Handling the Arts

Written on December 8, 2009 by Felicia Appenteng in Arts & Cultures & Societies, IE Humanities Center, Philosophy

By Rebecca Knight

Published: December 4 2009 16:26 | Last updated: December 4 2009 16:26 The Financial Times

New direction: more MBA graduates than ever are opting to work in the arts, media or broadcasting


What are the biggest human resources headaches at the Paris Opera Ballet? How does the director of Berlin Philharmonic increase public appeal? What are best ways the Tate Modern should diversify its revenue stream?

These are some of the questions that students at Cambridge University's Judge Business School will take up this year as part of the school's new concentration on cultural and arts management. The programme, which includes various specialised courses on the subject, and culminates with a two-week final project on an arts management theme, aims to give aspiring leaders of large cultural institutions a deeper understanding of the art sector's most pressing issues.

"Many of the concerns emerging in the cultural and arts sector are the same as in other sectors: globalisation, commercialisation, brand development and the exploitation of intellectual property," says Jeremy Newton, the designated "coach" for the concentration. "But at the same time, running the Bank of New York is very different from running the New York City ballet. We are going to tease out what it takes to run an arts organisation or cultural institution on the ground."

The Judge MBA concentration, which is open to between 10-30 students, includes new courses in areas such as art valuation and film finance that incorporate real world case studies from the UK and elsewhere. The programme will also involve guest speakers who work in the industry, from museum chairs in London to Hollywood film studio executives.

While the programme in Cambridge is new, it is hardly the only one in Europe like it. Indeed, many leading graduate schools, including Bocconi University, and business schools such as SDA Bocconi School of Management and ESCP Europe, have dedicated programmes on arts and cultural management.

Case study
Solène Maquel
ESCP Europe, Masters in the Management of Cultural and Artistic Activities

"I studied history and history of art and in addition I wanted to acquire management tools. My first job was in an art gallery and then the Louvre museum offered me a position in management control. From Paris I came to Reims because I wanted to create a private art gallery to bring new artists to the public. The programme was very important because it gave me confidence in my entrepreneurial ability."

Over the past 20 years, cultural activities and institutions have seen remarkable growth, according to Newton, formerly head of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. He says that Judge's new concentration represents an effort to "broaden the range of student expertise" in a field where career opportunities in both the private and public sectors have undergone a dramatic transformation.

"Now more than ever before, people coming off MBAs are just as likely to find themselves working in the arts or media and broadcasting," says Newton, who today runs the Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts. "This is partly helped by the increasing entrepreneurial culture in arts institutions, as well as the high degree of professional mobility at the management level between the private and public sectors."

There is also an acknowledgement from the cultural institutions themselves about the need for leaders with solid management skills, according to Stefano Baia Curioni, the director of Bocconi University's masters in economics and management in arts, culture, media and entertainment programme. As the arts industry expands and changes, there is increasing recognition that business know-how is a necessary ingredient in figuring out new ways of assessing the value of cultural products, or determining new methods of increasing public appeal.

"Arts and cultural institutions are very complex, and this complexity is often underestimated," he says. "In the last 15-20 years, the state provision [that sustained these institutions] has been dramatically reduced, and cultural production is in a huge transition. This transition has to be supported by people who understand culture, but also understand management, and sustainability."

Bocconi's two-year graduate programme, which maintains partnerships and alliances with arts and humanities schools all over Europe, aims to prepare students for careers in entertainment, fashion and publishing, as well as leadership roles in cultural institutions and performance companies.

Prof Curioni says the school's management curriculum is often supplemented with arts training outside the university. "Of course managerial techniques can be transferred from one industry to another, but you must know what you're doing, and what you're promoting," he says, adding that he encourages students to develop a "parallel life" that is intensely involved with the arts. "I want them to go outside the course and have a relationship with the discipline."

SDA Bocconi, meanwhile, offers a masters degree in stage and show management in a joint venture with the Teatro alla Scala Academy, the performing arts school of the opera house, La Scala, and the Piccolo Teatro of Milan. The programme is open to around 40 students a year who have either a degree in economics, social sciences or communications, or a diploma from a music conservatory or fine arts academy.

Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo performs in Germany

The year-long programme includes many specialised courses such as finance for the arts, the history of entertainment and live entertainment business planning. There is also a field project at the Piccolo Teatro where students put into practice project management and marketing tools they have learnt. In addition, the programme makes available internships in institutions includingLondon's Globe Theatre, the New York Chamber Orchestra and Rome's Opera Theatre.

ESCP Europe also offers a specialised masters in management of cultural and artistic activities in partnership with the University of Ca' Foscari, in Venice, which is open to 20-25 students per year. "Globally, management in the cultural and arts industries is not at the level it should be," says Pascal Morand, an economist who has been the dean of ESCP Europe for the past three years. "This programme combines the classical teaching of management with the human and emotional factor of [what it takes to lead] creative people such as designers and architects."

But Prof Morand is careful to add that the overarching message of the programme does not advocate the notion "that the management of other sectors is better". "There are lessons that the creative industries can teach the traditional business world," he says. This is why the school's London branch is this year launching a new masters in marketing, called "managing the value of creativity". The 15-month programme, which includes a 12-week internship, will "look at both what marketing can learn from creative industries, as well as how to manage creative organisations more effectively and bring a more analytical view to their business operations," says Marie Taillard, professor of marketing at the school and the director of the new masters programme.

The programme involves modules taught by professors from each of the school's five campuses – in addition to London and Paris, the school has branches in Madrid, Turin and Berlin. The programme also includes specialised seminars with ESCP's "creative partners", such as drama schools and museums. Demand for the programme, which begins in January with 20 students, has been "very high", says Prof Taillard. "We've had a lot of applicants from North America who can't find what they're looking for in the US and Canada. This points to a need in the market."

Even schools without dedicated arts management programmes are introducing humanities and other cultural studies. At IE Business School, for instance, students now take a mandatory "world awareness seminar" and do a "launch" module at the start of their coursework, which includes an introduction to moral philosophy, eastern and western civilisations and modern art.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.


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