Investigate an arts management degree in the Carolinas

Vanessa Infanzon

New media majors Kari Koty and Jake Toedtman and are both freelance artists in Asheville. Photo by UNC Asheville

If working backstage for the school play, choosing the art for a new gallery or managing your brother’s band were highlights of your high school years, then arts management may be a college major for you to investigate.

The skills used for those activities translate to a variety of careers in music, galleries, theaters and much more.

Arts management, arts administration, and arts management and entrepreneurship are majors at many schools in the Carolinas. The curriculum typically combines instruction in music, creative writing, visual art or performance art with courses in fundraising, marketing and other business-related skills.

To get you started in your research, here are answers to a few questions about arts management:

What’s an arts management program?

The arts management and entrepreneurship program at the University of North Carolina Asheville started in fall 2017. It’s designed for students who want to work in performing arts, visual arts, drama, creative writing or new media, such as digital design and animation. The program is also for creative students who want to be entrepreneurs and run their own businesses.

“They [entrepreneurs] know that they need to learn accounting skills and marketing skills and self-promotion skills,” said Laura Bond, director of arts management and entrepreneurship at UNC Asheville.

“They need to learn how to write a business plan, manage other people and learn about business law. They recognize that they can’t just study their art form. They need to study their art form, and they also need to learn about developing a business.”

College of Charleston’s arts management has been in place since 1998.

“It’s a program that focuses on many different art disciplines,” program director Karen Chandler said. “In our classes, there may be students who double major in arts management and theater, or arts management and music. [We want] students who have an interest in an arts discipline and another discipline like communications or marketing or business.”

What strengths and interests might a potential arts management student possess?

Students who think of themselves as independent, creative thinkers may be interested in an arts management degree.

“It may not be someone who is a practicing artist, but someone who is an art appreciator or arts advocate,” Bond said.

According to Chandler, students who enjoy leading others, managing resources and people, and have strong written and oral communication skills tend to have an interest in arts management.

“We would want a student who has done stage management,” Chandler said. “Someone who might have worked to book bands for the prom. Someone who has raised money for their high school choir.”

What kinds of classes are included with an arts management major?

The curriculum will vary depending on the school’s focus. At the College of Charleston, students begin with an overview of strategic planning, grant writing, management theory and staffing. Field trips to museums and theaters to hear from professionals in the industry are part of the classes.

Subsequent classes will focus on topics such as financial management, fundraising, arts marketing and public relations. Students can choose a concentration for the music industry or take a class about art gallery fundamentals.

At UNC Asheville, introductory classes include courses on bringing an idea to fruition, managing business finances and organizations, marketing principles and understanding legal and ethical requirements.

“Student also identify an arts emphasis area,” Bond said. UNC Asheville students take at least 16 credits in visual arts, drama, creative writing, mass communication/film, music or new media.

What experiences are available to students in arts management programs?

At College of Charleston, students are required to participate in a 120-hour internship. Students in the arts management program have worked at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

An internship, undergraduate research project and study abroad programs are opportunities available at UNC Asheville. Students can custom design a project or work with local or regional artists and companies. Faculty assigned to students’ art emphasis areas help them make the connections to these artists and businesses.

What careers may require an arts management major?

A degree in art management can lead to a career as a music producer, festival director, artistic director, art gallery manager or curator, fundraiser or marketing and communications director for nonprofit organizations, or box office manager. Arts management can also be a good foundation for artists who want to create art and then sell their work.


Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI

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