Personal Writing

Cross pollinating my recognized expertise

TThen & Now

When I started as Executive Director of The Arts Partnership in 2010, I was pretty much an absolute nobody. I didn’t come from a family name that mattered in my community, I hadn’t done anything that identified me as a powerhouse and I wasn’t married to someone whose name, title or reputation held any particular significance. In short, I had to build my credibility from the ground up.

So I did.

I made one phone call after the other, read one leadership book on top of another, drank one seemingly never-ending cup of coffee (eventually moving entirely to tea), introduced myself to one person and the next until people started to know who I was and what I was about.

Incidentally, I accidentally discovered who I was and what I was about along the way as well.

Today, 10+ years later, I’m a recognized expert in arts advocacy in my community and across the region. Along the way, not only did my name start to carry weight but my title shifted to President & CEO because I’d become, through time and consistent, dedicated work, the thought and action leader of my organization and the sector.

I appreciate all that this job has afforded me. The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” is unbelievably apt for where I was when I began. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of excellent people dedicate time to mentoring me, give me personal and professional opportunities and invest in both my organization and in me.

I’m naturally curious, love learning and have a persistent tenacity about my own development. I thought about starting a blog for years, but I finally went from wanting to doing in 2019. For nearly two years, I’ve used my blog to discover who I am under (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say in addition to) this arts advocacy mantle. I couldn’t have articulated it until recently, but what I was fumbling around with was a way to shock my own system.

And that’s really how I became the world’s first Personal Systems Disruptor.

I’ve had a few cosmic clarion calls in my lifetime, and you better believe this was one of them. The ground practically quivered under me when that idea struck. And what’s so interesting is that, nearly five months later, I still feel the same certain rightness to the idea. I know this work is what I am meant to do because it’s who I am meant to be. It’s who I already am.

Now & Going Forward

Building the Personal Systems Disruption framework is in so many ways a beautiful accompaniment to my arts advocacy work. It takes all that I have learned about advocacy, communication, creative problem solving, development, networking and strategic planning for growth in the arts and transfers all of that to helping people discover and develop growth in themselves.

In the online Recognized Experts group I belong to, founder Dorie Clark asks people to pursue competency in these three areas:

  • Social Proofas of today: I’m well on my way to getting there. Two PSD retreats since Nov 2020 and one coming up in February, a number of talks, my blog, podcasts, social media, livestreams, etc.
  • Content Creationas of today: ✔️ and only more to come…
  • Networkingas of today: this is where I need to focus. My current powerful network knows me for my arts advocacy. How can I help them see this lateral repositioning and utilize them here, too? How do I grow an entirely new network of people who will benefit from this work but don’t currently know me at all? Who can be my best allies, connectors and guides in this new realm?

Making this discovery this weekend was like finding a compass in the middle of the forest. Now I have a direction to position myself towards and get moving. How will I grow this network? I don’t exactly know, but just knowing that that is my marching orders makes it seem feasible.

I haven’t been a recognized expert in the arts for so long that I have forgotten what it takes to get to that point. Here’s to reaching out and setting virtual meetings, reading books, listening to podcasts and watching videos and putting myself out there, over and over again. And here’s to doing it while also keeping the success and growth of the arts sector front and center.

I better go put the kettle on. I’m going to need a great big mug of tea to pull this off!

*Thanks to Emily Williams-Wheeler for the glorious mug.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Pagyn Harding

    A very interesting read because it prompted me to reflect on the steps I took to be a recognized thought & action leader in the arts while living in rural Clay County, MN. My path involved attending numerous community meetings and getting involved in small town arts events such as The Top Hat Theater in Ulen, MN. Fifteen years later becoming a Lake Region Arts Council (LRAC) Clay County Board member for a three year term. I keep thinking there must be a way for me to share “my network” with “your network” because all too often those of us living in the rural areas tend to forget, we have an Arts Advocacy voice … and we need to use it more often than we do.

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