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Is An Arts Career Still Viable?

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The art world has changed, but there’s a growing need for trained, qualified managers.

The arts are essential to our economy, contributing 4.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) — more than transportation, agriculture, or construction. In 2020, in-person arts programming vanished, and as of July 2021 nearly 40 percent of performing arts organizations remain closed to the public.

Some organizations not only survived the pandemic but emerged stronger. Jennifer Hughes, executive director of Boston Baroque, inked a streaming deal with Amazon Prime. Kate Maguire, artistic director of the Berkshire Theater Group, pivoted productions outdoors. Creative responses to unprecedented challenges like these demonstrate the biggest difference between success and failure is often skilled administration. There has never been a greater need for professionally trained and diverse arts managers.

The right program

Artistry and passion aren’t enough for a sustainable career in the arts today. A successful arts career demands the same tools and skills found among professional nonprofit and commercial leaders. The key to acquiring those skills is choosing a program based on direct mentorship with practicing professionals.

Boston University’s Metropolitan College (BU MET) offers two programs that lean into the mentorship model. The MS in Arts Administration program teaches the professional tools and skills needed to help arts organizations adapt and thrive. It is ideal for young artists who realize they can contribute most as a bridge between arts and audiences, arts organization staff who need professional training to advance their careers, and non-arts professionals who want to retool to serve their love of the arts.

BU partnered with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment to create the Performing Arts Enterprise Certificate, which can be earned as part of the MS; students can learn directly from entrepreneurial Broadway producers via hands-on internships. Additional courses in innovation, entrepreneurship, data analysis, and technology teach future arts leaders how to creatively promote social good through the arts, ultimately building an innovative arts field.

Arts administrators will reshape the arts in the future. To be part of that revolution, you need a program that offers real-world experience and mentorship — visit

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