Member Spotlight: Erin Blue

Erin Blue

Development Director, Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center

Tell us a little about your organization. Mission? Population you serve? What do you like most about working there?  

The McConnell Arts Center is a multi-disciplinary arts center which celebrates local art at every level.  We offer 60 classes every eight weeks for those interested in honing their skills or learning a new medium.  More than 500 established and emerging artists exhibit their work in our galleries each year, and our theatre features community and professional performers through more than 200 music, dance, theatre, film, and literary programs each year.  Our focus is the community’s connection with the artist – we joke that you’ll never see a dead artist at the MAC!  Okay, maybe not NEVER, but with all of our programming, we are looking for ways to connect the local artist with the community through their chosen art form. It’s a rare thing to see performing arts, visual arts, and arts instruction under one roof.  We are a small but mighty staff, and we stay busy!

How long have you been an AFP member, and what has your involvement been?
I’ve been an AFP member for more than 12 years.  When I joined a small development shop for the first time more than three years ago, I was encouraged to take leadership of the Small Shops Affinity Group. It’s been great to get together each month with a varying group of small shop fundraisers and to learn tricks and tips from each other.  Each month we focus on a different topic suggested by the group, or one that I might dream up for fun.  Occasional guest speakers bring their expertise on a given topic, and the conversation is always lively! 

What do you consider the most valuable part of your AFP membership?

Having worked in large development shops for most of my career, I could always learn from the more senior staff with whom I worked every day. Now that I’m the only one who does Development in my organization, the camaraderie with AFP colleagues is more valuable than ever.

How long have you been in fundraising, and how did you get into it?      

Like many, I stumbled into Development by accident through a series of entry level positions. After learning Raiser’s Edge at a previous company, that skill moved me to the front of the line for a job opening at the Columbus Museum of Art in 2002.  The Museum is where my job became my career, and the connections I have made in the arts community and through AFP are largely responsible for every career move I’ve made since – from the Museum to the Columbus Symphony and now the MAC.

What has been your biggest learning opportunity in your career?

I was lucky to participate in NGL – Next Generation of Leaders – a fellowship designed to identify and encourage emerging arts leaders.  It wasn’t the typical leadership academy that held up a picture of a leader and said, “be this”. The process helped me to identify the leadership qualities and skills I already possessed, and also to recognize the satisfaction that comes from having the courage to take risks.    It was a safe space to investigate which road blocks I was putting up for myself, which ones were put up by others, and what I was going to do about it.

What is your favorite part about living/working in Columbus? Favorite place to go?

A few years after college, I moved to Columbus from Florida on a whim with my best friend.  We both had many friends from Ohio and jokingly said, “Everyone’s leaving Ohio, let’s find out why.”  She lasted 6 months, and I’ve been here nearly 19 years!  In those first few years, I kept thinking I would move on to someplace new.  But as I was considering other cities around the country, I found myself comparing them all to Columbus. A friend recently said, “Columbus sucks, until it sucks you in.”  So true!  Eventually, I realized that most everything I needed was right here.  Family is still a little far away, but I have great friends, a great arts community, and who needs hurricanes anyway, right?

P.S. My favorite summertime treat is to go to the silent movie at the Ohio Theatre.  The classic movie series is fun all summer long, but to watch a silent movie with live accompaniment from the Mighty Morton (that’s the name of the theatre organ – original to the Ohio Theatre – from the 1920s) is truly something special! Check it out July 26-27!

Tell us a fun fact about you that other AFP members wouldn’t know.

I was a theatrical stage manager for my first career.  I graduated from Florida State University with a degree in theatre, and worked at the Asolo Theatre in Sarasota, FL right after college.  I’m glad I still get to stretch my theatre techie muscles every now and then through volunteer work, and through my fantastic annual fundraiser (complete with sets and costumes) at the MAC!

Do you have a favorite book/blog/podcast/etc. that has been very helpful in your career that you’d like to recommend?

I have found great nuggets from Nonprofit AF – by Vu Le.  It’s completely irreverent and fun, and makes you feel like you aren’t the only one struggling with your to-do list.  His post some time ago about the feeling you have after successfully completing a year only to start over from square one on the next day with a new fiscal year, really hit home.   He reminded us to take a moment and appreciate all that we accomplished. We are all awesome non-profit unicorns, after all!

Posted July 9, 2018