The Rozsa Approach to Arts Leadership Training

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

by Lisa Mackay

Su Ying Strang, photo by Nicole Kelly Westman
Su Ying Strang, photo by Nicole Kelly Westman

January 15 marked the beginning of the 2020 Rozsa Executive Arts Leadership (REAL) program, an annual training program for established leaders who are working to lead change in their organization, community, and/or the arts sector. We began the session with each participant introducing and interviewing the person to their right as a way to practice listening and asking questions, and as a fun way to get to know everybody. Then the group transitioned from introductions to a session led by Su Ying Strang on Values-Led Leadership. 

“When I was asked to co-develop a session on values-led leadership with my friend and colleague Jenna Rodgers, I thought back to the importance of thinking through my own values alongside the values of the institutions I work with,” explains Strang. “Coming from a place of understanding these sets of values, while prioritizing and honouring said values, can help steer direction in your programming, identify strong partnerships, or help guide you during tough decisions.”

It is practical insights such as these that mark the unique approach of the Rozsa Foundation Arts Leadership programs. Although several of the programs bring in leadership experts from the business or coaching community, Arts Leadership Director Geraldine Ysselstein also wanted to reach out to current leaders in the Calgary arts community who grapple daily with the theories being discussed.

“I realized that we have so many arts leaders in Calgary who, through trial, error, instinct, and experience, have become experts on the concepts we are teaching,” says Ysselstein. “Not only that, but they embody a specific knowledge that intersects non-profits, arts organizations, leadership development, and business practices, all rooted in the Calgary community. Being able to draw on this experience and pass it along to other arts leaders feels like a tangible way to support and strengthen the arts, which is our end goal at the Rozsa Foundation.”

"They embody a specific knowledge that intersects non-profits, arts organizations, leadership development, and business practices, all rooted in the Calgary community."

Strang agrees that using resources from the arts community is a strength of the Rozsa programs. “In addition to bringing colleagues together, this training model fosters some of our sector's greatest strengths — peer mentorship, resource sharing, and community building.” She adds, “a moment of pause for reflection and professional development in under-resourced organizations can sometimes feel challenging to prioritize, but REAL, alongside RAFT (Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training program) and RAMP (Rozsa Arts Management Program), carves out time and space for peers to gather and form a community of practice and support this important work."

The REAL program continues until the beginning of April, and the Rozsa Foundation Review will continue to highlight the learnings and insights of facilitators and participants as they come. For more information on the program and its curriculum, contact Geraldine Ysselstein at

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