Our guide to arts administration
Sydney Embray

Our guide to arts administration

First published date March 03 2016 Amended date March 03 2016

When you think of art, you likely think about the artistic process: highly creative people pouring out their talent and hard work on a canvas or stage.  What doesn’t necessarily come to mind is everything else it takes to bring a piece of work from artist to viewer—an important job belonging to art administrators.  They’re the brains of the business, connecting artists, dealers, agents, and venues to make sure the right art gets the right spotlight.  While the job does take some serious planning and organisational work, there’s a creative side too—which means that if you’ve always wanted to be involved in the art scene but haven’t the raw talent, this might be your place to shine.

A course in art administration is a great way to see if the field is for you, and if it is, get started on a career.  Courses vary in availability, price, and location, so there’s bound to be one perfect to fit your schedule and goals.


What makes a great arts administrator?

Think you might be up for the task?  Arts administrators have many great qualities, but most importantly, they’re organised—after all, their main responsibility is to connect people.  They’re well-spoken, well-written, and meet deadlines promptly.  Another trait of good arts administrators is their ability to get people to work together—especially important when organising events, setting up residencies, and connecting artists, buyers and audiences.


Who should take an arts administration course?

If the above qualities are ones you possess, you might just be a perfect fit for the job!  Taking a course is a great first step, as completing one can qualify you for more training or formal education programmes.  What’s more, taking a course can also help you move up in the ranks, especially if you’re working in a small arts organisation.  Taking a course is a great way to get the qualification and confidence you need to take the leap and go after your career goals. 


What should I expect from a course?

Every course is unique  however there are a few topics essential to becoming an arts administrator that will be covered in most, if not all, courses.  You’ll get a great handle on the business side of things, whether that includes setting budgets, writing contracts and grants, project management, or media and audience development.  Being an arts administrator isn’t all numbers and spreadsheets, though—you’ll hone your creative eye and learn to create engaging and beautiful displays, exhibitions, and events.


Where can this take me?

A course in arts administration opens more doors than you’d think.  It can give a current artist a way to stay involved in the arts without being directly involved in the creation and production side.  Moreover, with the right course, you can qualify for more training and education in the subject at a range of universities.  If you’re already working in arts administration, a course can help you get that extra leg up on a promotion or a new career move.


Fun facts:

76% of English adults engaged in the arts in the last 12 months, making the arts an extremely valuable part of British life.


Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame, Lee Hall of The Pitmen Painters, and Stephen Daldry of Billy Elliot all started out in Arts Council-funded organisations.


By Sydney Embray