Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who will play my part?: Supporting the next generation of arts managers

As part of Center Theatre Group’s (CTG) work with emerging artists and arts professionals, we administer the Richard E. Sherwood Awards Programs. The Programs include the Sherwood Internship, a six-month, paid position offered to emerging and early careers arts professionals. The Sherwood Intern works to ensure successful administration of the Sherwood Award application and selection process. Last year, as we searched for the 2010 Sherwood Intern, we struggled with finding the right fit. We came across lots of candidates who had the right academic know-how, and artistic interests; but most had no real arts management experience. Through much searching, we ultimately found a great Sherwood Intern (so great, in fact, that last week we added her to our Education team in a permanent, full-time position), but the dilemma really stuck in the craw of our Education and Community Partnerships Department Manager, Patricia Garza.

Patricia is a 20-something arts manager with MFA/MBA in Theatre Management from California State University, Long Beach. And, as her degree implies, Patricia possesses that ideal 21st century combination of a right and left brain that function at equally high levels and in tandem. Patricia lamented, “Why don’t more arts management programs include work away from academia and campus? How are people supposed to make the transition from school to work?” And, as is her style, she offered, “Wouldn’t it be cool if CTG could connect emerging theatre managers with job experience.”
I don’t know…would it be?

So to give credit where credit is due: the notion for this investigation started with Patricia. But she really got me thinking. So much of our work in education focuses on building the audiences of tomorrow, and to a lesser extent the artists of tomorrow.
But what are we as theatre professionals doing to support the arts administrators of tomorrow? And is that our job?

Through TCG and MetLife, we now have the time and opportunity to investigate this idea with our Think It! Grant. Over the course of this year, we will embark on a research project, working with colleagues from the Los Angeles theatre and arts administration community. We will gather the opinions of academic chairs and graduate students. And we hope to collect lots of perspectives and voices, including yours:

If you are an arts administrator/manager…
Where and when in your life did the critical school-to-work bridge happen?

If you are a graduate arts management student…
What kind of program would help you get where you want to be?

If you are an academic chair or professor in an arts management program…
What kinds of real world experiences would complement the training you are providing?

If you are a theatre professional…
What role do/could arts management graduate students play in your work?

We are just starting our journey and would love to hear from you.

Next Steps: Broadening Our Perspective: Meeting with Our Project Advisors:
Terrance McFarland, Executive Director, LA Stage Alliance
; Angela Milanovic, Technical Assistance Programs Manager, Los Angeles County Arts Commission; and Terry Wolverton, Consultant.

Leslie K. Johnson
Director of Education and Community Partnerships
Center Theatre Group

Center Theatre Group’s education and community partnership programs are organized under three broad strategic initiatives:

AUDIENCES – helping audiences of all ages discover theatre and its connection to their lives

ARTISTS – investing in the training, support and development of emerging and early career artists and arts professionals who are the future of our field

ARTS EDUCATION LEADERSHIP – working to improve the quality and scope of arts education in Los Angeles County

Our exploration of how and whether CTG could/should develop a graduate level intern program supports the second strand of this work. To review our entire Strategic Design for Education and Engagement, please visit Center Theatre Group's website here.


  1. Thanks Leslie for the warm introduction! I am very excited about this new journey exploring this type of internship model. So often I feel programs are created and really have no foundation or research to back up what makes the program relevant or necessary. I am looking forward to hearing from those in our field to discuss if a program like this is necessary and/or needed by the students and arts organizations.

  2. I'm so excited about this work! It's scary to think of the shortage of arts admin professionals we're going be facing if someone (or some company) doesn't address this issue.

  3. Although my schooling was specifically for Theatre Management and Business Administration, I wasn't able to fully experience theatre management on a large LORT theatre scale until my internship at Pasadena Playhouse. Sometimes I feel like I learned more in my one year internship than all three years of grad school. Although grad school gave me a solid foundation of knowledge in managing a non-profit arts organization, the application of that knowledge in my internship was really the most valuable experience before moving on into the "real world." Without that experience, I definitely would not be in the marketing and PR position I am today.

    And now, I could not do my job without interns. If an intern is willing to show up and work for free, then they will most likely become a very valuable resource to that organization. Their commitment and dedication are always astounding, and I have the pleasure of knowing that they are receiving the same valuable lessons and opportunities that I received when I was an intern. I think this CTG program will be a huge success for arts organizations and future arts leaders. Congratulations Patricia!

  4. Thanks so much for the feedback Jim and MB! MB-Most people we hear from directly that work in arts management currently really got their feet wet with a real life work experience such as an internship. What do you feel was the number one important lesson you learned from that Pasadena Playhouse internship? Was it just having your voice heard in a real organization? Was the type of work different than that in your grad program?

    We are glad to hear of your success now and thank you for taking the time to mentor your interns!

  5. Excited to see where this goes and how we at LA Stage Alliance might help!

  6. This is amazing!
    I read the strategic plan and I really hope all these things can be implemented. The professional program most excites me but the fact that you are covering all aspects from teachers to artists to arts professionals and everyone in between makes it that much more exciting!

  7. The most important school-to-work bridge I have crossed has been the LACAC Arts Internship. I think, on top of being a full-time paid arts internship (which is practically unheard of in the undergrad community), the fact that LA County hosts this internship is key. Having a big-name organization attached to an internship ensures that students know about it; I heard about the program through multiple professors and counselors. As much as 'access' seems like a given, after entering the arts management field I was surprised at how many opportunities there are out there that I simply did not know about during college.