We had the good fortune of connecting with Peter Tyas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Peter, how do you think about risk?
Risk taking is a deliberate process, it is a decision to take a risk. I know what works for my organization, I know what my audience expects and I know what capacity we have to challenge those set practices and expectations. Moving beyond those boundaries is a risk – and risk taking is essential for the organization to grow, for the audience to be delighted by our work and for our artists to excel.
Below is a summary of how I go about risk taking:
a) what is my capacity to take risks – financial comfort (can I afford to make mistakes) – staff capacity (do I have time to try new things or to invest time in changing around how I do things) – audience engagement (do the people who support the program have confidence in my organization enough to try something different / unexpected / uncomfortable even).
b) what is my tolerance of risk – reputationally can my organization take the hit, am I in the building reputation cycle and need to be consistent, or do I have ‘reputational capital’ to spent on projects that might fail, do my financial supporters have a good risk tolerance?
c) leadership and decision making – does my organization make good decisions? do my leadership team have a nose for it, can they bring the delivery team (often volunteers) with them, can they sell the unknown
d) access to partnerships and collaborations – does my organization have access to other organizations spaces, expertise, audiences, networks, equipment and technology
e) growth or confusion – does my organization learn from risk taking, does it build upon new ideas and new networks or ‘smash and grab’ then walk away? Does my risk taking bewilder my audience? Does the constant change leave audiences, partners and artists unsure of what I am trying to achieve?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I was starting out in an arts administration role I was managing an artist residency and the artist was asked how he could do the things that he did. His response has stuck with me. He said, ‘I can do all these things because I have done a little bit of everything and learned a lot about myself along the way.’ From that conversation I took the lesson that every experience built competency, that mindfulness in work meant that every success and every failure became a part of growth. And what was particularly important was to learn about what you can do and what you can’t, and therefore, where you need others to help. The arts are a team sport (for most), we rely upon one another, we build upon one another, and we all need to recognize the role that others play in our own success.
I undertook a postgraduate degree in arts management, then completed a one year Fellowship. Those three years taught me how to go about building a career in the arts. The next two decades taught me what I could do and what the potential for the arts could be within a community. I spent about 8 years at a senior level in a very large organization which invested heavily in its staff and those years accelerated my understanding of many of the facets of managing arts organizations. During those years I liaised with the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (2012) to deliver a cultural program, I collaborated with the Imperial War Museum on the delivery of first world war commemoration programs (2014) and a somewhat surreal program to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta (2015). These major programs were high risk, high reward and exceptionally fun.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would go to Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica and then to the beech, up to Getty, over to the Huntington and finally to watch the sun set from Griffith Park. You know, in one of the 36 hour days when that sort of itinerary is possible. More than likely I would assume my friends had seen all the things they were interested in and we would go to a concert or just hang out and have a BBQ.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The successes of Studio Channel Islands are entirely as a result of the volunteer support of dozens of people. Our exhibitions are hung by a team of artists volunteering their time, our concert series is programmed by world class musicians and composers who want to enliven the community where they live, our fundraising events are put together by volunteers.
Richard William Barnett Victor Wang Gale Fulton Ross Pat Richards Dodds Daggi Wallace