Business of Arts

Arts management programs equip students to apply business administration techniques and processes to the world of art.

By Candice Yacono

July 2019

Business of Arts

Undergraduate students at the College of Charleston may minor or major in arts management. Photograph courtesy College of Charleston


For students who love the arts but are also interested in business, studying arts management may be the perfect way to blend their passions. An arts management program teaches such disparate topics as grant writing, fundraising, accounting and arts finance, with concentrations in one or more forms of visual or performing arts. Graduates go on to work in a range of settings, from museums, art galleries and opera houses to digital streaming start-ups and dance companies. They may even go on to represent famous artists.

Arts management is a global industry, and there are several institutions to study it in the United States. Undergraduate applicants can consider the College of Charleston in South Carolina; for graduate school, students can consider American University in Washington, D.C.

Southern hospitality

“Charleston is an international tourist destination and a city steeped in arts, history and culture,” says Karen Chandler, director of the program at the College of Charleston. “A U.S. degree in arts management is a good investment for prospective Indian students as it will equip them with the arts, business and managerial skills required to manage nonprofit and for-profit arts and cultural institutions in the United States, India and throughout the world. Students will also learn how to manage, promote and raise funds for performing and visual artists.”

Students from about 61 countries attend the College of Charleston. All freshman international students are considered for merit-based scholarships.

Undergraduate students at the College of Charleston may minor or major in arts management. They may also opt for a concentration in music industry. The college even has a student-run record label, called 1770 Records. The undergraduate program may be combined with any other degree as a double major or minor.

When undergraduates complete their studies, they go on to jobs like performing arts event management, production, marketing and development, as well as museum curation and artist management.

Students say the university’s location at the center of a national arts hub allows them to directly engage with the arts community through internships, volunteering, guest speakers and other perks.

Work-study is available for students, allowing them to get paid as they gain job experience working on campus. All students in the program complete an arts-oriented internship as part of their requirements.

“Internships are often completed in arts and cultural institutions in Charleston, though students have also completed them in other U.S. cities,” says Chandler. These include institutions like the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and arenas like Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Students can opt for a new one-year graduate certificate program in arts and cultural management, which can be taken by itself or as part of two master’s degree programs in public administration and creative writing. Students can take this certificate program in-person or online.

Capitol of culture

American University in Washington, D.C., offers a Master of Arts program that trains students in arts management as well as finance, marketing, fundraising, governance and leadership, cultural policy and communication fundamentals necessary for their career.

The program prides itself on its global connections, network of graduates and professionals, and bonds with major foundations and arts institutions. It can be completed full-time in two years. Part-time study is available; classes are scheduled in the evenings, making it a perfect choice for working professionals and those seeking a career change. The program has a 39-credit curriculum.

According to the International Affairs Office, U.S. Department of Education, “Credit hours or units represent a mathematical summarization of all work completed, and are not the same as the actual classroom contact or instructional hours. U.S. institutions use credit formulae to record all types of academic work, not just taught courses.”

American University’s arts management program includes both research work and professional practice. Students gain hands-on experience by creating a master’s portfolio and working with local organizations in the Washington, D.C., area or spending one semester at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, focusing either on art and business or art museums, galleries and curating. In addition to required classes, students complete 12 credits of electives, as well as a 5-credit capstone course tailored to their interests and needs. A thesis option is available for students who want to work in research or study for a doctorate.

A shorter, 15-credit Certificate in Arts Management and an 18-credit Certificate in International Arts Management, offered in conjunction with the School of International Service, are also available for students who aren’t seeking a full Master of Arts, but still want a rigorous one-year program.

Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.


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