Future arts managers at GMU look to rebuild show business

A professor and two grad students tell what's needed next.

The performing arts, which have been and are dealing with major stressors, need passionate change agents to lead into the future. While that seems clear to me, I wanted to know what might be on the minds of others, especially those studying the management side of the performing arts, which are a business too. So I reached out to the arts management program of the George Mason University College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Let’s start with one of the GMU professors, then bring in a couple of arts management students.

George Mason University Associate Professor Carole Rosenstein, Masters students Emily Catherine Dugal and Hannah Gudeman.

Carole Rosenstein (Mason Associate Professor, Arts Management Program): We know that the next three to five years are going to be a time of enormous challenge and change for the arts. We will have to rebuild our cultural economy and infrastructure, help artists recover, and respond to fundamental shifts in technology and in people’s expectations about how the arts fit into their lives. To function as a professional in that sort of context requires a toolkit, and that is what we help students to build in arts management programs.

Coming in, our students know that they are dedicated to the arts. We move that forward. What is your ethical orientation toward your work? How do you balance mission and market forces? How do you fit a business model to an entrepreneurial idea? How do you identify and steward available resources? Who makes up your community?

A foundation of knowledge and experience in these areas gives our graduates the confidence and flexibility of creative thinkers. Learning about how people have answered these questions in the past and sharing with a cohort of graduate students the journey of answering them for yourself is a first step along the path to leadership in the field.

Why did you decide to study arts management?

Emily Catherine Dugal (George Mason University Arts Management Masters student): I chose to study arts management because I am passionate about facilitating meaningful art experiences for the public, I believe in the power and influence that art has in bettering human lives. I have created art my entire life; the joy I’ve received from making and sharing art is what has driven me to pursue a career focused in creating accessible, diverse, and engaging art experiences for others. I chose to study Arts Management at George Mason University because their program provides a strong course curriculum that molds students into adept, multifaceted arts managers.

Hannah Gudeman (Arts Management Masters student): I decided to study arts management after witnessing a consistent breakdown in communication between orchestra management and musicians, which led to lockouts, strikes, and ultimately a pause on creating music. As a violinist, I was eager to learn more about arts management in order to become a voice for musicians and artists, allowing them to create music and art at the highest level without restriction. Entering the Arts Management program at George Mason, I could not have foreseen that this issue would escalate as orchestra contracts and seasons were canceled in March 2020 and musicians were left without pay throughout most of the coronavirus pandemic. I am dedicated to contributing to negotiations and solutions that provide support for musicians, regardless of organizational health. Working together is the only way forward, and I hope to assist in cultivating healthy relationships between management and musicians.

How do you think the performing arts will ultimately respond to being dark for the past year because of COVID?

Emily Catherine Dugal: The performing arts sector has had an exceptionally challenging past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I believe their continuation in creative problem solving will help these organizations to continue the fulfillment of their missions and vision. While I do believe that virtual programming has served as a vital and cost-efficient outlet for performing arts organizations during these dark times, I do not think that virtual programming alone is going to be enough to satisfy audiences, performers, or the organizations in the long run. Options such as in-person outdoor concerts, performances, and programs could be a great way for performing arts organizations to provide their audience with more variety in programming options, direct engagement with their communities, and support local artists.

Hannah Gudeman: The performing arts will always persevere, and, although some organizations were dark for the past year, an abundance of new and innovative art has been created virtually over the past year. What we can all learn from the  pandemic is that arts organizations who are flexible and focused on creating art will find ways to present programs regardless of the circumstances.

What do you think the performing arts will look like in the next three to five years?

Emily Catherine Dugal: I imagine the performing arts in the next three to five years will look more diverse and innovative than ever before. I think performing arts events in the future will include a larger range of performance styles, more creations and performances by BIPOC and LGBTQ artists, and an increase in outdoor productions. I believe there will be an increase in communication between performing arts organizations and their audiences, which will help the organizations in understanding how to best serve their patrons.

Hannah Gudeman: Over the next three to five years, the performing arts world will look like something we have never seen before. Following the artistic shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations turned to virtual programming, which allowed for further distribution and interaction. Moving forward, I think we will see even more virtual programming and the altering of programs to serve both in-person and virtual audiences.

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This article is only a beginning point. What do you think, DCMTA readers—you who are supporters of the arts and a key life force, or you who are the makers of the performing arts? What kind of show business do the performing arts need next?


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