Dunamis: Nurturing the potential in Boston’s young working artists and arts administrators
Dunamis, now in their second year of operation following a successful pilot year, does just as the definition of its name describes. The Boston-based organization works with young people who are interested in the arts and provides hands-on training, arts management apprenticeships, and practical professional development skills for working artists in a cohort model.
I sat down with Dunamis’ founder and Executive Director, Juwonni (Jay) Cottle to talk about how Dunamis came to be and his plans for the future.
Jay grew up in Boston and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Arts Management from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a Master of Education Degree in Arts, Community and Education from Lesley University. When Jay was growing up, he said he had never heard the terms “arts management” or “arts administration.” Dunamis was a project developed during Jay’s time at Lesley. He wanted to create something that showed young people options for their future in the arts, whether that was as a working artists or as someone who manages artists. So that’s what Jay did.
Dunamis isn’t looking to teach young people how to be better singers, dancers, instrumentalists, painters, etc. - they want to give folx the practical skills they need to turn making their art and managing artists into viable careers.
What caught my attention about Dunamis was its intentional program for arts managers and administrators, especially its focus with young people. Arts administration is a relatively new field, with a handful of masters programs and even fewer undergraduate programs available for those pursuing a higher education degree. Arts management is something that’s been happening since the first arts organizations were formed. There have always been people scheduling concerts, selling tickets, raising money, advertising shows, and cultivating community. However, the package of understanding the day-to-day life of artists plus business, organization, and management skills have only really been taught as a discipline in its own right for the last two decades. Many arts administrators come into the field later in life and, like myself, often say “I didn’t know this type of career existed when I was younger,” mainly because it isn’t being talked about with young people as a career option or taught as a skill set that they can develop as they grow and learn.
Dunamis is looking to change that. Dunamis’ programs are for young people aged 16 - 25, though Jay says Dunamis is thinking about changing how they redefine “young people,” so more folx in their 20s can take advantage of Dunamis’ programming.
In addition to their Green Mile working artists program and Arts Management Apprenticeship, Dunamis also offers a number of events throughout the year that are open to anyone who wants to attend. These events, on top of Dunamis’ cohort of young creatives, aims to bring together young creative folx from across the city and connect them with each other as well as with organizations and resources. As Jay put it, he wants Dunamis to be the “connective tissue” of arts organizations in Boston - giving young people the tools they need to succeed in creating their art and letting them know about resources, mentors, and organizations that can help them get where they want to go.
The name and mission of the organization comes from Aristotle’s concept of “dunamis” about potentiality, being able to simultaneously see something, or someone, both as what it is today and what it could be in the future. Like Aristotle’s example of dunamis, seeing an acorn as the start of something great with potential to grow, Dunamis the organization is just at the beginning of its journey and will continue to develop and help young people reach their full potential.
- Kate (Lynn)