What is Arts Management anyway?
I define Arts Management as "the practice of aggregating and animating people, money, and stuff toward expressive ends."
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
Robert Lowell, from “Epilogue”
Since we're beginning a journey, you and I, to explore Arts Management as a professional practice, it seems essential to define the basic term. What is “Arts Management,” anyway? And how will we know it when we see it?
Over almost thirty years of teaching, research, and consulting, I’ve developed the following definition as a way to guide my attention, perception, and action in the work. This is also the grounding definition for the ArtsManaged Field Guide:
Arts Management is the practice of aggregating and animating people, money, and stuff toward expressive ends.
You will find other definitions (and other names for the practice including Arts Administration, Cultural Administration, Arts Leadership, and Arts Entrepreneurship). The job site Indeed.com, for example, defines Arts Management as “the process of using business and organization principles to lead in an artistic setting.” But the practice isn’t bound or defined by business and organizational principles alone, or by any particular tax status, artistic discipline, or policy domain.
My definition, therefore, focuses on what Arts Management professionals do, so we can explore ways to do it better. Arts Management is a practice, after all – a craft defined and refined by action. So what to Arts Management professionals do?
They aggregate (draw together, attract, secure) and animate (align, activate, coordinate) people, money, and stuff. And they do this, primarily, to achieve expressive ends (producing, presenting, preserving, and promoting creative human expression and experience). Sure, they use business and organizational principles along the way, but also community organizing, urban planning, public policy, aesthetic judgment, and self reflection.
In later posts, we’ll explore the various forms of the practice (the Ten Functions of Arts Management). But for now, let's just sit with the definition.
If you feel a calling to champion creative human expression; if you have a knack for aggregating and animating people or money or stuff (or all three); and if you’re seeking an approach to practice that clarifies and compounds your impact over time, you’re in the right place.
I’m looking for that, too! Let’s find it together.
p.s. For a short (nine minute) video on this topic, check out "What’s Arts Management?" on the ArtsManaged YouTube Channel. Or, visit the What is Arts Management page in the ArtsManaged Field Guide.