Administration – Arts Administration

Whether you are enjoying a symphony or opera, appreciating a great work of art at the museum, or having a great time seeing a show at a theater, you are among the millions of people every year who benefit from the work of Arts Administrators who are working behind the scenes to make your experience as memorable as possible.

Arts Administrators handle all the business operations around the arts. They are responsible for the day-to-day operations of arts organizations – always with the goal of helping them fulfill their mission. On the non-profit side, they oversee the administrative aspect of public theaters, museums, symphonies, opera houses, ballet companies, and music organizations. On the for-profit end, they manage auction houses, music companies, and art galleries. In addition, arts administrators oversee arts festivals, dance companies, arts organizations for people with disabilities, arts centers/councils, and more.

Included in the job responsibilities are staff management, hiring, budget oversight, marketing and public relations, fundraising, program development and evaluation, public speaking, writing grant proposals, recruiting participants, negotiating contracts, managing the database of subscribers, and dealing effectively with the board of trustees, donors and volunteers. 

This is an ideal profession for people who have a passion for both business and the arts. It provides a wonderful combination of analytics and creativity. A successful administrator enjoys fostering teamwork and communicates well with staff, artists, organization leadership, philanthropists, and the public-at-large.

The importance of this combination of skills is reflected by the respected arts administrator Margo Saulnier, former assistant director of artistic planning for the Boston Pops, who said that a leader in this field is “trying to make artistic dreams come true.” You can see more about her insights about the field here.

Arts Administrators Who Have Made a Major Impact

One of the first great arts administrators on the international scene was Michael Maddox, who co-founded the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in the 1700s. In the early 20th century, He laid the groundwork for one of the world’s greatest dance companies.  

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay showed how someone in this field can impact the greater society. A major social reformer, Chattopadhyay was the driving force behind the renaissance of Indian handicrafts, hand looms and theater. She founded the National School of Drama and the Crafts Council of India.

In the modern era, several American Arts Administrators have stood out. These include Phillippe de Montebello, who from 1977 to 2008 lifted New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to greater heights; John Lane, whose Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine became America’s foremost summer theater under his guidance from 1950 to 1994; and Beverly Sills, who raised millions in the 1990s to greatly strengthen the productions of the New York City Opera, which, under her guidance, became the first company in the United States to use English subtitles.

Currently active is the widely hailed Clive Gillinson, a renowned British cellist who went on to become the Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra. While in London, he founded innovative and successful music festivals. He is now the Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall in New York City. Gillinson is a leading proponent of music education.

Educating the Next Generation of Arts Administrators

Students in a high school who think this profession

 would appeal to them should take business and accounting classes if offered by their school. They should work behind the scenes at school productions and/or exhibits. High school students interested in this field would benefit from becoming involved with Junior Achievement, which helps young people succeed in a global economy. Learn more about Junior Achievement.

At the undergraduate level, students should take courses in the arts, business, art history, music, marketing and public relations. Butler University offers a BA program in Arts Administration.

Many universities offer MA programs in Arts Administration. One of the most prestigious programs is at Columbia University, which is the only program that ties together curriculum elements from public and private management, administration, law, business, and finance at the Ivy League level. Additional information about this program can be seen here.

Other universities offering a Master’s degree in Arts Administration include Boston University, Goucher College, University of New Orleans, and two programs now online at Drexel University and the University of Denver.

Further bolstering the educational advancements in this field is the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE), which consists of more than 150-member programs that train and equip students in arts leadership, management, entrepreneurship, and cultural policy. For more information about AAAE, go to

Salaries in the Field reports that Art Administrator salaries range from $58,477 yearly for a program administrator to $77,165 yearly for a systems administrator.

According to, people who earn a Masters’ degree in Arts Administration earn between $32,203 and $77,092 a year. This site reports that 83% of people in this field are women; 17% are men.

In its last survey of the field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for art directors is $89,760 a year.

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