Arts administration

Arts administration (alternatively arts management) is the field that concerns business operations around an arts organization. Arts administrators are responsible for facilitating the day-to-day operations of the organization and fulfilling its mission. Arts organizations include professional non-profit entities (e.g. theaters, museums, symphonies, jazz organizations, opera houses, and ballet companies) and many smaller professional and non-professional for-profit arts-related organizations (e.g. auction houses, art galleries, music companies, etc.).[1] The duties of an arts administrator can include staff management, marketing, budget management, public relations, fundraising, program development and evaluation, and board relations.[2][3]

Arts administrators

Art administrators (alternatively arts managers) work for arts and cultural organizations such as theatres, symphonies, " galleries, museums, arts festivals, arts centers, arts councils, regional arts boards, dance companies, community arts organizations, disability arts organizations, and local authorities."[4]

An arts administrator in a small organization may do marketing, event booking, and handle financial issues. An arts administrator for a larger arts organization may be responsible for buildings and facilities, creative staff (e.g., performers/artists), other administrative staff, public relations, marketing, and writing reports.

A senior-level arts administrator may advise the board of directors or other senior managers on "strategic planning and management decisions. An effective arts administrator must also be knowledgeable in local, state and federal public policy as it relates to human resources, health insurance, labor laws and volunteer risk management."[4]

There are several notable professionals in the field. Philippe de Montebello was curator of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1977-2008. On his retirement, he was both the longest-serving director in the institution's history and the longest-serving director of any major art museum in the world. Michael Maddox co-founded the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, home to Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera, which are amongst the oldest and grandest ballet and opera companies in the world. Another notable figure in arts administration is John Lane of John Lane's Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine. Lane acquired the playhouse in 1950 and successfully ran the organization, still considered to be "America's foremost summer theatre," until his retirement in 1994.

Issues in arts administration

Like any business, arts organizations must work within changing external and internal environments.[5] External changes may be cultural, social, demographic, economic, political, legal, or technological. Internal changes may be related to the audience, membership, Board of Directors, personnel, facilities, growth, or financial operations. Another change that must be taken into consideration is the growing need for technology-based marketing programs (i.e.: social media) in order for the organization to change with the times and bring younger visitor and member pools into the organization.

Although a good arts administrator constantly monitors and manages change, they must also remain aware of the overall direction and mood of the organization while helping people do their day-to-day jobs.[6] Arts organizations, as part of the economic system, experience the effects of expansion and contractions in the local, regional, national, and world economies.[7] Many arts organizations struggle in difficult economic times.

Academic programs

Arts administration programs are available at a number of universities and colleges in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. In the United States, these programs began in the 1970s at several schools after meetings with the National Endowment for the Arts on how the next generations of arts leaders would be educated. Some academic units offer certificate programs for practitioners seeking continuing education or professional development education. While programs in arts administration draw on many elements of related administration fields, such as business administration, they also include specialized courses on administering non-profit arts and cultural organizations.

Arts administration programs award a range of credentials, including certificates and diplomas, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees. These programs usually blend curriculum elements from existing administration programs such as public administration, business administration, arts law, and management. At some institutions arts administration may be a concentration within the school's Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. The MA in Arts Administration program at Columbia University is the only program that ties together curriculum elements from public and private management/administration, law, business, and finance at an Ivy league university.[8] Many arts administration programs include a practicum in which the student volunteers or works in an arts or cultural organization to gain practical experience.

At some universities, similar programs are called arts management (e.g. American University)[9], performing arts management (e.g. DePaul University's Undergraduate music program)[10], or arts leadership (e.g. DePaul University's Graduate program, University of Southern California's Master of Science in Arts Leadership program).[11][12]

Universities such as American, Wisconsin and Indiana, among many others, offer programs to students in all arts disciplines, while others are more specialized towards a particular discipline (DePaul's undergraduate and graduate theatre programs are theatre oriented, while its undergraduate music program is music oriented). The master's degree at some schools is an MBA, while other universities offer MFA, MA, and MPA degrees, largely depending on where the program is housed. For example, at American University, the program is part of the Department of Performing Arts, whereas at Indiana University it is part of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Another program differentiator of note is that the MFA is considered a terminal degree in the field, allowing graduates to apply to teach at the university level as a full-time professor.

Though curricula may be similar, the atmosphere of programs may differ. Variances between programs may often revolve around the centrality of arts versus the centrality of business skills in the curriculum. Other programs, such as Ohio State, Indiana, and (increasingly) American, are strongly rooted in cultural policy. Another program differentiator is the amount of time spent "in the field," applying academic principles to existing arts organizations through practicum or internship experiences. Seattle University's MFA in Arts Leadership degree program requires that students spend time each quarter working with a local arts organization through a practicum. They believe this emphasis on real-world interaction helps reinforce classwork and helps build a network of arts professionals that serves as a resource upon graduation. At George Mason University, MA in Arts Management at the College of Visual & Performing Arts (Arlington, VA) , one of the largest enrolled programs in the USA, no less than 252 hours of internship are required in at least two different arts organizations. At this institution, the faculty are required to be both academically and experientially qualified, with many being current senior arts managers at some of the Washington, DC's area most prominent visual & performing arts centers.

Most programs require two years in residence, though Drexel University, University of Denver, and Goucher College offer online options with limited residency. The University of Kentucky, and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania offer fully online degrees in arts administration.[13][14] In order to accommodate full-time employment, provide strong networking opportunities, and many teamwork opportunities, programs such as Seattle University have adopted a cohort model and offer classes on evenings and weekends.

Some programs offer dual degrees. For example, the University of Cincinnati offers an MA/MBA program in conjunction with the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The UC/CCM Graduate Arts Administration Program, like most others, exists to prepare and train students to become successful CEOs and senior managers of non-profit arts and cultural institutions by combining business administration and real-world experience.[15]

In Italy, the Istituto Europeo di Design, in Venice, offers a Master in Business Administration in Arts and Cultural Events that provides advanced knowledge and entrepreneurial skills necessary to understand and operate in the multifarious world of the arts. A similar course is held in Bologna, at the University of Bologna, called Innovation and Organization of Culture and the Arts , offering a double degree opportunity together with Carnegie Mellon's Master of Arts Management. In Turin, the St. John International University offers a Master of Arts in International Arts Administration. A new innovative program based on the concept of artwork as 'information', that integrate recording, cataloging, communication, management, fruition. The program is led by faculty and high level practitioners from Heritage, srl.

Other programs may offer a single degree that includes coursework at two colleges. Carnegie Mellon's Master of Arts Management (MAM) Program is one example, tying the College of Fine Arts to Heinz College's School of Public Policy and Management. Heinz College provides the core management coursework and the College of Fine Arts supports the MAM Program with coursework specific to arts institutions. Another example is the two-year MA/MBA program at Southern Methodist University, offering a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from the Meadows School of the Arts and a Master of Business Administration from the Cox School of Business.

Some programs are housed within their university's Music, Theater and Dance department like the one at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. This is the LEAP Institute for the Arts Master of Arts Leadership and Administration residential and online programs. Another example is the University of Southern California's Master of Science in Arts Leadership which is housed within the USC Thornton School of Music, and accepts thought leaders in any artistic discipline including music, theatre, dance, film, and fine art.

Several universities offer concentrations in media (film, television, music, new media, etc.) management: Drexel University, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia College Chicago are examples. Carnegie Mellon offers a separate degree in film/television management. New York University's MA in Arts Administration program allows students to choose a visual arts or a performing arts focus.

Increasingly, the AAAE (Association of Arts Administration Educators) membership has become more interested and proactive in responding to key issues in the arts and in offering help to arts organizations on management, policy, governance, fund development, and financial issues. As a result of this new commitment, research in the program is growing in both amount and quality.

Arts administrators have the ability to create and administer necessary professional development to fine arts teachers. Professional development for the arts is often subpar due to a lack in finances from the government's allotted funding, which can be remedied by the lobbying of arts administrators.[16]


  1. Byrnes, William, J, (2009). "Management and the Arts". Focal Press. p. 2.
  2. "Job profiles: Arts administrator". National Careers Service. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  3. "Career: Arts Administrators". Big Future. College Board. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  4. Arts administrator: Job description and activities
  5. ^ Byrnes, William, J, (2009). "Management and the Arts". Focal Press. p. 84.
  6. ^ Byrnes, William, J, (2009). "Management and the Arts". Focal Press. p. 87.
  7. ^ Byrnes, William, J, (2009). "Management and the Arts". Focal Press. p. 93.
  8. "Arts Administration@Teachers College, Columbia University".
  9. "Arts Management Degree Programs & Information | American University, Washington, DC". Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  10. "Performing Arts Management | School of Music | DePaul University". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  11. "Graduate Degree in Arts Leadership | Conservatory | DePaul Theatre | DePaul University". Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  12. "Arts Leadership | USC Thornton School of Music". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  13. "Online M.A. Program | College of Fine Arts". Retrieved 2015-04-06.
  14. "Arts administration". SCAD. Retrieved 2015-04-06.
  16. Gates, Leslie. “Professional Development: Through Collaborative Inquiry for an Art Education Archipelago.” Vol. 52, no. 1, 2010, pp. 6–17., JSTOR 25746078 Accessed 16 Sept. 2018.
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