Establishing a Career Path in the Arts

Posted by Ms. Princess Belton, Apr 27, 2016 0 comments

In 2011, while pursuing my graduate degree in Arts Administration at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), I came across Managers of the Arts, an NEA research study conducted in 1987 by Paul DiMaggio. In this report he examined the backgrounds, education, and career experiences of senior arts administrators of resident theaters, art museums, symphony orchestras, and community arts agencies. While this report is almost 30 years old, DiMaggio highlighted some key points that are important for attracting and retaining arts managers, which included:

  • Raising salaries in fields in which administrators are least well paid.
  • Establish somewhat more predictable career paths that offer the promise of further opportunities to administrators who reach the top of large or medium-sized organizations relatively early in life.
  • Offer more equal opportunities to women managers who pursue careers in these fields.

Although 30 years has passed since this report was published, interesting enough, his recommendations for the field remains significant. Especially as it relates to establishing a career path with the promise of a senior level position in the arts for individuals pursuing it.

Certainly, today there are more college-level programs with degrees in Arts Administration and there are more and more professional arts programs dedicated to developing the next generation of arts leaders. Yet, there remains a leadership gap, which James Abruzzo, author of The Leadership Crisis in Arts Management, defined as a rapidly growing gap between the current supply and the growing demand for capable leaders in the cultural industry.

So I wonder, what is happening beyond achieving a degree, beyond the special leadership programs, and after a young professional begins their career in the arts? What structures do organizations have in place that can attract and retain emerging arts leaders? 

As an arts administrator early in my career, I often find myself wondering what steps I can make to grow in my career and within my organization and I am sure that this is true for many arts professionals, from entry level, to mid-level career professionals. 

In fulfillment of my Arts Administration M.A. program at SCAD, I am presenting “Bridging the Gap: Preparing the Generation of Arts Leaders”, at the Apollo Theater on May 15, 2016. This discussion will include a panel of professionals who can offer their insight and recommendations for the field in response to the arts leadership gap. As well as, look at how arts organizations can incorporate succession planning into their organizational structure to attract and retain emerging arts leaders.

This blog is part of the 2016 Emerging Arts Leader Blog Salon. We asked over a dozen emerging leaders to reflect and respond to this year’s Arts Leadership Preconference theme: “Impact Without Burnout: Resilient Arts Leadership from the Inside Out”.

Princess Beltonis a member of Americans for the Arts. Learn more about membership.

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