Fearless about finances

Award-winning arts manager Tricia Baldwin is director of the new Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. She writes for IAM about the importance of inspiring your staff to reach their potential

I’m most passionate about supporting emerging artists and arts managers, regardless of gender. I’m also keen to champion work that has a much broader focus than the Western forms we know so well. Equally, it’s important to me to be a champion of creating diversity – no singular group is superior or more important than another.

At the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, we are currently working on the creation of the Institute for Arts Leadership, a graduate diploma at Queen’s University. This will involve training in strategic planning, arts marketing and fundraising, accounting, project management, change management and governance, complete with residencies at the Isabel and internships.

Artistically, we will demonstrate a strong commitment to investing in emerging artists: we are collaborating with Banff International String Quartet Competition and Honens International Piano Competition to present their winners, and with the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory to provide their orchestra with additional performance experience, alongside this we’ll work with the Queen’s University ensembles on their recitals. Championing creative artistic projects and investing in the next generation is my fuel and it is not gender specific.

Does being a woman leader have its challenges? Of course it does, but that is part of the business. It is important to be proactive and not victimised by this. Occasionally I have had to deal with some bullying and chauvinism, and have found talking expertly and bluntly about financial strategies seems to quell the waters around managerial competency. There still lurks the opinion that women and non-profit leaders are less knowledgeable about finances, and rather than suffering through some annoying condescension, it’s better to get into the ring of fire and clearly express financial expertise and strategies.

The key is going into any meeting very prepared and knowledgeable about all aspects of the business and knowing the numbers like the back of your hand. In a bullying situation, I find broadening the circle an excellent strategy to get the conversation back on track as to what is best for the organisation and/or project, rather than focussing a debate in a win/lose framework.

I am collaborative by nature (maybe this comes from being third born in a family of four) as I am shy yet very determined. My most recent learning was to know when to use ‘I’ and not always ‘we’ to express an opinion very directly.

In a board meeting, this is helpful because it will enable the people around the table to know of your intentional strategy instead of people thinking that many good things are taking place by happenstance.

Prior to moving to the Isabel, I was the managing director of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, a women-led organisation, for 14-and-a-half years and I have to say that partnering with music director Jeanne Lamon in a collaboratively led, world-class orchestra and staff team was an incredibly beautiful experience.

Everything was focussed on what was good for Tafelmusik – for such an accomplished and strongly opinionated group of people, it was remarkably free of egos when it came to making decisions.

At the end of the day, you make your own bed and sleep in it and as a leader you understand this more than most. Strong management is all about the vision you are able to collaboratively create and implement, and the goodwill you are able to foster with a talented and hard-working team of people with boundless integrity.