Brushing Up!: Interview with Arts Educator, Artist and Designer Rachel Kilroy

portrait of a womanRachel Kilroy brings a wealth of experience and insights into the transformative power of art and the challenges facing arts organizations today. Read on to find her perspectives on what drives her passion, how arts leaders can enhance their impact, the greatest needs in the arts sector, and why making art accessible is crucial.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
My favorite thing about working in arts education is the opportunity to inspire students through creativity and storytelling. Whether designing a new program or leading a workshop, I love seeing the spark of imagination ignite in student’s eyes and witnessing the transformative power of art firsthand.
What is one way arts leaders can enhance their impact?
Successful arts leaders can enhance their impact by fostering a human-centered workplace.
Most organizations favor serving the board, executives, and granting organizations, wildly forsaking their teaching artists and junior-level staff who make the programs possible. Benefits like truly competitive wages for the area, 401K matches, fully paid comprehensive health plans, and guilt-free flexible schedules drastically reduce turnover and build balanced and symbiotic relationships with junior staff that allow folks to quit their side gigs, leave the survival mindset, and truly give the mission the energy it deserves. **California released a report in June 2023 outlining “extremely low” & “low” income limits in its 58 counties; most arts workers aspire to the low-income level.
What is the greatest need facing your organization and/or the arts today?
The greatest need facing arts organizations is equitable access to resources and opportunities for junior staff. The global majority are consistently overlooked or underrepresented in the arts, perpetuating inequalities and limiting the full potential of career and organizational growth through their perspectives. Addressing this need requires intentional efforts to dismantle systemic barriers like meager salaries and employment benefits that make holding arts positions untenable to those who don’t have generational wealth. For this reason, the arts are considered a luxurious hobby and an unsustainable career choice. Budgets are a moral document. Who is your budget serving?
Why is making art accessible important?
The obvious answer is that making art accessible is important because it connects people, fosters empathy, and inspires change. But how accessible can art be when a career in the arts is inaccessible to the global majority? It becomes prescriptive when diverse folks don’t primarily drive the art and arts programs.