Erika Floreska Describes Her Journey as an Arts Leader

In a recent interview for Bird, Erika Floreska, executive director at Bloomingdale School of Music (New York, NY), shared her experience in the arts, as well as the leadership journey that brought her to an executive director position. In particular, she discussed what it takes for her to remain successful in her role, and how others might approach their own career development.

On the difference between being a director and an executive director:

Fundraising! [Laughs] An executive director is responsible for the whole institution. So you're managing budgets, getting money into the school, and getting people engaged. Executive directors are more focused on relationships. You have to tell the story of your institution, sell people on it and get them invested, and then ask for support. A director looks inward by focusing on faculty, teaching, and what’s happening in the school. An executive director looks outward.

On joining Bloomingdale at a time of transition:

It’s been an interesting journey. When I first arrived three years ago, the school was in a hard place. They’d just lost their executive director of 25 years, and they were operating in a very stunted way. It had been the same for many years. Everything had to change to keep up with the times. Enrollments were down, the systems were tired, and the school had been running financial deficits for five years.
It was overwhelming to walk into. But the faculty and the student inspired me to take on the challenge.  The school has such a strong financial aid and scholarship program, and it’s really ingrained in the history of this community. The core of Bloomingdale was so strong, I knew that I could get it back on track and really help the school grow.

On advice for other leaders:

Understand where you get your energy. What brings you joy? Build a career around that. For me, to see a kid learn how to persevere when things go bad is incredible. We had this adorable five-year-old who had won the at the previous year’s performance. He was playing the following year and, all of a sudden, he stopped and couldn’t remember his next line of music. Eventually he figured it out and kept playing, but he was distraught afterwards. His teacher was there, and explained that it happens to everybody, and that the important thing was that he finished the piece. Learn from this and move on. It’s a privilege to see that.

You can read the full interview here.

Published: May 23, 2018