Where Are The Arts Managers? Really?

Posted on January 19, 2012

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Where Are The Arts Managers?  is the title of and article I recently read in Art& Seek a North Texas arts publication (January 11, 2012).  The article discussed recent leadership turnover in ten arts organizations and their struggle in finding suitable replacements.  I was actually surprised by this.  Often we hear of older arts leaders staying too long in their positions and not letting younger managers take the reins.  But in North Texas leaders are moving out, but there is no one to move in.

Jose Bowen, SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, “says one reason the pickings remain thin is that the starting jobs for arts management graduates generally don’t pay well. And the punishing costs of college don’t help, either.” You don’t need a college loan to realize how poorly the arts pay.  A friend of mine is trying to move her career to New York City but is appalled by what the arts pay.  Bowen continues “our students graduate and are immediately faced with a choice. Come work for Goldman and make more money or go work for a nonprofit and make less money. And when you have loans, right out of school? That’s a hard choice to make.”

Establishing a career in arts management has always been a difficult path but that path has been made more challenging by crushing college debt.  If young artists and arts managers struggle financially after college, perhaps financial help should begin sooner to the most talented and deserving in the form of NEA grants?  What is the sense of supporting arts organizations if we are running out of people to manage them and perform in them?

I believe this article also points out that as we think about new business models for arts organization perhaps we should start thinking about new models for how we educate both our future artists and arts managers.  This will be exactly my task as I take on my new role as the Director of Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture.  (More on that later.)

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