What arts management is and what issues it faces
Arts management as a studied area appeared under the necessity of educating art leaders who would face and solve issues in arts sector. Even though artists were creating their works in arts sphere for ages, serious approach to arts management began about fifty years ago. The process of academic studying of arts management started in 1963 by launching the first arts management programme at the New School for Social Research in New York (Paquette, 2016).
All the leading universities offer graduate and postgraduate programmes in arts administration at the moment. However, the arts sector is still looking for more and more art managers who are good not only at art history and theory but can also deal with practical questions and ready to solve all the current issues the arts field faces (Kaiser, 2011).
In order to define these issues in arts management, to start with, it is important to understand what arts management is. During the workshop for art managers in January 2017 in Heilbronn University, Germany definitions of arts and cultural management was discussed. Western scholars (Oswald, 2017) were said to understand arts management as a tool of creating appropriate environment for artists, and arts administration is close in this matter. However, one of the participants remarked that non-western society sees arts management as a way to build a community united by culture, communication and tolerance.
Of course, an international definition should combine all the different approaches and views. At the Forum on Cultural Management and Cultural Policy 2016 in Munich which gathered art professionals from many different countries a general message was shared that arts management is “the getting things done’ side of making art, putting everything in place so that artists can then engage their creativity fully – the fuel that goes into the car” (Oswald, 2016). At the same time, another definition of arts management is “a transitional tool to create a new economic system where artists are agents of change. Therefore, arts management opens opportunities for continuity, sustainability and development” (Oswald, 2016). What is more, those are art managers who have to face all the issues, problems and challenges that appear on the way.
As for issues in arts management, they differ from country to country, from one economic situation to another one. For example, the English arts sector currently faces decrease in subsidies from the government. Tom Mansfield, who is an artistic director of Upstart Theatre based in London, says that this situation is about entrepreneurs to become active and about art managers to find other ways of funding. These issues are “massively challenging but also can be very rewarding, as the crisis has led to organisations thinking of new ways to partner together for mutual support and developing some really exciting collaborations. How can we be sustainable, is the question we keep asking” (Oswald, 2016). Besides, with the British government triggering Brexit process even more challenges will appear, as well as new possibilities and ideas will be facilitated.
Certainly, the issue of financial funding is very challenging in Asia as well. But on the contrary, based on the words of Bobo Lee, a Hong Kong artist and cultural manager (Oswald, 2016) the main problems of Hong Kong’s arts sector are lack of training opportunities for art related professionals and the real difference between cultural policy and arts management in practice.
As a final point, most countries and many museums, galleries and universities lack staff related to arts management. I consider that an important current issue in the arts management. All the definitions of arts managements were stating people as main agents and engines of the whole sectors. Despite the fact that the problems and issues can be very challenging or damaging to the art establishments, a qualified and experienced team of art managers can face it with creative solutions and out of the box ideas that will move the whole field to further development.
Lack of art managers is a current issue in arts management
According to the International Overview of Issues for Public Arts Administration report that was held several years ago (Laaksonen, 2014) it was noted that one of the threats in the arts management is a decreasing number of professionals in the national art agencies. Human resource rotation, limited number of academic programmes, lack of training for both artists and art managers, low level of understanding of business environment were considered to be serious issues in coming years. And those threats are a reality. These years are now.
As well as before (Kaiser, 2011) so it is nowadays most professionals of the art sector understand that the arts field has a sufficient number of artists, musicians, performers and actors. However, what is the main focus for art manages is a lack of their peers who would help to deal with all such questions like curating, marketing, fundraising, strategic management and many other functions.
It is important to mention that at the moment arts field is served by a good number of art leaders. However, these art managers are self-taught and do not have a necessary art and business related background but possess charisma and natural understanding of the field. Besides, there can be another case when leading art establishments can afford to hire such art professionals but what is left for smaller organisations? That is a challenge for them. These institutions face many problems at once: they do not have sufficient funds and they cannot afford to pay to experienced art managers who would deal with all the issues.
In May 2016 at the network of European museum organisations annual conference the director of the Museums Association Sharon Heal (Heal, 2016) stated that “one of the biggest assets that museums have is the people who work for and with them”. Considering and understanding of the issue of lack of art staff the Museums Association created “a new and innovative professional development schemes to give people the skills the sector needs to navigate the difficult issues”. These schemes are developed for existing art managers. Moreover, a survey (Smith, 2017) was held on a current situation in human resource management in municipal government. According to its results, arts and cultural management need appropriate formal and academic training. Important to mention that employers often look at the background in cultural management as well as business skills.
The question of the right staff is even more urging at the age of globalisation, growing migration and population change in Europe, according to Mara Cerquetti and her article in Journal of cultural management and policy (Cerquetti, 2016). At this age culture is no longer a vehicle for expressing national values but it is a tool that helps to bridge differing identities. Due to this change an art manager should be aware of cross-cultural diplomacy.
The necessity of facing this issue
Although now the art sector functions relatively well and have all the necessary tools for effective work in the next years it will need to face huge changes in approaching audience, technologies, financial management and fundraising (Kaiser, 2011). Art leaders are in the situation when they have to fight for the customers. That is not the work for artists. That is a challenge for art managers. What do they need in order to face existing and coming issues? Art managers should be armed at all points: strong basis of strategic management, business environment awareness, consideration of economic situation, marketing tools; as well as knowledge of art history and theory and understanding of the modern art direction. That kind of art manager is a rare asset but at the same time, that is a necessity.
If those challenges in arts management are not enough, migration activity creates even more. The more diversified is the audience the harder is for the art manager to deal with this diversity and applying it to cultural policy. Further marketing research on the immigrant audience is definitely needed (Cerquetti, 2016) but this is already an opportunity for a skilled art manager. The better is the audience research and the better is the communication with the customer the bigger is the number of visitors.
Ways of sorting this issue
One of the ways of dealing with this issue lies in a proper pedagogical approach. In the paper of J.Dennis Rich and Ekaterina Shekova on arts administration programmes in the USA and Russia (Rich and Shekova, 2016) it is stated that “regardless of their art form or sector – commercial, nonprofit and voluntary – arts managers must keep art at the core of their endeavor, be intrinsic to arts administration”.
The article of Ineta Simansone suggests (Simansone, 2017) that “collaborating with a young generation of creative economists can be a solution”. In that Arts Management Quarterly journal where Simansone’s article was published, Claire Solery gives an idea of “a conference for museum professionals that spreads entrepreneurial spirit, engages young creative people and creates digital ideas for cultural businesses” (Solery, 2016). That is an international conference that facilitates ideas regarding the museums of future and future of museums. As Solery says that is an opportunity for young art managers to show off and earn some credit and where cultural sector gets new ideas for cultural policy renovation. Sharon Heal is talking about interaction between individual and art institutions as well telling about developing of “Transformers, Museums Association midcareer scheme, which is aimed at unlocking change for both parties” (Heal, 2016).
The job of an art manager is a challenging one. There is no wonder that arts management lacks these workers now. For example, the Association of Arts Administration Educators suggested (Standards for Arts Administration Graduate Program Curricula, 2014) a list of skills and understanding that any art manager should acquire as a result of graduating an arts management programme. That list includes such things like artistic, social, economic, technological skills, demographic diversity, ethical issues, business, financial, marketing, and the international environment for the arts and the impact of the global economy and many more others.
All academic programmes in arts management should arrange discussions with practitioners in the lecture rooms and in other entities for students to meet real practices and understanding different perspectives. What is more, international exchange programs are very beneficial for experiencing practices of different countries.
As Rich and Shekova believe “regardless of nationality, all graduates from cultural management programs should know the history and the formal structures of their field of study. It is our belief that the arts enhance the emotional and intellectual growth of students by teaching, in particular, the following skills: critical thinking, creativity, writing, and communication” (Rich and Shekova, 2016).
To sum up all mentioned above, although art establishments often lack skilled art managers as well as financial funding in order to complete all the tasks with flair, the worldwide demand for art professionals in cultural management is enormous. What is more, the opportunities for advance academic learning and practical training is limited. Due to all these reasons it becomes clear that lack of staff in the arts sector is a current issue in arts administration. If this challenge in arts management is not being faced many art organisations will not be able to sort out all other coming challenges. This can result in a dysfunction and poor environment for artists. That is why over the coming years heads of arts organisations will especially need to tackle the difficult issue they face as a sector.
Taking into account my personal experience of interaction with art institutions I often witnessed the issue of lacking art managers. I was volunteering for a Saint Petersburg music festival Silver Lyre where I was in charge of finding foreign performers. It was the idea of Boris Berezovsky, an art director of that music festival, to launch volunteering internships for young art managers. He often shared his happiness of increasing number of art venues and cultural events and concern of decreasing number of art managers. His internship idea was a solution for facing the issue of lacking staff that he is witnessing in Russia.
Cerquetti, M. (2016). More is better! Current issues and challenges for museum audience development: a literature review. Journal of cultural management and policy, [online] 6(1). Available at: http://www.encatc.org/media/1989-encatc_journal_vol6_issue1.pdf#page=73 [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
Heal, S. (2016). Austerity bites: how to avoid death by a thousand cuts. In: NEMO 24th Annual Conference. [online] Karlsruhe: The Network of European Museum Organisations, pp.32-34. Available at: http://www.ne-mo.org/fileadmin/Dateien/public/NEMo_documents/NEMOAC2016_EcoVal.pdf [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
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Laaksonen, A. (2014). Arts Panorama: International Overview of Issues for Public Arts Administration. D’Art Topics in Arts Policy. [online] Sydney: International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies, p.7. Available at: http://media.ifacca.org/files/ArtsPanoramaENG.pdf [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
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