What Does an Arts Administrator Do, Anyway?

I apologize for my absence from posting this past week.  Fortunately, it was for  good reason.  I have spent the past weeks preparing for graduate school interviews, which I believe actually went quite well.  My experience as an intern at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has finally led me to finalize my decision to pursue an MA in Arts Administration, particularly in Visual Arts Administration where it is offered.

What is Arts Administration, you ask? Following a meeting in the 1970s with the National Endowment for the Arts, several American Universities instituted Arts Administration curriculums in order to better equip management personnel in arts organizations with the skills required to function in their increasingly demanding and specialized roles.  The field provides training for professionals who work in non-profit institutions such as museums, theaters, and performing arts companies, as well as those who work in for-profit organizations such as galleries and auction houses.  Positions in these types of organizations that fall under the title of “Arts Administrator” range from positions in registration and collections management to those in finance, marketing, development, and administration.

The importance of specialized academic training to administrators in the arts is often understated, as the nature of the relationship between administrators’ vision of the execution of an institution’s mission and the public that consumes this output is extremely complex and constantly changing.  Some especially prominent issues that administrators deal with are appealing to the general public over numerous demographics while still taking a genuine approach to the mission of the institution, gearing the contents of collections toward relevant issues being explored by exhibitions and programs, and deciding what themes to explore in public programs and forums.

Over time, the demands placed on the professionals tasked with making these decisions have become increasingly complex and eclectic.  Arts managers must be adaptable and prepared for any situation that may arise in the process of running an arts organization, and I am hoping that pursuing an MA in Arts Administration will help me to further develop these skills that I have been gradually sharpening as an intern at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  My experience as an intern here provided me with the final impetus I needed to decide on this path for my education, and I am grateful to everyone who has helped inspire me!

Patrick Gora, Curatorial Intern

Feature Photo: Luigi Palma di Cesnola, First Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ca. 1900. Public domain use.