[Série] Managers of culture, figures and moods

They go almost unnoticed. They are, however, essential players in the cultural milieu. The duty offers a series of portraits of shadow trades, through the confidences of professionals who practice them or have already practiced them. Today: cultural managers.

Rarely do they make the headlines, are dragged onto the stage at the moment of the ovation or see their name shining at the top of a poster. And they generally do very well. However, cultural managers operate in an environment that, more than many others, thrives on recognition and, ultimately, glory. They rarely harvest most of it. What motivates them? So many things, starting with the love of art — and of artists.

Some liken them to accountants who make the dream a reality or to mediators in charge of managing sometimes disproportionate egos. They do all of this and more, and some would say that’s the job of any good manager in any workplace.

Danilo Dantas, professor at HEC Montreal, disagrees. “All managers have to live with a level of uncertainty, but it is even greater for cultural managers. The difference lies in the nature of the product. Art is not there to satisfy a need identified by the artist; it’s the expression of an inner need”, explains the educational manager of the DESS in management of cultural organizations offered by the establishment.

We know that a creation sometimes manages to resonate with the greatest number. Or sink into cruel indifference. But no matter: an artistic project is not built alone.

“Building Bridges”

Coordinating, planning, financing, persuading and (sometimes) getting involved in politics: the tasks of a cultural manager are endless, and they have to enter the dance in their own way. All of this, Nathalie Maillé has been doing for quite some time.

The director general of the Conseil des arts de Montréal is a graduate of UQAM in dance. She quickly became a teacher and, with a solid experience in the field, eventually a manager. She is also a graduate of HEC Montreal. Does she miss the time when she went on stage? “I never defined myself as an artist,” she replies without hesitation. I saw the happiness of my comrades, but what animated me, and still animates me, it is this work environment. Throughout my career, my leitmotif has not changed: better serve artists so that they can offer the best of themselves. »

Over time, Nathalie Maillé has come to understand that the cultural manager shares many points in common with her colleagues from other sectors — “Being able to manage human and financial resources, and above all to have everyone sit at the same table for success of a project, which requires listening” — and that he must multiply his contacts outside his milieu.

The art gallery, the theater company and the museum never operate in a vacuum, underlines the one who was president of the board of directors of UQAM.

“I cannot only argue with those who support me in my ideas. I act as a mentor, and I’ve always had one, because you need to be surrounded by people with different skills, of different ages, including young people… to age less quickly! And they don’t all have to come from a cultural background, because you have to build bridges. »

“Recognize the talent of others”

Lynda Beaulieu has worked with Robert Lepage for almost 30 years and has carved out a new gem in the cultural landscape of Quebec. Advance the career of her famous brother here and abroad, build and animate the Le Diamant complex, in the heart of Place d’Youville: these are just some of the missions and achievements of the one who says she is surprised that THEDuty thought of her in the context of this series on shadow professions.

Once the astonishment has passed, she has no difficulty in expressing her passion for her work, an affair of the heart and of the family. “A manager’s greatest talent is to recognize that of others,” says Lynda Beaulieu bluntly. Basically, it’s above all a question of human values, valuing colleagues, but also admitting mistakes: the boss isn’t necessarily smarter than you, which is good to know! »

But it must be tenacious and “ready to receive bricks”, recognizes the one who received some during the planning and construction of the Diamond, inaugurated in 2019.

No question, on the other hand, of cultivating regrets. “I never look back except to learn something. I see myself first and foremost as a facilitator — a solution girl, not a problem girl. What inspires me more than anything is to leave an indelible trace of the passage of Robert [Lepage]. I have believed in his talent since I was little, and I would go to war for him! »

“Give the right time”

This unfailing devotion appears to many as the cornerstone of a career as a cultural manager. Associated with the Festival de théâtre des Amériques (which became the Festival TransAmériques in 2007) for 18 years, including 10 as administrative director and right-hand man of Marie-Hélène Falcon, at the time general and artistic director, Jacinthe St-Pierre recognizes herself perfectly in the words of the president of Le Diamant.

“You have to admire the artist for whom you work and have a great desire to propel him in his projects”, specifies the one who now collaborates with creators as different as Rhodnie Désir, Émilie Monnet and Marie Brassard. Nor is it an act of self-sacrifice, even if the creators are necessarily at the forefront: “What these three accomplish enhances me, nourishes me, and it is rewarding; what they do is important, and I play an important role in it. »

However, it sometimes happens that this importance goes to the head of certain people, as if intoxicated by glory. As a good manager, Jacinthe St-Pierre feels she has to bring them back to order, even down to earth! “Asking an artist to apologize for going too far and disrespecting his colleagues, I’ve done that more than once in the past. Anyway, with me, they have the right time: I won’t say that their project is interesting if I don’t think so. »

And it is not because she does not wear the label of artist that she will deprive herself of giving her opinion, she who also sees her role as that of a guide.

I never look back except to learn something. I see myself first and foremost as a facilitator — a solution girl, not a problem girl. What inspires me more than anything is to leave an indelible trace of the passage of Robert [Lepage]. I have believed in his talent since I was little, and I would go to war for him!

Just like Nathalie Maillé and Lynda Beaulieu, there is no question for Jacinthe St-Pierre of claiming any “artist’s soul” – especially in an environment that already has many. They put all their heart, all their soul into a cause that requires “great creativity in an environment often limited by its financial resources”, emphasizes Professor Dantas in broad strokes.

Artists are very sensitive to this. “After having been secretary to a minister, I began my career in the cultural world with [la danseuse et chorégraphe] Marie Chouinard as coordinator, says Jacinthe St-Pierre. She told me how creative I was. I was flattered because it was the first time someone called my work that way. I will never forget him. »

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