Collaboration goes beyond working together, it is people pulling together with passion and vision for the same thing. When one collaborates it means that a lot of different people are pulling their weight to make something happen. . All of the public events I’ve planned – a film festival, artists’ open studios, a literary annual to name a few – have required collaboration. I’ve participated as a director, manager or as a member of the team and witnessed the magnificence that occurs when something that was merely a thought becomes a reality.
I’m currently project manager for ¡MERENGUE! VISUAL RHYTHMS/RITMOS VISUALES EXHIBIT at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, MA (August 14-Nov. 23 – www.merengueboston.com). Over the six short weeks of my involvement, I’ve seen a team of people who began the journey toward bringing this exhibit to Boston a year ago, coalesce.
Things are hopping. Everyone is digging deep and selling the exhibit to sponsors, the public, and educators to bring student groups to this wonderful show of 40+ works by 28 artists around the theme of the musical and cultural force that is merengue. People are volunteering significant amounts of time and space to make this exhibit happen. This collaboration is in that super-heated stage where the count-down to the launch of the project has begun. Things become clearer, sleeves are rolled-up, the “to-do” list gets accomplished, and the project has gone from an idea to being “really-real” (to quote myself).
Here are a few things I’ve learned about collaboration:
- There has to be a leader – the one who has the sky view of the event or project.
- The leader needs to be forceful, organized and diplomatic because she or he conducts the group – each of whom is concerned about/most knowledgeable about their specific piece of the whole.
- Each collaborators’ contributions and opinions have to be respected.
- No matter how many people start out on the team, some are going to drop off.
- In public events there are some people who will only contribute their name and whatever status (and therefore goodwill and assistance) it brings. Accept this.
- Some of the people who have the loudest mouths in terms of promises, will not follow-through. (In fact, most of the time the people who make “promises-promises” just want to go on record about what they’re “fittin’”* to do, they don’t actually ever really do much.)
- The people in a collaboration who really get things done, usually do so without fanfare.
- All you can do is your best. (The team may need to define what the “best” looks like.)
- The naysayers and nit-pickers will show up, but you have to ignore them. (It’s easier to tell somebody how it should be done than to do it yourself; it’s easier to see things clearly in hindsight than in the moment.)
- The “Johnny-come-latelys” (i.e., some of the very people you tried to get to be part of the collaboration originally) will show up in the midnight hour.
- The gifts that the collaborators bring will differ but each is important to the achievement of the goal.
Collaboration is not easy, it is often boisterous, it requires patience and persistence. In the end – it is the best way to accomplish significant things.
*A previous entry discusses “fittin’ to do.”