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Stories from CAELI: The Strength to Be a Better Leader

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Mar 17, 2015

In our Stories from CAELI series, Community Arts Education Leadership Institute (CAELI) alumni share their insights from their own CAELI experiences. Our third post comes from Fiona Chatwin, executive director of Villa Musica in San Diego, CA. Fiona is a member of the CAELI Class of 2013 and will be returning this year as practitioner faculty. You can read our first post from José Ochoa, executive and artistic director of the Chicago High School for the Arts, here, and our second post from Sue Elliot, director of teacher certification at the Royal Conservatory of Music, here.


Why did you decide to apply to CAELI?

I wanted to be part of the growing network of CAELI alumni—now made-up of a force of 125 spirited, brilliant,  and opinionated arts leaders across the country—who are helping to forge the future of arts education nationally. The camaraderie, support and ongoing connections I’ve gained through this cohort have turned out to be the icing on the cake.
Describe an “aha” moment you experienced during your seven months of CAELI:
As founder and executive director, I sometimes have a difficult time extracting myself from  everyday operations to be the visionary leader I need to be in order for the organization to flourish. Through the 360 degree evaluation component of CAELI, I learned that my staff was more than capable of carrying the torch on areas where the “rubber hits the road” (so to speak) on a daily basis. I just needed to let my staff take more responsibility, to delegate. Of course, by allowing others to take the lead on more managerial issues, I was able to dedicate more of my time to the organization’s vision and strategic direction. 
How would you say your participation in CAELI has impacted you and your organization?
CAELI has given me the strength to be a better leader. It has become easier for me to step back and loosen my grip on the reins — enabling others to take the lead and giving myself a chance to take a view from a different angle. The post-institute coaching especially helped me to see my way through some difficult staff changes and  re-shuffling of strategic priorities.
What does being a part of our network of CAELI alumni mean to you?
Being part of this leadership community is therapeutic. Being an executive director can be very lonely. Belonging to a community of peers who all carry with them the wisdom of this program enables me to feel connected and supported in EVERY aspect of my job. We share a common knowledge and yet bring such varied perspectives. Being able to reach out to this network of alumni when I’m faced with a difficult decision or need advice is invaluable.
Is there anything else you feel a prospective applicant should know or consider before applying?
Just go with an open mind and an open heart. CAELI will fill you up
The deadline to apply to CAELI is April 9, 5:00PM ET. Click here to learn more and here to watch a recording of our recent Application Orientation Webinar.
Pictured Above: Students at Villa Musica (San Diego, CA)

This resource brought to you by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.