of Maine Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE) and Peter Alexander the new Executive Director of MAAE. I was encouraged to converse with Peter about his ideas and possible directions for the future of MAAE. He kindly answered questions for the readers of the meartsed blog. Below is the interview which will hopefully provide for you information on the future of MAAE.
Please tell the meartsed readers a little bit about your background.
My background in the arts is quite rich and varied, especially in music. I started piano lessons at 4, became a choirboy at the Washington National Cathedral at 8, began classical guitar lessons at 10 and by 18 had started a professional rock band. I spent all my childhood summers on an island off Cundys Harbor with no electricity, plumbing, phones or cars, and there developed an abiding love of nature and the coast of Maine that has influenced all my artistic undertakings, from watercolors, photography, and writing to my music. I currently serve as the president of the Maine Songwriters Association (mainesongwriters.com) and devote as much time as I can to my own career as a musician (peteralexander.us). I’m really looking forward to meeting new colleagues at the reception and fundraiser that the MAAE board has organized for October 21 at Slate’s Restaurant in Hallowell (info at maineartsed.org).
What brings you to the MAAE Executive Directors job?
My new role with MAAE is about as perfect a match as I could imagine for my education, skills and experience: I hold a masters degree from Antioch University with a focus on non-profit advocacy and organizing, and I love taking on big challenges. MAAE offers plenty of opportunities for both organizational development and creative programs that can build on its long and successful history to serve the needs of Maine’s arts education community.
What skills and background experiences have you had that will be assets in your role at MAAE?
The primary role played by every non-profit director is fundraising, and I’m pretty fearless about asking people and organizations to join me in supporting causes that I believe in. But just as important is the role of collaborator and facilitator, and my long background in both board and staff roles in a variety of non-profit organizations should be helpful. Another skillset that is found in every successful organization is the ability to balance strategic thinking (planning) with tactical applications (programs) and continuous evaluation and improvement. As a lifelong entrepreneur in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors I have managed to develop some capacity for this kind of multi-leveled approach to management.
Tell the readers a little about the strategic plan that the MAAE board has created just prior to you coming to the position.
Prior to my arrival MAAE’s board conducted a thorough review of programs and decided to sharpen the organization’s focus into two main areas: advocacy and professional development for arts educators. How this plays out with actual programs is still up in the air, and I am excited to be working with my new colleagues at the Department of Education, the Maine Arts Commission and other arts education organizations to identify the most pressing areas of need where MAAE can serve the community. One thing that seems to be percolating to the top is the need for training and resources for arts educators and advocates that can better convey the value of arts education to local decision-makers and stakeholders—especially in communities and school districts where the role of arts education lags far behind traditional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and athletic programs.
How do you imagine working with the arts education community in Maine?
I love working with people collaboratively, where everyone’s talents and abilities are put to good use and where people have fun together, enjoy each others’ company, and value each others’ contributions. Although I have a deep history in the arts, I am new to arts education, so I am looking forward to learning a great deal; and I hope that—with my “outsider’s perspective” and newcomer’s enthusiasm—I am able to contribute something that my colleagues find useful.
If MAAE were given $500,000 to do whatever you please, what would it be?
Since I am so new to the organization and to the arts education community in Maine this question lures me into saying something I might later regret! But I’ll take the bait. I would dedicate a portion of it to hiring development staff to help ensure that MAAE’s financial future is secure; and I would use some of it to design and conduct research and develop a communications campaign (with resources and tools for arts educators) to firmly establish public opinion and awareness in every community about the essential value of arts education for Maine’s economy and our quality of life. I would use the rest to organize an all-expenses-paid annual celebration for arts educators of all disciplines, where they could step back from the daily grind, enjoy each others’ company, learn new skills, and develop new collaborative, cross-disciplinary relationships and programs.
Thank you to Peter for taking the time to share your thoughts with the meartsed readers. Please join MAAE next Sunday, October 21st, 5:30 to 7:00 PM at Slate’s in Hallowell for a reception welcoming Peter.