Name: Jim Barber
Position (ED, Admin, Board Member): Executive Director
Organization: Branson Regional Arts Council
Time in current position: 3 years, 6 months
Location: Branson, Missouri
To get to know Jim and Branson Regional Arts Council better, MACAA posed the following questions to Jim…pre-pandemic.
What is the most rewarding part of working in the arts, or your organization specifically?
Though our organization was started in 1965, it has been very rewarding to see the renewed excitement and explosive growth of the arts in our area over the past few years, particularly, here at the Historic Owen Theatre in Branson since it became the new home of the Branson Regional Arts Council in January 2018. This is due to the hard work of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers, talented performers and visual artists, as well as the dedication of our supportive parents. Huge credit must go to our gifted directors, teachers, choreographers and production crew members, as well as our Board of Directors, administrative volunteer, and the financial support of our patrons and donors. The most rewarding part of my job, however, is seeing the confidence and talent that is blooming within our young students as they build self-confidence, performance skills, and push their limits through supervised training in the performing and visual arts.
What is the favorite program/service your organization offers?
Our Youth Education Summer Institute Classes for kids ages 6-18 provides an opportunity for first time actors to enjoy a 3-week experience of musical theatre classes where they learn to sing, dance and act on stage. No auditions are required, and scholarship opportunities are available for those families who may be experiencing financial hardships. Working in teams and guided by certified and background checked teaching staff, they also experience the basics of prop building, costume and set design, all culminating with several sold-out performances for their family, friends, and general public. It’s a positive experience they will never forget and expands their future potential in so many ways.
What community philosophy do you feel is key to success?
When a community values the arts and literature as much as they do education and sports, amazing things begin to occur. Corporations that expand and invest in a new location not only seek out areas with great school systems and recreation but are also impressed with communities supporting a healthy theatre program, artist galleries, symphony orchestra and public library. These culminate in a quality of life that is attractive to new residents, small businesses, tourists, and active retirees looking for an engaging place to live.
What characteristics do you feel leaders must have?
Leaders must have a clear vision and communicable strategy towards achieving current needs and future goals of their organization. They need to build up and empower their board of directors, staff and volunteers to take on responsibilities so that, in the long run, the organization can grow and thrive without any particular person at the helm. This takes a leader who puts him or herself in the background, allowing others to shine. It takes a leader who gives credit to others, rather than claiming it for themselves. Most importantly, a leader must appreciate and love everyone they work with, for who they are, and where they are in their stage of life. Every person has unique abilities and gifts that they can contribute to an organization. A good leader will focus on encouragement and fostering development of those abilities, even if it means that person may grow on to bigger and better things outside of the organization. Leading from behind, will propel your organization forward.