Arts Administration Faculty Develop Course with Palestinian Arts Organizations (Part 1)

Throughout the semester, we will feature highlights and insights from Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione’s time in Palestine last summer. Please stay tuned to our blog and social media channels for more #ARADPalestine.

This past summer, ARAD Program Director, Dr. Jennifer Lena, and Lecturer, Dr. Gemma Mangione visited Palestine to lead an intensive arts administration program for staff from arts organizations in the West Bank. In addition to teaching, Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione sought out cultural experiences that informed their understanding of the area and created indelible memories. Dr. Lena shared photos from her travels around the West Bank and her visits to Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, the Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union, and Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel (keep an eye out for a future posts describing these visits and what they meant to her).

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The course took place over four consecutive weekends at Bethlehem University. Dr. Lena, Dr. Mangione, a colleague from the Asia Society and professors in Bethlehem University’s business administration program taught the course. Project management was provided by staff from the Sabreen Association for Artistic Development, which operates in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Sabreen began as a rock group and transitioned into a nonprofit in 1987.

The four focus areas of the curriculum will look familiar to ARAD students and alumni:

  • Fundraising,
  • Strategic Development,
  • Marketing,
  • Monitoring and Evaluation (Assessment).

To ensure that the curriculum matched the needs of the participants, Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione did a multi-step, pre-course assessment, guided by insights from professors at Teachers College with experience in the Middle East, and included a survey of arts organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and a series of interviews by data collectors in Palestine. Their questions gauged interest in, and experience crafting and delivering on, mission statements, fundraising, and professional development. These responses from arts and culture leaders working across the West Bank and Gaza strip highlighted the importance of training in these four modules, and of international skills-sharing courses, like this one.

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The survey and interview responses also revealed the incredible richness and diversity of arts and culture organizations in Palestine. While the lesson plans drew from the ARAD curriculum, they also addressed the particular challenges that organizations in a conflict zone face. For example, Professors Lena and Mangione discovered interesting differences in how the Palestinian organizations fundraise and how they tackle assessment. Even more lessons lay in the classrooms themselves. While students enrolling in the program were proficient English-speakers, by the second weekend of the course they secured the assistance of a translator. They discovered students were accustomed to lecture-based instruction, rather than the debate and discussion model we rely on in Arts Administration at TC. While these lessons made for a truly engaged learning experience inside and outside of the classroom, perhaps the most rewarding part of the project lies in the many relationships forged between the American visitors and their Palestinian hosts.

The project closed with an assessment process, which included a survey participants completed at the end of the four-week course and a survey for the participating faculty. The final report was published by Sabreen, and celebrated at a closing ceremony, held in September in Jericho. While the project has not been renewed for next summer, several participating Palestinian organizations have received grants to apply the insights they gained from participation in the course.

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