As you may have already noticed, a new wave of theatre management is sweeping the country. Older, more experienced artistic directors and administrators are leaving their fields to make way for a new generation, many of them the products of increasingly popular arts management master’s degree programs. That’s where they’ve picked up business and analytical skills from courses on fundraising, marketing, and theatre operations, while also learning through experience in fellowships, assistantships, and internships.
Indeed more universities are introducing programs focusing on arts administration and leadership in several areas of the arts, including music and performing arts. What follows is a sampling of programs with an emphasis on theatre.
The MFA in Theatre at the University of Alabama features a concentration in Arts Management, combining coursework with hands-on work experience. It offers a rotation of assistantships in positions like assistant business manager, marketing coordinator, and education and outreach manager.
The university also offers a three-year, dual-degree program, the MBA/MFA Arts Management Concentration, which allows students to take courses and earn their degree simultaneously through the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Manderson Graduate School of Business. Although the program specializes in performing arts organizations, its stated goal is to provide general knowledge in nonprofits. “It is important to me that the students acquire a full understanding of the business operations of nonprofit organizations broadly, and how they can implement controls to directly impact the type of nonprofit they are employed by,” says director of arts management Dominic Yeager. “In acquiring a full understanding of the operational procedures of these organizations, the student better understands how, when, and if the theories and models they are learning actually impact the day-to-day operations of an organization.”
Brooklyn College, City University of New York gives students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the performing arts and business theories and techniques with its MFA in Performing Arts Management. The full-time two-year program requires a structured four-semester internship, residencies with at least three different performing arts organizations, and courses including Principles of Performing Arts Management, Financial & Managerial Accounting, and Fundraising for the Performing Arts. “Our program combines classes in current arts management theory and practice, taught by working professionals in the field, with practical experience gained in internships and residencies,” says interim program head Jessica Bathurst.
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has combined its College of Fine Arts with Heinz College, its business school, to create the two-year Master of Arts Management (MAM). The program strives to create art managers skilled in both the creative and business aspects of the field. “Drawing from a unique palette of data-infused management, policy, technology, and hands-on practical learning in the industry, our students are well-equipped for innovation and leadership in the arts and entertainment fields,” claims program director Kathryn Heidemann.
To apply the program’s focuses in arts, analytics, and action, students can take part in four practicum opportunities: a required summer internship; a first-year work-study job at local theatres including Pittsburgh Public Theater and Quantum Theatre; a second-year apprenticeship job; and a capstone management consulting project with clients such as MoMA, City Theatre, and Americans for the Arts. The program is also home to two experiential learning laboratories in which students can work as collaborators and researchers.
The University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and Carl H. Lindner College of Business combined resources to create the MFA in Arts Management. Founded in 1976, this program’s coursework in business theory and practice is applied to the specific operating conditions for various not-for-profit arts institutions. Only 8 to 10 students are accepted per cohort, and they graduate with both a M.A. and MBA in two years. Graduates are expected to have gained core competencies in strategic planning and decision-making, financial analysis and budget management, leadership, and organizational development.
Students learn within a thriving arts environment that allows numerous opportunities to gain practical management experience. “Cincinnati boasts a thriving professional arts community, which provides our students with many opportunities to learn the day-to-day operations of a non-profit arts organization,” says program director Jean Hamilton. “We are looking for young professionals who are passionate about the arts, curious about administration, and ready for a rigorous academic environment.” Cincinnati’s eight major performing and visual arts organizations, two performing arts centers, and numerous smaller arts groups provide practical experience through job opportunities and internships.
Columbia University in New York City offers two different arts administration programs, one in its Teachers College and the other in the School of the Arts. Columbia’s Theatre Management and Producing Concentration is a two-year MFA program offering courses in Creative Development, Finance, and History and Theory. During their time in the program, students complete 18 required courses, several electives, and three internships. Additionally, students must manage or produce at least one show, a requirement that is designed to foster collaboration between the producing students and the other artists in the theatre program. “Our rigorous, highly individualized curriculum provides a solid foundation for a career as a leader on both the not-for-profit and commercial sides of the industry; the classes and production work with fellow artists build community that lasts well beyond graduation; and our faculty and alumni of working professionals are the contacts that give our students a network they can turn to for support and mentorship,” says program director Steven Chaikelson.
In the 1980s, Columbia’s Arts Administration program moved from the School of the Arts to Teachers College, creating two separate programs within different schools: an M.A. and an MFA. Although the two programs do not formally share courses, students can take elective courses from either program.
Columbia Teachers College’s ARAD Program is a two-year, full-time arts administration M.A., providing students with training to work in any artistic tradition in both the for- and nonprofit sectors. Students complete a 300-hour internship, giving them hands-on experience at institutions like Lincoln Center as well as at grassroots organizations like NURTUREart. Half the curriculum comprises required business, law, and nonprofit management courses, with the other half including electives tailored to fit each student. Another distinguishing feature of the program is the “importance of social justice and community engagement,” says program manager Katarina Wong. “Our students actively want to bring the arts to the forefront in their communities, whether it’s through careers in marketing, development, program management, leadership, cultural policy, or program evaluation.”
Indiana University Bloomington focuses on cultural planning and regional development as well as on nonprofit and community-based arts organizations in its MFA in Arts Administration. The degree, which has been offered at the campus for more than three decades, is housed in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. This provides students with a vast knowledge of various areas of administration, while still focusing primarily on music and the arts.
The program boasts six full-time faculty in Arts Administration and a range of adjunct instructors with backgrounds in the profession. In 2019, the faculty will launch the Center for Cultural Affairs, dedicated to “developing a new generation of arts management and policy scholars and practitioners, through research partnerships, symposia, and graduate student research support,” says Michael Rushton, director of arts administration programs. “These are very exciting times in the Arts Administration program at IU—a smart, diverse and energized group of students taking on a wide range of projects in the community, original scholarship and research in arts management and policy, and now, with the launch of the Center for Cultural Affairs, engaging in the practice of leadership in the arts.”
New York University’s M.A. in Performing Arts Administration programs, founded in 1971, offers students the opportunity to enroll in short-term (one to two weeks) study-abroad programs, including Emerging Models and Markets for Music in Brazil and Race and Media at NYU London. Students engage with a large number of people passionate about the arts, building and maintaining personal connections and developing a sense of community. Because all required courses are offered in the evening, students have time to complete their two mandatory internships or find work outside of the required coursework.
The latter includes several courses at the Stern School of Business and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “This partnership—among a top music/education school, business school, and a policy school—enables students to experience a wide range of faculty expertise and to engage with students from different academic disciplines,” says program director Richard Maloney. “They can understand business and government leaders because they have been in class with future business and government leaders, yet they also understand artists and arts management through their courses at Steinhardt.”
Roosevelt University in Chicago allows students to complete the M.A. in Performing Arts Administration predominantly online. The program requires two weeks of in-person courses and seminars at its campus in Chicago and offers a two-year, part-time option to allow students to work in the field during their studies. Toward the end of the M.A., which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, students are assigned a case study and given four weeks to create a written plan of action to address a unique set of challenges. The final course and capstone project presents students with real-world scenarios and the opportunity to hone their skill set within the field. “The program is designed and administered to cultivate the next generation of leaders in the performing arts field,” says program director Ralph Craviso. “As such it affords its alumni a unique opportunity to position themselves for leadership positions in a broad array of performing arts institutions, ranging from symphony orchestras to dance, opera, and theatre.”
Southern Methodist University in Dallas offers a joint 75-hour M.A./MBA in Arts Management. The program combines advanced business courses in accounting, finance, and organizational behavior with small arts administration seminars focusing on fundraising, marketing, and cultural policy. In the fall semester of their second year, students take coursework in Europe’s leading arts and cultural management program at Bocconi University in Milan. Students are also expected to attain full-time internships at Dallas professional arts organizations and others across the U.S. and abroad. “The SMU campus and the city of Dallas is also an asset,” says program chair Alex Turrini. “It’s experiencing a magic and thrilling chance as a vibrant city in the arts thanks to arts district establishment.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison established the Bolz Center for Arts Administration in 1969. The Center’s two-year, full-time MBA degree with a major in Arts Administration is one of a few programs based in a business school. “Over the last several years, we’ve seen an increasing realization of the role that the arts and creativity play in developing well-rounded, thoughtful leaders,” says Center director Sherry Wagner-Henry. “The Bolz Center is well positioned to create innovative learning opportunities at the intersection of many disciplines, and it has been my honor to shepherd the growth of the program in this way.”
The program combines business study, hands-on experience, and professional networking opportunities for students. Students take general management courses, as well as a specialized arts administration seminar. In their second year, they complete consulting projects to analyze the accounting, marketing, finance, human resources, and organizational strategies of arts-related organizations.
Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Conn., aims to provide students with the skills they need to enter the field at the highest levels of responsibility through its MFA in Theater Management. Discussions not only include theatre organizations but incorporate other performing arts organizations, nonprofits, and for-profits. The department includes a joint degree program with the Yale School of Management that allows students to earn both MFA and MBA degrees in four years. Students can engage in the management of Yale Repertory Theatre and collaborate with students and faculty from other departments in productions of Yale School of Drama and Yale Cabaret. They are evaluated on their performance in both coursework and professional work assignments. Many also spend one semester of their second year away on a full-time fellowship at another performing arts organization, where they are mentored by that organization’s leaders.
Students help shape their own curriculum through the university’s unique case study method. “Each theatre management student writes a case study about an arts organization facing a critical management decision,” says department chair Joan Channick. “These case studies are used as teaching material in our own curriculum and are made available to other schools and theatres.”
Many current arts-professionals are also looking to enhance and maintain their knowledge of the field. Several professional development programs are available to provide new perspectives and tips to arts administrators already at work. Here’s a short list:
- Americans for the Arts (ARTSU)
With webinars, convention sessions, and digital classrooms, ArtsU serves as an online education forum working to expand professional development resources and education for members. The program includes webinars, convention sessions, and digital classrooms. Since its launch in 2015, ArtsU continues to increase programming and hopes to create a new speaker’s bureau, online learning formats, regional workshops, and multimedia research. Some recent webinars include “Ask an Expert: Managing Requests for Monuments and Memorials,” “Advancing the Diversity of Your Board,” and “Setting Ambitious and Creative Goals.”
- The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center Internship Program is geared toward college juniors and seniors as well as recent graduates. Interns participate in weekly classes on topics like strategic planning, gap analyses, and community engagement, as well as in professional development workshops. The Kennedy Center also offers a fellowship in arts management, in partnership with the Arts Management Program at American University. Fellows work 20 hours a week at the Kennedy Center and are awarded with a $15,000 stipend and six credits of tuition remission per academic year. Fellows also receive intensive training, exposure to executive leadership, and involvement in special projects at the Center.
- League of Resident Theatres
LORT is the largest professional theatre association of its kind in the United States, with 75 member theatres located in every major market in the U.S., including 29 states and the District of Columbia. LORT’s semi-annual meetings provide opportunities for members to study, discuss, and exchange information on non-labor management issues such as development, marketing, public relations, education, and technology.
- National Arts Strategies
NAS develops education services for artists, cultural entrepreneurs, staff members, board members, and executives in the arts. Through MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), its programs unite arts administrators from different roles, facilitate unique conversation, and challenge its members to create chance in their organization. Recent online seminars include “Meaningful Communication,” “Purpose Marketing,” and “Dominant Logic.” As of December 2018, NAS hosts an annual summit to connect arts and culture leaders and program alumni and explore how biases and leadership approaches affect their work.
- Theatre Communications Group
TCG holds several annual Theatre Professionals Teleconferences that serve a variety of job categories on a rotating basis. The next two conferences for member theatres will be for education directors and marketing directors. TCG has also created the Rising Leaders of Color cohort of exceptionally talented early-career leaders of color who are advancing their careers in U.S. nonprofit theatre and who demonstrate the potential to positively impact the field. The program includes professional development workshops and networking opportunities, job search training, and one-on-one career counseling with TCG staff.