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The Learning Curve: What Interning Taught Me About Arts Management

The beauty of Arts Management is the underlying motivation that drives everyone involved: Passion. Regardless of whether your interest lies in theatre, music, visual arts, or something else entirely, you are studying a subject that allows you to participate in something you truly care about. Personally, I have always had a vested interest in contemporary art, and this past summer I was lucky enough to intern at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati as a “Development Intern.”

As is the case with every genre of art, there are countless career paths one can pursue; One can operate in the forefront, the background, or somewhere in between, and ultimately it falls on you as an individual to decide where you think yours skills and passions will line up. This is a daunting question to answer, but fortunately resources exist to aid you. Among the best of these are the often discussed Internships. Through an internship you can gain real world experience, and more importantly scratch the surface of many aspects of Arts Management to determine where your interests actually lay versus where you think they might.

In my case, while my official title was “Development Intern” the CAC provided me with an outlet to spend a week with every department I thought I might enjoy; these being: Curatorial, Development, Education, and Events Planning. The first thing I learned was the importance of having a firm grasp of basic finances. Every department has to spend time creating budgets, and to do so one must understand the underlying financial position the organization is in as a means of knowing what is reasonable and what is not. Unfortunately, I find this aspect to be kinda lame, but it is simply something that anyone who wants to be involved in anything HAS to at least partially understand. Beyond this, I learned the amount of overlap these departments have. When the education department plans for a school visiting, they interact with the curatorial department to decide how to frame the tour depending on the age of the audience. When planning a fundraising event, the Development department works side by side with the Events Planning department to ensure the event is a well oiled machine that engages the public while staying safe and cost efficient. The final, and most important, aspect of Arts Management I learned was the relationship building aspect; This especially being the case with the curatorial and development departments. Curators have to be in contact with collectors (both in immediately surrounding communities and far away lands), artist estates, and galleries to collect works for upcoming shows — this being especially true for non-collecting institutions like the CAC. This is a much easier task when you have a good relationship with those you are communicating with, and building a reputation as someone with a willingness to learn and respect the arts requires finesse. When its comes to the development department, it should come as no surprise that when you have a good relationship with donors, they are more likely to donate. Demonstrating that you have good intentions and care to bring arts to the community in a way that benefits them is not trivial, and requires practice.

Collaboration and communication are the fundamentals of any arts organization, which is something we have been told time and time again in our studies. Yet, I still was surprised to the extent of its importance once I became involved in the field. And I still have not dabbled in the for-profit sector...

Victor Kurz is a junior studying Anthropology and Arts Management at Miami University.

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