Educating the Next Generation of Arts Managers

Posted: August 2, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: August 2, 2010 at 12:37 pm


By Catherine Ferraro

Master of Arts in Arts Management Program director Richard Kamenitzer teaches a Board of Directors Management course for the Mason program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Second only to New York City, the Washington, D.C., area has the largest concentration of arts organizations in the country. Building on its expertise in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), Mason six years ago established a Master of Arts in Arts Management Program to take advantage of its location and provide unique opportunities to students.

An arts manager is a leader of an arts organization who provides a bridge between the artist, audience and art form. By combining the tools of business and community-building, arts managers create a structure and balance that allow art and culture to flourish.

Mason understands the importance of the burgeoning arts-management field, which is only 40 years old. Its program teaches students the skills necessary to support and advance the art form and the artist, offering courses in financial management, public relations, fund raising and entrepreneurship.

“Even though we are a young program, we have already graduated more than 130 students,” says Richard Kamenitzer, director. “We attract students from countries around the world, including China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Lebanon, Italy, Colombia and Iran. These different backgrounds and traditions only help to enhance the rich diversity in the classroom.”

Learning from the Pros

Claire Kelly, MA Arts Management '06, leads students on a tour of the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery. Kelly is assistant director for exhibitions and collections management at the gallery. Photo by Evan Cantwell

In addition to its two full-time faculty members — Kamenitzer and Carole Rosenstein, assistant professor — the arts-management program relies on arts managers and researchers currently working at arts organizations in the Washington, D.C., area to teach courses. Professionals from Arena Stage, Arlington Arts Center and the National Endowment for the Arts have been involved in the program.

“A special aspect of the arts-management program is that all of the faculty members share a common value — we are actively involved in the arts community and we believe in the importance of the arts in everyone’s lives,” says Kamenitzer.

“We encourage active learning and are able to bring the students more deeply into the real-world experiences of these arts organizations while they are still learning the fundamentals in the classroom.”

Internships On Campus

Arts-management students have the opportunity to intern at Mason's new Hylton Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Evan Cantwell

With so many opportunities for hands-on learning at their fingertips, students can take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to a professional setting through internships.

Students are first required to test their skills in an on-campus internship. Mason offers multiple resources for learning about the many facets of operating a professional arts organization. These resources include the Center for the Arts (CFA) and the Hylton Performing Arts Center; eight galleries and art spaces; and a plethora of seasoned arts managers in CVPA.

Working with Julie Thompson, executive director of CFA, students learn about the challenges and skills of scheduling and coordinating large-scale performances. Alongside Deborah Paez, assistant director of development in CVPA, students immerse themselves in the details of managing a large, external network of arts participants. Walter Kravitz, gallery director and professor in the School of Art, teaches students about scheduling and producing an exhibition.

Other opportunities include working with Elizabeth Price, director of the School of Dance; Scott Martin, assistant dean in CVPA; and Andrew Bursten, director of finance and administration in CVPA.

Arts-management students helped with the opening of the Hylton Performing Arts Center in May. Going forward, a new group of students will intern at the Hylton Center each semester.

Stepping Out Into the Real World

After successfully completing the internal internship, students are ready to take advantage of the university’s extensive ties to area arts organizations and businesses. Some of the organizations that have opened their doors to arts-management students include the Smithsonian Institution, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Students have also helped to research and develop the strategic plans of professional organizations such as the Washington Ballet and the Arts Council of Fairfax County. In Kamenitzer’s Board of Directors course, which he teaches with Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, students are required to attend board meetings of various arts organizations.

According to Kamenitzer, more than 100 institutions in the Washington, D.C., area have hosted an arts-management internship since the program began six years ago. It is his goal to eventually have a student intern at every possible arts institution in the area.

While most students choose to stay in the area for their external internships, some travel across the country and even internationally. Destinations have included the Santa Fe Opera House in New Mexico; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City; and the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Vietri sul Mare, Italy.

What Can You Do With an Arts-Management Degree?

The arts-management program prepares students for a variety of arts careers, including public relations and fund raising. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Students who graduate from Mason’s arts-management program have gone on to become arts consultants; arts policy analysts and researchers; managers of community and regional theaters; and museum directors and administrators.

Currently, graduates are working at Opera Carolina, Arena Stage, Americans for the Arts, the Kennedy Center and the Hylton Center. In addition, some graduates have stayed at Mason and are working in departments throughout the university.

“Although I never expected to be working in the development field, Mason’s arts-management program allowed me to realize my dream of working in the arts,” says Kristina Dugan, MA Arts Management ’07, director of annual giving and membership for the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

“By taking classes with working arts professionals, I discovered a completely different side to the field of development, and that it’s really about helping people uncover the ways they can support an organization.”

Going Global

As Kamenitzer looks to the future, he sees an opportunity to use the arts to help students understand arts management around the world by establishing an International School of Arts Management in the next few years.

Kamenitzer hopes to establish faculty and student exchanges with countries such as Germany, China, Japan and the Netherlands. To help further this endeavor, Kamenitzer will teach a three-week arts-management course in China next year.

In addition, the arts-management program recently received a license that will allow it to offer courses at various arts organizations in the Washington, D.C., area.

For more information about the Master of Arts in Arts Management program, visit the website.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu