Here at Business & Arts NL, we’ve been talking a lot lately about what makes a good arts board, including enlightening conversations with local arts champion Susan Sherk, as well as members of Tuckamore’s board and fundraising committee (click here and here to read). And as we prepare to launch our “Team Up With the Arts” program this Thursday (September 15), we’re looking forward to digging deeper into the topic and hopefully, making some volunteer/arts board matches along the way.
David Hood is a retired chartered professional accountant who, for the past number of years, has been lending his time and talents to Business & Arts NL as a member of the board and volunteer with our Business Volunteers for the Arts program. In 2019, he was honoured with ArtsNL’s Patron of the Arts Award for his commitment to the local arts community. And it’s a commitment that runs deep.
While his earlier board involvement had been mostly with heritage organizations, Hood says, it was a 2004 CBC interview with Jillian Keiley, then artistic director of Artistic Fraud, that helped pique his interest in the arts. Keiley had just won the Siminovitch Prize (Canada’s largest theatre award recognizing excellence in mid-career directors, playwrights and designers) and after learning more about her and her work, Hood received a call from a mutual friend, asking if he could help Keiley navigate her way through the award (considering his financial/accounting background). Eventually, Hood became more involved with Artistic Fraud, first as a consultant and then as a board member, helping them with their governance model and board structure. He also began attending some of the productions that Artistic Fraud was developing, helping deepen his appreciation for their work.
“Once I got involved and interested, I started to go and see their stuff. And I was absolutely blown away,” he says.
Hood has been a member of Artistic Fraud’s board for about 17 years now and over that time, he’s been happy to see the organization evolve and thrive, and witness “what can happen if you have a combination of really, really strong creative artists and strong business people, and a proper governance model,” he says.
“It really makes you feel good when you can contribute to something like that happening.”
Through his work with Artistic Fraud, Hood got to know more people in the arts sector and after seeing how he could help make a difference in one local arts organization, it wasn’t long before he got involved with others, including MusicNL, St. Michael’s Printshop, Perchance Theatre and Garrick Theatre. These days, in addition to sitting on the boards of both Business & Arts NL and Artistic Fraud, he’s also on the board of the Bonavista Biennale (as treasurer).
In order to have a strong foundation upon which to build, a strong governance structure and board is crucial for any organization, Hood says, as well as diversity.
“As I say to anybody, I wouldn’t have 10 accountants on a board, I wouldn’t have 10 lawyers on a board, I wouldn’t have 10 of anything on a board; and I wouldn’t have 10 artists on a board, not for any other reason for the fact that you need diversity. You wouldn’t have a whole bunch of people that have essentially the same knowledge base,” he says.
“Board structure and composition is so important. It’s about getting the right mix of people around the table, who will put the interests of the organization first.”
For anyone who may be considering joining an arts board, Hood says, one must have the ability to have difficult conversations when needed, and consider other views.
“You’ve got to develop a bit of a thick skin and be prepared to listen to perspectives that generally are different than yours, and not be upset by it and use it as an opportunity to make things better,” he says.
“Another thing too, is, I’m a big fan of people not making a quick decision to join an arts board or an arts organization, or any organization for that matter, just to satisfy their requirements, like, ‘Our AGM is coming up, we’ve got two board members retiring, we need two board members, who can we get?’…The most successful organizations that I’ve been involved in build a pipeline of potential board members, and it gives the potential board members one, two, three years to get more familiar with an organization and understand more about it and see if it’s an organization they really want to get involved with. And it gives the organization some time to have a list of potential board members with different skills, different age groups, and different levels of diversity to be able to swap them in, when the time is right, to round out the board composition.”
And if the timing isn’t right or you already have too much on your plate, Hood says, there’s no shame in stepping back and checking in with the organization at a later date. But if the stars align and you do decide to take that step and lend your skills and expertise to an arts board, he adds, you’ll be rewarded in spades. Teaming up with the arts, he says, gives people the opportunity to broaden their perspectives and be exposed to different approaches and attitudes.
“I mostly dealt with other accountants and lawyers and bankers, and really didn’t have an opportunity to spend a lot of time with people that had different backgrounds than I did. And I quickly learned that creative people think completely differently, and things aren’t black and white,” he says.
“And so every time I have an opportunity to sit down with any artist, I ask different questions…I look at things differently, I consider things differently.”
The ability to think differently, Hood adds, is something that his own clients value as well, with some of them asking him to attend meetings for this very reason.
“The only thing that I can look back on that would make me think differently than any other accountant is my strong connection to the arts community and creative people, because it’s just broadened my perspective to everything I touch,” he says.
“And I’ve tried to encourage young accountants and young businesspeople to get involved in arts organizations, to help them round out their experiences. You don’t get that stuff from business school.”