On Being An Arts Administrator

I frequently think that Arts Administration is a unique profession, but I really have no hard evidence upon which to base this, never having worked in a field outside the Arts. Every colleague I talk to recognizes that what we do is hard, and many have considered a career change (in fact, a lot of us consider it several times a month). As we frequently like to admit, we will never get rich and we will never get famous. But we stay on. Why? What makes us “tick?”

Here are some of what I think are some of the realities and rewards of Arts Administration:

Reality – Arts Administrators work hard: really hard. There is always a lot to do – often much more than we can get to in the time we have.

Reality – there will never be enough money or human resources to do what we want to do; however, many Arts Administrators make a living wage because many of us (but not all) have long term or permanent jobs, which is more than many artists can say.

Reality – however financially secure an arts organization (of any size or description) may be or seem to be, there is little margin for something to go “wrong”. The unpredictability of revenue is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast. I don’t think anybody ever gets used to this, but we learn to live with it.

Reward – Arts Administrators are extremely resourceful, resilient and creative people in their own right. This is something we should celebrate from time to time. This trait grows and expands the longer we work in our field.

Reward – we work with people who care very deeply about what they do; most people work in the Arts because they love it.

Reward – the work we do is meaningful. Let’s think about this: every day we will be working on behalf of something that makes humanity and civilization unique and beautiful; we are involved in things that transform people’s lives.

Whenever I question why I do this really hard thing called Arts Administration, I try to remember the rewards and even if it seems like the rest of the world really doesn’t care, there are some people out there who do. If that makes the world a better place, then I’m in.

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