The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

Working Abroad and the Art of Tomorrow, Today:

An Interview with Yumi Palleschi

Yumi is from Terni, Italy and is a former concert pianist with a bachelors from Fryderyck Chopin University of Music in Warsaw and a masters in piano performance from SMU in Dallas. She graduated with the most recent cohort (6th) of MMIAM in July 2019. She is currently the Administrative Director at Joe Jack et John, a multidisciplinary and bilingual theatre company in Montréal, Canada. 

What do you do at your new job? What kind of skills do you use there daily?

As the Administrative Director at Joe Jack et John I’m in charge of budgeting and accounting, which is really the only part of my job that I do alone because the rest of the work is so collaborative. Since we’re a small team, I’m also responsible for fundraising and partnerships, but honestly I work on just about everything. I do market development, which involves contacting presenters and managing communications with everyone outside the production team. I do a considerable amount of grant writing, since that’s where the majority of our funding comes from, but I also work closely with our Artistic and Executive Director on strategic planning, marketing and branding. I’m glad that the MMIAM program was so diverse in what we learned because now I have to use just about everything I know!

Our organization is very collaborative, horizontal, and democratic. We all work on just about everything together and there is very little hierarchy anywhere in the organization. I think this is especially common in Montréal, but it’s really amazing how everything is developed through a collaborative process. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and by communicating and working together on almost any project we can leverage each other’s skills to reach the best result possible. Most arts teams are quite small and so everyone needs to be able to step up and make sure that they’re doing all they can to make their organization work.

What is unique about your organization?

This is actually a really difficult question to answer, because our organization is so complex and unique. First off, I know a lot of people use terms like inclusivity, diversity, and collaborative to describe their organizations, but we are especially good representations of these. We work with diverse teams that include both professional actors with intellectual disabilities and without disabilities. Moreover, each one of our productions is created through a collaborative process in which all the actors and designers work together with the director and dramaturg to create the show from scratch. Everyone has ownership over the production because the entire process of building a show is collaborative from the beginning, and working with very diverse teams allows us to develop new ideas because there is such a diversity of life experiences.

Our mission focuses on the creation of original and humanistic works with the help of technology and we try to challenge our audiences’ perspective of the world around them through various methods. A good example of how we’re doing this now is our new show “Violette”, which is an interactive show that is partially in virtual reality and tells a story of abuse. It’s not a graphic account, but it’s very powerful because it’s a one-on-one experience with an actor that brings the audience members into the theatrical world with the help of VR. I think this is extremely exciting because it’s pushing the limits of what can be done with theatre and how technology can bend those boundaries. It adds a new dimension to live theater and ends up bringing the best out of both theater and VR by combining them.

Announcement for the play Yumi’s company – Joe Jack et John – is working on.

Can you talk about the experience of finding a job in a new country? What was the visa process like?

I had planned on moving to Canada for work before finishing the MMIAM program so I applied for the International Experience Canada Visa, which is the Canadian version of a working holiday visa and is very common among European countries. Sadly, this visa isn’t available for Americans, but getting a work visa for Canada is easy if you do MMIAM since you get a diploma from HEC Montréal. If you’re interested in working abroad and not sure how to do it, I suggest talking to someone who’s gone through the process, and/or to an immigration advisor. Also, you’ll need time to prepare for the visa and for visa processing, so better start ahead of time!

I knew when I arrived in Montréal after MMIAM I would need to find a job quickly because I needed to eat and pay the rent. So I ended up working a fundraising job for UNICEF for a short time when I first arrived, even though I knew it wasn’t a perfect fit. I approached the job asking myself what I could learn from it instead of focusing on what I didn’t like about it. There was a lot to learn. I had to go door to door asking for donations and talking with people in French all day long. Even at the time I knew it wasn’t going to be long term, but it gave me credibility for my current job where I work on fundraising, and it helped me get comfortable with talking about money and sponsorships.

I think with first jobs it’s important to just jump in and try, especially if you’re entering a new industry like I was. In the arts management world you need to have so many skills. It’s not just fundraising or accounting, or artistic direction, you need to have a pretty good idea of how to do all of it, so it’s not a bad idea to start somewhere even if you don’t see where it will take you. There’s always lots to learn.

What are you excited about in Arts and arts management? What kind of changes do you see coming in the future?

I think the arts in general are really exciting today because there is more and more cross-contamination in terms of forms of arts, styles and cultures. We have the opportunity to interact with culture from almost anywhere.

This is also reflected in the management side in the way the arts are borrowing from tech, business, and other industries, which help the arts function better. Sometimes bringing a new structure will result in changes and art that are unexpectedly beneficial or beautiful. Things are changing faster than ever before and it creates so much competition and the arts need to stay up to date to compete, and the new ideas and collaborations that are developing from this are dazzling.

It’s hard to keep track of all the things that are changing, but if you’re alert and aren’t afraid but rather go with the flow and work with it, it’s exciting.

What is some advice that you have for current and future arts managers?

Don’t be afraid of change. Like I said, the arts world and everything around is in a state of flux so you need to be flexible and comfortable with change if you’re going to succeed.

Also, paying attention and understanding human interaction is extremely important. It’s necessary to ensure that your team works well together and that everybody feels comfortable expressing their thoughts, which is, in my experience, when innovation really happens. You can have great ideas and know everything in the world, but if you can’t work with a team, it doesn’t matter because you’ll never be able to act on those ideas. The world and the workplace is very diverse in every way, so it’s important to know how to listen to, understand, and work with everyone.

Yumi’s birthday celebration in Montréal, 2019, with MMIAM classmates and friends (personal archive)