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What it’s really like to be an arts manager

ECU event Music Under the Stars
Arts managers are responsible for producing large events, such as Music Under the Stars.

Australia is renowned for being sports mad, but it’s also a country which embraces music, theatre, dance and drama.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the arts industry contributes around $86 billion annually to the country’s economy, making it a major tourism drawcard and significant employer.

Combining business acumen with a creative passion, arts managers are often the driving force behind high profile festivals, performances and artists.

What is an arts manager?

ECU offers the only arts management degree course in the southern hemisphere at its Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

WAAPA is internationally recognised as one of the world’s leading performing arts academies, with a reputation for producing quality graduates.

WAAPA’s Dr Helen Rusak is the Course Coordinator for the Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) degree.

“An arts manager can be, for example, a music producer, festival manager or musician’s agent so this degree can open up many opportunities,” she says.

“Past graduates have become fundraising officers or public relations managers. The arts field has a reputation for being difficult to break into, but this course has such a great reputation, that we have people from industry come to us asking for student recommendations to fill roles,” Dr Rusak says.

A diverse career

Anyone wanting to pursue a career in arts management needs to have a passion for arts.

“Most people don’t go to school and think ‘I want to be an arts manager’. They just establish a love in a particular area and as they get older they want to develop it more,” Dr Rusak explains.

“For example, someone may have played the piano all their life and they know they don’t want to be a pianist, but maybe in an associated career such as a concert manager. Or there may be someone who enjoyed ballet and wants a career in the arts, but not as a ballerina.”

A mix of business and arts

The three-year Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) course is offered at ECU’s Mount Lawley Campus and subjects cover marketing, arts law, financial decision making, business development and general arts management skills.

A ten-week learning placement in the third year gives students the opportunity to apply their theoretical skills in a professional setting.

“This degree course is essentially a business degree which focusses on the arts. Our strong links with industry has led to some great placement opportunities,” Dr Rusak explains.

“For example we’ve had people placed at the Brisbane Power House, Music Viva and the Esplanade Theatre in Singapore.”

Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) graduate Amanda Lim
Amanda Lim

Graduate success story

Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) graduate Amanda Lim exemplifies the value of the industry placement opportunity.

“I undertook a placement at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore during my final semester and am now the Education & Outreach Executive at Singapore Dance Theatre.”

“The curriculum covered both theoretical and practical aspects of arts management. From subjects in arts law, front of house management, and art history, it was extremely comprehensive.”

Want to learn more?

For more information about kick-starting your career as an arts manager, check out the Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) course page.


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