Considering the Arts Administration degree

There are plenty of opinions about the place, purpose, benefit, or consequence of graduate study in Arts Administration. I’m of a certain opinion, as you might guess, since I direct an MBA degree in that very thing. But I’ll be first to claim it’s a complex question.

To engage the question, Ron Evans invited me to be a guest panelist for his National Arts Marketing Project NAMPRadio podcast, which is now on-line. Give a listen.

If you haven’t got time to listen all the way through, here’s the gist: Graduate study in Arts Administration can be a powerful learning/networking/advancing experience when it fits what you need, and you find the program that fits how you learn. It’s not the only path to a successful career in arts and cultural management. But it’s a path with particular utility for people who want to rethink and reframe the way the business works.

Thanks to Ron and his co-panelists Matt Campbell and Maris Smith for the opportunity to talk it through.


  1. Crystal says

    I completely agree that studying arts administration is a worthwhile pursuit, especially when changing career paths. I started out in music education and taught for a number of years before realizing that I wanted to change fields. Without my graduate study in arts admin., it would have been very difficult to switch gears. After completing my coursework (still working on the ol’ thesis), I was able to secure a job in the arts marketing field – one that I would have otherwise never been qualified for.

  2. says

    From my perspective (working in the UK and mainly in visual arts) I recognise this questioning of the value of arts administration/management degrees. I wonder whether it stems from a lack of respect for arts managers – as opposed to the more glamourous business of being a curator or artistic director? Personally having worked as a curator, then later in arts management (and briefly teaching on an undergraduate arts management course in London) I think running arts organisation is increasingly complex and difficult. Accredited degrees (undergraduate and postgrad) are helpful in equipping people for these challenging and important roles- but equally significant is continuous professional development. Sadly, we are also really bad at valuing (or paying for) that too in my country!

  3. says

    As a teacher of arts administration and as a former arts administrator, my perspective is simply that I am turning out graduates who already know much of what I had to learn through trial and error (which implies a lot of error). My previous field was creative writing, also widely criticized for decades as “unteachable.”
    It’s true that we can’t make administrative geniuses out of average students, but we can certainly offer skills, ways of thinking, problem solving patterns, and the like — the same thing other professional degree programs such as business, law and public administration offer.
    Perhaps arts administration seems an inherent oxymoron to many, though the ironic truth is that artists are better managers of their own careers and lives than are most other folks. Arts administration degrees enable the best of these natural managers to become truly empowered.