The Florida State University Department of Art Education would like to congratulate alumnus Osubi Craig for obtaining the position of Director of the Arts and Cultural Affairs at Polk State College! The Arts Administrator of the Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center said that the center is important because “we offer cultural experiences that are relevant to everyone, and through that diverse programming, members of this community [Polk County] will not only have a deeper understanding of themselves as individuals, but also the world around them.”
Osubi Craig brings a great deal of experience and cultural awareness to his new role as director of the Arts and Cultural Affairs. Craig earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering/Minor Jazz Studies from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) and an M.A. from Florida State University (FSU) in Arts Administration with an emphasis on Event and Program Management. Since then, he has held a variety of prominent Arts Administration and Higher Education Administration positions including the Assistant Director of the Office of Black Diasporan Culture at FAMU; Grant Specialist and Research Coordinator for the College of Engineering, Sciences, Technology and Agriculture at FAMU; Director of Grants and Sponsored Research with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Title III programs at Florida Memorial University ; and Director of the Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center.
Osubi Craig had the following to say when interviewed about his new position:
Did you ever imagine obtaining the position that you have today?
Yes. It’s ironic. I envisioned this particular position when I was in school. I wanted to work with a multipurpose facility in my community for people interested in all genres of the arts. We here at Polk State have the arts center for our county, which is an old catholic church converted into an arts space. So in my mind, I had a vision that this type of place was in my future.
What opportunities did you pursue that led to your current occupation?
I had an amazing internship at Carnegie Hall with the Administration Director while in school at FSU. It was wonderful to be a part of the team and help work out problems. It was also nice to have a chance to “pull back the curtain” and be one of only a couple hundred people to see inside one of the worlds premier arts venues. In addition, I was heavily involved with FAMU’s African Caribbean concerts. It was truly great because I was still in school yet able to apply and test my knowledge and get some formal training.
How did you become involved with Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center initially? Why were you attracted to this organization?
Well, the college was gifted the arts center in 2011 by the longtime owners the Lake Wales Arts Council. Polk State College received money to renovate, restore, and preserve the building that was originally constructed in 1926. In the gifting agreement a greater partnership was born between the Lake Wales Arts Council and College as the council maintained their office space in the building and continues providing their long running programming from the Arts Center as well.
So when I saw the job posting I said, ” Hey, they are talking about me! This is my job.” From the time I walked into the building for the interview it felt right. The College had an incredible track record and an amazing president Dr. Eileen Holden who was able to grow the college at the time when many others were cutting back. I truly appreciated the commitment made to the arts and was excited to be a part of that. In addition through Arts Council Partnership I was excited to not have to make miracles out the gate because there was already so much robust programming happening in the community.
What unique abilities/traits do you possess that gave you an advantage when pursuing this position?
I have spent a lot of time working in colleges and universities in many different roles. It has been challenging to find a perfect position. However, having that diverse background and skill set has allowed me to be more effective and enabled me to manage the amazing opportunities I have been presented..
Did any particular experience in the FSU program provide you with the tools you needed to lead you to this career path?
First, one of the best classes that I took in the program was grant writing with Dr. Ploumis-Devick. It was about not only writing the grants but partnership building, and going through the process of seeing your ideas grow to actually implementing the grant. The guest speakers she brought into the class were also great to learn from.
The leadership class I took was also extremely beneficial. I met people through that class that I am still in contact with today. It was a chance to network, but also a chance to build relationships to work out and carry out tasks.
Dr. Charles Dorn, my major professor, was heavy on teaching us about Arts Policy. Although there was not enough application in my view at that time, I am thankful that he was vigilant in making sure I knew all of the theories and policies in our field. Now, when I talk with state representatives or elected officials, I understand how the system and works and I am able to present a more effective rationale about how art can enhance the quality of life and why that is important.
The flexibility within the department was also something I am grateful for. It allowed me to take classes in music and theater management, which was a great opportunity to experience different perspectives in Arts Administration and engage with other working professionals.
What was the most important/influential thing that you learned while in school?
It is simple. One thing was the relationships I made throughout the process. Relationships are what opened doors for me at FSU and I have appreciated having worked with many alumni of the program while in school, not to mention the countless numbers I have found doing great things in our filed around the country. The second thing I learned while in school is to trust in the process. The masters degree program was short, yet long enough to plant enough seeds of applicable knowledge. I am thankful that I had faith in the process and the people because the legacy of the department at Florida State is evident when I went out in the industry. It is a sign of quality.
In pursuit of your current position, were there any major setbacks that you had to overcome?
The biggest challenge is that there is a whole lot of need and ideas but not enough money, time or people to support them. I am impatient! I have to accept that the budget will not grow as fast as we want it to, and to overcome this I have been able to grow via grants sponsorships. Overall, we need more people and money, and more time. But I am clear my team and I have been doing amazing things for our community.
Do you have any advice for students or professionals who might desire to follow in your footsteps?
Just show up and do your best because good and quality work is always recognized. At times you may think that no one will see nor care about your work, but that is not case. I went from doing OPS grunt work to now having this great position in a relatively short time, which was not by mistake. Just try and give it your best so you can go home and never say that you did not try. Try to develop relationships by building a network of people who can critique, mentor and inspire you. Seek help when needed and reach out to those who are doing the type of things you aspire to..
What do you hope to do after assuming the position of the Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs at Polk State College? Any future plans/ goals?
Through this position, I am living one of my dreams! It is amazing to be able to shape the arts programming in a holistic way for the college and this community. I am excited about the growth of our Jewel of The Ridge Jazz Festival and Downtown Concert Series, which bring world-class arts to our students, staff, faculty and community as a whole. We are excited about our electronic ticketing system. Once fully implemented it will change how we are able to market our programs allowing for targeted marketing and fundraising efforts. I am excited to see what the future of technology brings to our industry and my department. We want to make sure going forward that we are connected to trends in the arts world that will include technology being integrated into the arts experience, which will hopefully engage new audiences. The future is bright and I am excited about what will come next.