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From Blocks to Buildings

by Reagan West

If you have ever put together a complex LEGO set, you know that they typically come with a book of instructions for how to do it correctly. While I grew up on LEGOs and still love putting these sets together, one of the beautiful things about my work at Miami University is that I am never given an instruction manual for how to do things.

As an architecture major, I live in an interesting gray area of intersection between the arts world and the engineering field. I do technical work in making designs that are drawn to scale and well researched, but I also design spaces for people, create concepts, and illustrate dreams. So why is it important to also study arts management?

One of my favorite direct intersections between arts business and architecture is The Met, or Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. Designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, this building is an impressive display of gothic architecture that is carefully used to protect the art inside. This is a famous art museum that holds many sophisticated arts events every year, while being a work of art on its own. This building shows the union of architecture and art, and of the value of arts management in architecture as the building has been expanded many times to fit the growing displays and needs of the museum, but it has been intricately managed in a way that upholds its architectural and stylistic integrity, and used as the face of one of New York City’s many artistic venues.

Like many other architecture majors, I have dreams of working in renowned firms in large cities, designing monumentally important constructions. However, after I live my Breakfast at Tiffany’s dreams, I also want to work at a smaller firm, designing personal spaces for individual people. Maybe one day I will be in a position to actually manage the business side of firms such as Gensler, ZGF Architects, or Jacobs, but while I work my way up to those roles or after I move on from the large firm life, I would still need to understand how to navigate interactions with vendors, design marketing, and budget. I would definitely need at least an understanding of arts marketing, management, and entrepreneurship when starting or rising to the top of a smaller firm as well.

As artists, architects need to be able to market themselves, know their worth, budget investments, create a brand, manage professional relationships, and promote their work, both past and present, to continue to grow into the future. In my time at Miami University, adding an arts management minor to my architecture major has pushed me to dream bigger, while developing my understanding of how to live out those dreams. While my dreams are a little more complicated than LEGO sets and do not come with instructions, I am confident that my arts management minor has provided me with extra knowledge and experiences that equip me for success.

Reagan West is a junior at Miami University. She is currently pursuing a major in Architecture and minor in Arts Management. She loves going to concerts and museums, and traveling for inspiration. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education in graduate school and become a licensed architect.


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