BGSU center holds conference on ‘Liberalism: Old and New’

For all the actors, painters, singers, musicians and other artists in the world, there also needs to be a complementary group of professionals to arrange for their work to be seen by the public. BGSU has recently established a new minor degree in arts management to provide that important service to the visual and performing arts.

Arts managers may work with theaters, symphonies, visual artists, museums, dancers, in film or organizing festivals. They must have strong leadership and organizational skills in addition to proficiency in business and accounting, whether they work in profit or not-for-profit agencies.

Five students are registered in the degree program this semester, with a number of others planning to join next semester, said Susan Badger Booth, theatre and film, who is coordinating the arts management program. The program is housed in the Department of Theatre and Film but is open to students from any discipline, and its enrollment reflects that, with students majoring in digital arts, journalism, economics, and visual communication and technology education.

A fifth is majoring in photochemical sciences but has a strong interest in theatre and sees the minor degree as preparation for possible future work in community theatre, Booth explained.

Jessica Sparks, a senior from Toledo majoring in digital arts, was the first to sign up when the program was announced last semester. “Art majors don’t usually have a good handle on the business side of art,” she said. “I wanted to be able to market myself better and to have a wide variety of skills that would set me apart and make me more valuable to an employer, because my field is very competitive.”

Colleen Verbus, a junior from Hinckley majoring in journalism and public relations, switched her minor from theatre to arts management when the program was announced last year because it dovetailed better with her plans to work in the “business side of theatre.”“It was a good fit with what I want to do and will allow me to get experience in that area,” Verbus said. “It ties together my major and my minor.”

Widespread interest in program
The program was created in response to student requests, according to Booth, who for the past several years has taught an arts management class. “It became apparent that a lot of students wanted to be involved in arts management,” she said, so last year a cross-disciplinary committee was formed to study the possibility of establishing a degree program.

Booth said the effort was made easier because Dr. Richard Kennell, dean of the College of Musical Arts; Dr. Katerina Rüedi Ray, director of the School of Art, and Dr. Ron Shields, chair of the theatre and film department, already collaborated frequently on mutual projects and were open to the idea. But the committee was also expanded to include any others who were interested, and the response was great, she said.

Participants came from a number of campus areas, including business administration, popular culture, telecommunications, and recreation and tourism.

The timing was also right from a faculty expertise standpoint. Booth, who has a master of fine arts degree in theatre management from Columbia University and had been teaching part time for seven years, began working full time last year. Her colleague Anthony Horne, who teaches acting, directing, producing and musical theatre, has an MBA in arts management from the University of California-Los Angeles.

The second major component has been the development of a partnership with the College of Business Administration. Dr. Michael Ellison, theatre and film, had been teaching a class called Performing for Entrepreneurs in the college’s Entrepreneurship Program. The course teaches interpersonal and leadership skills and prepares students to present themselves to prospective supporters and clients. That class is now a requirement for the arts management degree.

“The Entrepreneurship Program wanted creative and innovative ways to teach their students,” so the partnership was a natural, Booth said.

Interdisciplinary requirements
Arts management students take Arts Management I, focused on the not-for-profit sector, and Introduction to Entrepreneurship, which focuses on for-profit businesses. Other requirements include classes in accounting, management information systems, visual communication technology and theatre and film. Next semester, an Arts Management II course will be added, again focusing on the not-for-profit arena. Students may also choose from a number of electives in theatre, business, and recreation and tourism, among others.

“The arts management class is invaluable to me,” Sparks said, “especially learning about all the resources available when applying for grants and how to go about it. Also, taking classes in the business college has taught me to handle myself more professionally. Art students tend to be sequestered, so I’ve really enjoyed my business classes and being around students in another field.”

Internships will also be an important part of the program. BGSU is working with the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo to begin creating opportunities for students. Field trips to arts organizations will be another component.

“We’re really excited about this program and see it as a national model to inspire collaboration between other university art departments and business programs in entrepreneurship,” Booth said.

“The formal degree program gives interested students a structure and access to expertise at BGSU,” said Kennell. “It provides additional resources to our students and brings the instructional and practical aspects together.

“This is a crucial opportunity for BGSU students. We are now training the arts managers of the future.”

September 12, 2005