New Master of Arts and Cultural Management Degree Prepares Graduates to Manage Careers in the Arts

To paraphrase eminent scholar, author and leadership guru Warren G. Bennis,  “There are two ways of being creative. You can create art. Or you can create an environment in which artists flourish.”   

And, sometimes, you can do both!  

This dichotomy lies at the heart of why the MSU College of Arts & Letters created and is offering its new Master of Arts and Cultural Management multidisciplinary degree beginning in Fall 2015. The program will prepare students for leadership positions related to the management and advocacy of arts and cultural organizations, as well as the industry dimensions of an artistic and humanistic entrepreneurial career.

The curriculum features three core courses including an introductory course, internship course and capstone course; and selected foundational courses that cover strategy and policy planning. Students must then choose one of three distinct tracks: Museum Studies, Artistic Administration, and Executive Management, that offer deeper exposure to artistic and cultural management depending on a student’s interests.

image of stage set with purple lighting

Experiences and skills beyond those provided in the coursework and experiential component will be gained through participation in on-campus, national and international conferences and arts and cultural programming. 

The College’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design as well as the Department of Theatre offer coursework within the masters program. 

Graduates of this program may also widen their employment opportunities in arts and cultural organizations, note MSU Professors Chris Corneal, chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and Kirk Domer, Department of Theatre chair.  

"In every segment of the arts whether performing, visual, fine art, or support organizations, competent management is critical to success, "Domer says. "That includes solo artists and how they manage their own careers.  For an arts program graduate, it can be invaluable to understand the management side of the business."

To be a successful arts leader you need to understand a variety of art forms and how to work with artists, but also the business disciplines required to run a successful company.

Ken Neufeld

Says Corneal, "Add in the fact that not every graduate with an arts degree is going to become a working artist, and the value of a Master of Arts and Cultural Management degree becomes crystal clear. It will help prepare them for the myriad management, advocacy and entrepreneur opportunities throughout the arts and cultural fields."

That last point carries even greater importance when you realize that there is a scarcity of individuals with arts management experience in the U.S., while the need, especially with not-for-profits is expanding exponentially.

In fact, a study by the Bridgespan Group, a non-profit consulting firm with offices in Boston, New York City and San Francisco that provides management consulting to nonprofits and philanthropists, concluded: “By 2016, (arts and cultural) organizations will need almost 80,000 new senior managers per year.”

In response, the Bridgespan study recommends that arts boards, current managers, foundations, and individual and corporate donors:

“Invest in leadership capacity. Skilled management is the single most important determinant of organizational success. Nonprofits must invest in building skilled management teams.”

The expected student learning outcomes of the new arts and cultural management program are directly aligned with the MSU Liberal Learning Goals—in particular, analytical thinking, integrated reasoning, and communication. This includes theoretical and practical training related to the management of and advocacy for arts and cultural organizations and/or entrepreneurial artistic careers.

Industry veterans say this can be important to future success. Ken Neufeld, president and CEO, Victoria Theatre Association, Dayton, OH, and a 1976 MSU graduate, says that a degree in arts and cultural management can make a difference in helping make or break a career, especially in arts leadership.

4 women pose for a photoviewers looking at an exhibition, a sign on the wall reads "Home: Perspectives on the Familiar"

“To be a successful arts leader you need to understand a variety of art forms and how to work with artists, but also the business disciplines required to run a successful company,” says Neufeld. “It’s not easy, but it is a truly fulfilling career where you can make a difference in people’s lives every day. 

“Graduating with a Masters of Arts and Cultural Management from Michigan State will set you up with all the fundamentals and some great skills that will help to ensure your success.”


For more information about this program, visit the Arts & Cultural Management page or email

Find Degree Requirements for the masters program in Arts & Cultural Management.