Getting into Arts Administration

Q. I graduated from college last year, and after many short term jobs, I’ve finally figured out what I really want to do:  arts administration.  Trouble is, my only relevant experience is from college.  How do I get my foot in the door?

A. Congratulations on identifying your passion.  You’ve saved yourself years of working in unsatisfying positions.  But, you’re up against the classic Catch 22:  To get experience you have to have experience.  And in the world of entertainment, it’s also a case of who you know.
Research interesting locations and organizations, and then  focus on getting people in arts administration to know you and what you can do.   If you’ve been able to save some money from your short term jobs (or you have a doting aunt), you could go “cold turkey” and find an internship in an arts organization which you admire. There are, of course, no guarantees here that you’ll find full-time work as a result—or that you’ll be paid anything.  But with some diligence, you can find an opportunity that puts you in touch with arts administrators and helps you pick up essential skills.

If you can’t intern full-time, consider regular and extensive volunteer work.  And don’t overlook the fact that lower level-level paid administrative positions, for example, in membership development or fundraising, can lead to higher level opportunities, You’ll soon discover that most people in arts administration started at the bottom.

One final piece of advice:  Eat lunch.  Make it a point to invite interesting arts administrators to join you and share their advice and knowledge about the field.  Once they get invested in your success, you’re on your way.

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