Mastering the Art
of Arts Leadership New Program Provides Tools for Creative Professionals By Jeannie Kever
ndrea Huang understands the magic that happens onstage. She’s been acting since elementary school.
But the work that goes on backstage – from acquiring the rights to a play to the intangibles of running an organization – is still something of a mystery, one Huang needs to solve if she is to create her own theater company. Huang will be among the first students in the University of Houston’s new Master of Arts in Arts Leadership, which began classes this fall.
“I’d love to see the fine arts as core curriculum.” Fleurette Fernando
It is an eclectic group, made up of dancers, actors, musicians, writers and even a community activist.
curriculum. I’ve been in the business world, but I’ve never really let go of the art world.”
The program, within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, is designed to train creative professionals to launch and run arts organizations. Director Fleurette Fernando said the curriculum covers leadership, technology, marketing and fundraising.
There are graduate programs in arts leadership elsewhere in the country, but this is a first for Houston, and Fernando, who previously was grants director for the Houston Arts Alliance, said local arts leaders had asked for the training. The Houston Endowment provided seed money to launch it.
“We’ll give them the basic tools in the classroom,” Fernando said. “Their experiences in the real world will be a big part of the learning from each other.”
“Many arts administrators learn on the job,” Fernando said. “I’m one of them. If we had the tools, I think we could have saved ourselves a lot of heartache.”
Designed to appeal to working professionals, classes will be held in the evening. Full-time students can complete the program in two years, although Fernando said some students will take only one or two classes a semester.
The degree will require 30 semester hours of coursework; students will be able to take electives in the fine arts, as well as through the Bauer College of Business, the Valenti School of Communication and elsewhere on campus. It also will require an internship with an arts program.
While some students, including Huang, a 2011 graduate of Texas A&M University, are just a few years removed from college, others bring a wealth of life experience.
But, as a new program, it will be a work-in-progress.
Tamra Pierce graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in theater, music and art in the 1970s, and although she is a real estate appraiser by profession, she is also a community activist and advocate for the arts in education. The master’s degree, she said, will be a way to nudge that passion toward reality. “I always dream really big,” she said. “I’d love to see the fine arts as core
“Like any creative process, we collectively have a vision of the end result, but in many ways we will be building the bridge as we walk along it,” Fernando said. “I think these first students are aware that they will be instrumental in helping define the program for future students.” And the timing is right, as many founders of arts organizations are preparing to retire. “There’s going to be a lot of room for new leaders,” she said. “A lot of people are antsy about, ‘Who am I going to pass the baton to?’ It’s an interesting time to talk about leadership in the arts community.” H
F a l l 2 013 | UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON Ma gazine
Published on Oct 8, 2013