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Lowering the curtain on your performing arts career can be tough, but a career transition into arts management can build on your expertise and keep you connected to the field you love.

With the next big Netflix drama just one click away, the competition for our eyes and ears has never been greater. Arts and cultural organisations know it, which is why demand for arts-literate, business savvy leaders who can secure interest, support and audiences is growing. Enter, stage right, artists and performers looking to transition into management.

Perhaps you’re a dancer ready to hang up your ballet shoes, or a film production graduate wanting to broaden your skills-set. Rather than completely changing direction, you want to trade your practice-based career for a management role that aligns with your passions.

People who have experience as an artist or performer are often the most successful in these roles.

The good news is your networks, knowledge and perspective have value, especially when combined with the kinds of business skills developed in Deakin University’s Master of Business (Arts and Cultural Management).

Associate Professor Hilary Glow, Arts and Cultural Management Program Discipline Leader at Deakin, says it is no surprise that many artists and performers consider arts and cultural management to be a natural segue from the studio or stage. Likewise, it makes sense that organisations want managers who draw on both business intelligence and practical arts experience.

“People who have experience as an artist or performer are often the most successful in these roles because they have a rich understanding of the creative endeavour and a deep appreciation of the arts. This enables them to be very clear about the value proposition of the endeavour, which is so important to sustainability in a competitive, complex environment.”

So how do artists and performance with management aspirations make the leap? I can hear some saying ‘It sounds easy, but…’

In addition to taking on volunteer opportunities and seeking out mentors, those with a prior degree can undertake the Deakin Master’s program to gain arts-specific and general business skills.

Roles in arts and cultural management are as diverse as the sector itself, and include Arts Project Manager, Fundraising and Relationships Manager, Event Coordinator, Council Arts Program Officer, Gallery Director, Exhibition Publicist, Tour Manager, Cultural Policy Officer, Theatre Marketing Manager.

We all have extensive backgrounds out there in arts and cultural management

Unlike other courses of its kind, the Deakin program sits within a business school – an important feature according to Dr Anne Kershaw, Senior Lecturer in Arts and Cultural Management.

“Some other courses are offered within arts or policy departments; they can be very theoretical and removed from practice. Our program has the benefit of being grounded in business education, which ensures it has a very practical and vocational focus, but also shaped by a lot of higher order thinking and research.”

The practical focus is further enhanced by the teaching staff’s industry experience and connections.

“We all have extensive backgrounds out there in arts and cultural management – we aren’t just academics –and our links with industry are deep, diverse and ongoing. Students benefit from this because our experience and connections feed directly into what we teach and how we teach.”

Offered online, Deakin’s Master of Business (Arts and Cultural Management) covers both general business units, such as Governance and Accountability, as well as arts-specific subjects, such as Arts Marketing, which tap into the unique competencies and expertise required by ACM managers.

Assoc. Professor Glow says a secondary higher degree is increasingly expected of managers in many sectors, including arts and culture.

“It used to be a bonus, but it is starting to become mandatory for most middle to senior management roles.”

Everyone brought a lot of knowledge and passion to the course

Millmaine Entertainment Campaign Manager Elise Tobin has not looked back since graduated from the course, and says it is “one of the most relevant arts leadership courses in Australia”.

Now a member of the program’s Advisory Board, Tobin said one of the best things about the course for her was engaging with students at different levels of their careers and working in varied practices.

“That came with interesting and valuable insights.

“Everyone brought a lot of knowledge and passion to the course, including lectures and guest speakers. It introduced me to a lot of contacts, which is super important for the arts industry.”

Assoc. Professor Glow agrees that the diversity of students, and the fact they come from across Australia, is an added benefit for students and teachers alike.

“We have really interesting people from all over Australia; people working in Indigenous art galleries in the Northern Territory, people working in dance companies in Western Australia. The level of engagement, discussion and inspiration this generates is really remarkable and rewarding.”

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