Bailey McFaden is an experienced arts manager with a background in higher education. She completed the MMIAM program in 2021 and has since served as the School Programs Coordinator at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts.
Tell me about yourself. How did you become interested in the arts?
I am incredibly blessed to have a family that’s passionate about and supportive of the performing arts. My mom was a professional singer, she studied opera performance. My dad has always loved the theater; my younger brother even studied acting and theater.
I’ve gone about my career in a really interesting way, working across the intersection of both education and the arts. In my undergrad, I studied arts management, dance, and Spanish. So I always had a full plate, but I also had an abundance of mentors who helped me think through my next steps. One of my mentors actually knew François [Colbert]. She connected us and he suggested that I get a bit of experience first, instead of going straight from an arts management undergraduate program to an arts management masters program.
So, I worked for universities abroad, in both Dublin, Ireland, and Rome, Italy, where my role was to ensure that cultural experiences were a part of study abroad students’ overall experience. I also did an internship with the American Dance Festival, wrote grants for Annex Dance Company, performed for Spoleto Festival USA, and worked with the production team at the Gaillard Center…after about two years, I felt ready and joined the MMIAM program.
You mentioned your whole family has an interest and background in performing arts. How about you?
I was a dancer. The last couple of years, with COVID, things have, obviously, been different but I have performed professionally in classical ballet as well as contemporary and modern dance at home and abroad.
Is that how you found your way to Jacob’s Pillow? Can you tell me about the organization?
So, Jacob’s Pillow has been around for 90 years and was founded by Ted Shawn in Becket, Massachusetts where he was focused on bringing the community together to experience dance and legitimizing dance as a career path for men. Since then, every summer, we host a roughly nine-week festival and welcome in companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Miami City Ballet, and New Zealand’s Black Grace.
Tell me about your role at Jacob’s Pillow.
I am currently the School Programs Coordinator. I help facilitate and welcome dancers and incredible artist faculty here every summer. I have discovered that my passion lies in bringing artists together to create original works of art.
Right now, we’re hosting a Contemporary Ballet program with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, a Contemporary program with Milton Myers, the Dunham Legacy Revisited program with Reginald Yates, a Tap Dance program with Michelle Dorrance, Derick K. Grant, and Dormeshia, and finally, a Choreography Fellows program led by Dianne McIntyre and Risa Steinberg.
We have a really beautiful campus that hosts the studios and performance spaces themselves, but we also have the ability to house our dancers, summer interns, and the various dance companies who come to visit; almost everyone stays on-site and is able to walk in and get to work as they see fit.
So, the focus is on growth and artistic development specifically for adults, is that correct?
Yes. Our mission is to support the creation, documentation, and presentation of dance itself.
We’ve talked about creation and presentation, but not documentation. A part of the Pillow experience is to host artist residencies and take the time to capture and preserve the work created and discovered here on our campus by the media and archives team. We run interviews with the artists and show large portions of their works in progress. Many of the interviews can be found on our website, but many of the files exist solely on our grounds in our archives building, “Blake’s Barn.” We’re a 90-year-old organization, so we have files going back decades that we’re still working to digitize. The organization actually hired someone through an incredible grant which is solely dedicated to this project. It’s all very exciting!
That’s great! It sounds like there is a lot going on at Jacob’s Pillow. Can you share one of your favorite things about your role?
As I mentioned, much of the time that students are here at The School, they are creating works to be presented on stage. I love being able to help the artists, faculty, and guest choreographers, realize their vision and execute it on the stage. For me, that means collaborating with the production team to ensure that all tech needs are anticipated, working with the media team to make sure that we’re getting all the necessary media to share these works with the public, anticipating the needs of artists, such as ensuring everyone has water while we are rehearsing outside in the heat all day, spraying the floors down with solution so dancers don’t slip, or even adding short breaks to their existing schedule and handing out sunscreen when it’s mid-day. Artists can get lost in the process the week of a performance and especially during a show week so it’s our responsibility to notice those moments and take them so that they can remain grounded in the experience as a whole.
Simple little things can make all the difference and ensure a continued sense of belonging in this space. I’m always so excited to see all of their work come to fruition.
One of my favorite aspects of this job is getting to serve in a collaborative capacity. I feel that one of my main jobs is being an interdepartmental liaison. It’s probably quite common to get siloed in arts organizations. Everyone has so much to do and can begin to think so individually. I love breaking those barriers down and helping each department in any way I can to ensure we maintain a steadfast focus on the vision for ourselves and our artists.
Can you share one thing, personally or professionally, that you’ve done in the past year that you’re proud of?
One of the first things that come to mind is our documentation of the artists’ work here. We work with a really incredible media team and a lot of my job last summer—and even going into this year—was to run the artist and dancer interviews. I love getting to have those one-on-one conversations and seeing the sparks in the artist’s eyes as they talk about their immersion here on our campus. That process of getting someone comfortable in front of the camera, drawing out every little bit of their experience, and making sure that this interview makes them proud and lives on beyond their time on site, is something that makes me proud.
Another is our upcoming Chet Walker Tribute performance. Chet Walker was a beloved artist here at Jacob’s Pillow and all through New York City and on Broadway. He passed away a couple of months ago. I’m very honored to be a part of the programming and production aspects of the tribute we’re planning for him; working with all of the alumni and artists that have worked with him in the past to create something special. It’s going to be an incredible way to honor his life.
Is there something I should have asked that I didn’t?
I want to add that I’m really excited about the accessibility efforts in performing arts. It’s something that I’ve seen more and more, especially through this program. While I’m fluent in the Spanish language and studied it for much of my life, I was given the opportunity in MMIAM to feel confident in French while in Quebec and in Italian, while in Italy, but I would not feel confident carrying on a full conversation in those languages or trying to interpret important documents full of policies and procedures. So, I can empathize with artists who may not yet feel 100 percent confident in English. I’m excited to be a part of an organization that has allowed me the opportunity to translate school documents for our international artists. Until recently, all of our materials were in the English language and I’m really excited to be a part of this important change.