What is Arts Administration?

Lily Ruha

Arts administration is the management of organizations and issues related to the arts. It encompasses arts appreciation and knowledge, leadership qualities, financial expertise and an understanding of the public’s need for and reaction to the arts. Management occupations in the arts include those related to directing, coordinating, developing and raising funds for arts programs. Those working as arts administrators generally have a passion for the arts as well as experience or training in the business and marketing-related aspects of administering the arts.

An arts administrator might oversee a ballet company.
An arts administrator might oversee a ballet company.

Arts administrators organize, manage, coordinate, develop and encourage artistic activities. Although administrators may be trained in the arts themselves, the duties involved in arts administration are typically that of coordinating, supporting and developing artists. An executive director of a ballet company, for example, might have a background in ballet, but his main duties might involve hiring dancers, teachers and choreographers, and managing the financial and logistical aspects of the ballet company.

Marketing management at an art museum is an arts administration job.
Marketing management at an art museum is an arts administration job.

Examples of occupations in arts administration are diverse and numerous. A director of a performing arts center, a marketing manager of a modern art museum and the president of a music company are all examples of occupations in arts administration. The specific duties vary from position to position, but all positions generally require understanding and appreciating the specific art form. These individuals must also be well-versed in arts-related challenges and have a sense for the public’s arts demands and opinions.

The required qualifications for working in arts administration vary from position to position. Some individuals work their way up the ladder by first serving as an artist and then moving into an administrative role. In the example of a ballet company director, a dancer might perform for years or decades and then be promoted to a director position when he retires from dancing. In other cases, specific skills and qualifications might be needed to work in arts administration, such as a degree in business, marketing, management or fundraising experience.

Many universities offer graduate degrees in arts administration. These academic programs require successful completion of courses in planning, marketing and managing arts-related activities. The programs also generally explore ethical and political considerations in the arts. The curriculum usually includes classes addressing labor issues in the arts related to compensation, contracts and unions. Many arts administration programs require a minimum number of hours of internship with an arts institution as well as successful completion of a master’s thesis on a relevant topic.

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