Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Learning From the Experts

If you are a student studying arts management you should become familiar with The Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE). AAAE is an international organization incorporated as a nonprofit institution whose mission is to represent college and university graduate and undergraduate programs in arts administration, encompassing training in the management of visual, performing, literary, media, cultural and arts service organizations. Founded in 1975, the AAAE was created to provide a forum for communication among its members and advocate formal training and high standards of education for arts administrators. The Association, moreover, encourages its members to pursue, publish, present and disseminate research in arts management and administration to strengthen the understanding of arts management issues in the academic and professional fields.

Leslie and I ventured over to Boston for their 2011 conference hosted by the Arts Administration Graduate Program at Boston University (see picture of me above overlooking Boston). Overall, we felt it was completely invaluable for us to be present. The conference is primarily geared towards the educators of these university programs, but the conversation spanned a broad range of issues in arts management that clearly benefitted from having students and to a greater extent the “employer” in the room. There was much talk about what future employers would want. Being an “employer” we had the opportunity to chime in. I think people were fascinated that 1. We were there at all; and 2. That we are having parallel conversations about key skills and insights we are looking for in future employees.

A few major revelations that peaked our interest:
Leadership Competencies: Most often employers are looking for key leadership skills when they hire, but how do these get taught at the university level? What skills are employers really looking for? How can universities and employers work together to develop these in future leaders?
National Scope: We had originally thought of our Theatre Management Internship program being only open to local university partners, but after meeting with many other universities there is a definite interest for students nationally to be able to participate. Can we design a program that can encompass a national pool of students? Or is this an opportunity for a national organization, such as TCG, to create a national program?

We had some fantastic conversations that have helped to evolve our thinking and want to thank some of the conference attendees for taking time to share with us their insights: Laura Zucker and Diana Luna from Claremont Graduate University, David Edelman from Shenandoah University, Dee Boyle from University of Massachusetts Amherst Extension Services, and Antonio Cuyler from Purchase College.

It was so great to be there so big thanks to Barbara Harkins, the Administrative Director of AAAE, for talking with me and giving us the opportunity to be in the room.


  1. I hope that more employers will attend the annual conference in the future. It seems like, in order to adequately prepare students, the universities must be in communication with employers in order to know skills are needed to be successful.

    This challenge isn't unique to arts management, I think the leap from student to employee is a common challenge. I think there should be constant evaluation of curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the current job market.

  2. What I would have given to be a fly on the wall in that room! As a student, I am constantly curious about the ever-changing needs of my future employers and universities can only be so current. Conferences like this one where ideas are being thrown around seem great because they keep people aware of the needs of our community and of future arts leaders.

  3. When I was first exploring graduate programs the AAAE website was an invaluable resource. It would be truly exciting to have a similar national organization specifically for internships. TCG does seem like a good fit, especially considering that many individual company internship programs already use ArtSearch to advertise.

    It's true that some leadership skills simply cannot be learned in the classroom. Universities should do their best to facilitate internship placements in order to supplement students' education, but I imagine it can be daunting (not to mention resource-consuming) to set that sort of framework up initially.

  4. Another challenge is the misunderstanding about what universities and faculty members should do to prepare students in Arts Management. As a faculty member, I constantly feel challenged to teach students the "how to" and "best practices." But it is way more important that students learn how to think very deeply about "how to" and "best practices." This development of their intellectual capital will ensure and sustain meaningful careers in Arts Management.