Celebrating Cultural Diversity and Sharing the Magic of Cirque du Soleil with the World: In Conversation with Daniel Lamarre

Daniel Lamarre-250

Daniel Lamarre (Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil).

Daniel Lamarre, O.C., is the President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, one of the most successful entertainment enterprises in the world. He is also a member of the MMIAM program’s International Advisory Committee. Students in the program have the privilege of visiting Cirque du Soleil’s creative headquarters in Montréal to tour the facilities and meet with Mr. Lamarre. Laura Adlers recently interviewed him about Cirque programs, what happens behind the scenes and what he looks for when hiring an arts manager.

Many people don’t realize how big the Cirque du Soleil corporation is. Could you give us an idea of the scope of the organization?

We are currently going through a period of growth, so the number is changing frequently, but at the moment we employ somewhere between 5,000-6,000 employees around the world. Many of them are based here in Montréal in our creative centre, about 2,000 are based in Las Vegas where we have seven shows, and the remaining are travelling the world with all of our different shows. There are 50 different nationalities represented in Cirque and we are touring 23 unique programs in 60 countries and 450 cities around the world. There is no other entertainment company touring with such a broad scope as Cirque.

I have about 25 vice presidents who are in charge of different mandates which support the organization, requiring a variety of different skills and expertise — from touring to marketing, ticket sales to costume design and production. There are also many logistical processes happening in the background, such as immigration and legal issues, translation, training and financial processes.

The bad news about touring as much as we do is that there is a lot of paperwork, a lot of legal issues which need to be taken care of. The good news is that we have many years of experience with this and have all of the right mechanisms in place to keep things running smoothly. It also means that the barrier for entry into this field by our competition is very, very high, because we are really unique in the industry in this regard. It takes a wide variety of expertise to run an organization like Cirque.

Cirque du Soleil's Bazzar opening act (photo credit: Marie-Andrée Lemire).

Cirque du Soleil’s BAZZAR opening act (photo credit: Marie-Andrée Lemire).

What role does cultural diplomacy play in the countries where you have ongoing productions?

First of all, there is a lot of talk in cultural industries about diversity. At Cirque, we don’t talk about diversity, we LIVE diversity. In any given show, we have at least 20 nationalities represented, which over our 35 years of existence have contributed towards developing artistic content that is relevant on an international level. In addition, travelling internationally, we see ourselves as Canadian ambassadors, meaning that wherever we go, we like to share our culture with local cultural organizations. Over the years, we have developed an amazing international network of artists, creators and cultural organizations and this is also part of our mission — to help artists around the world develop their passion and their talent. I am particularly proud that at Cirque, we employ over 2,500 artists from around the world and we are able to provide an opportunity for them to live their dreams – to travel the world and show their artistic passion through their performance.

Tell us about your community outreach programs.

We have two major causes that we support internationally and we have a lot of community involvement in our neighbourhood here in Montréal as well. Internationally, we have a program called “Cirque du Monde”, where we work with at-risk youth, teaching them about circus art. What we have discovered is that if you reach out to these kids and teach them about circus art, they regain their self-esteem and many decide to go back to school. This program has been around for 30 years now and has been implemented very successfully in cities where Cirque performs.

Cirque du Monde (courtesy of Cirque du Soleil).

Cirque du Monde (Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil).

In addition, about ten years ago, Cirque founder Guy Laliberté and I launched a project called “One Drop”, which is tied to our dream of resolving the water issues that exist around the world. Cirque is a founding member of this foundation, and we are working in a lot of countries where water is tough to find. We go into these communities and provide funding and other resources to bring in water sources which are healthy and sustainable.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

I think it is very important, because a lot of entertainment organizations say they are international, but they are not. Most of the organizations I know are North America or US-centric, and I think there is much more to offer. Every time I visit a new country, I discover a new culture.  I discover the richness of artistic content of different countries. I am not just talking about large countries, or developed countries. I am also talking about emerging countries that have a lot to offer through their legacy, through their heritage. There is a lot of artistic content that is quite relevant and exciting to discover.

My hope is that a program like MMIAM will help promote the diversity of cultures around the world and will stimulate people to discover cultures outside their own countries. Similarly, I hope that artists will also reach beyond their own countries and look for opportunities to perform in other parts of the world.

One Drop Foundation - central-america-wash-house_copyright-600

One Drop Foundation – Central-America Wash House (Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil).

How would you describe your management philosophy and style?

Cirque is not a one man or one woman show. We are very much a collective. I tell people that I am not here to decide, I am here to convince. If I convince people of my plan, they will be supportive. So, my style is to consult my colleagues, to hear their thoughts and get their input, before I make a decision about a plan. I always want my colleagues to feel they have been part of the process.

What specific qualities do you look for when you are hiring an arts manager that are unique to the industry?

First and foremost, the desire to travel around the world. If you want to have a very normal life, you are in the wrong place! Most of us are travelling all the time, and we don’t have a job here, we have a lifestyle. So it takes someone who has a passion for what we do here, combined with a desire to travel and discover different cultures. In a time where, unfortunately, many people are returning to a focus on their own backyard, we are doing the opposite. We care about the planet, we care about what’s happening in the world. That’s the kind of people we’re looking for – people who share our vision and are comfortable with our lifestyle.

What are some of the future projects in the works for Cirque du Soleil?

We have a five year plan, but in reality it is a cycle of two years, because it takes two years to produce a new show. The coming year will be particularly fruitful, because we have a new big top show opening in April in Montréal. We have a new show opening in the summer in Hangzhou, China and another show opening in the fall in Las Vegas. We have a new ice show, which is a new format we have developed. This show will open in the fall as well. So we have a very busy schedule in the coming months – we are adding ten new Cirque shows in various cities around the world!

LUZIA_Picture credit Matt Beard-600

LUZIA (Photo credit: Matt Beard).

Less is More at Bruce Wood Dance in Dallas: In Conversation with Executive Director Gayle Halperin

GayleHeadshot-photo by Brian Guilliaux-250

Gayle Halperin (photo: Brian Guilliaux)

Gayle Halperin is a former professional dancer and the administrative force behind Bruce Wood Dance since 2010. She is also the newest member of the MMIAM program’s International Advisory Committee. Laura Adlers interviewed her recently to learn more about Bruce Wood Dance and her role there.

Who was Bruce Wood and how was Bruce Wood Dance formed?

Bruce Wood was the heart and soul of  Bruce Wood Dance. He was a Texan, raised in Fort Worth, so after going off and establishing his career as a professional dancer, he returned to Fort Worth in his 30s and formed the Bruce Wood Dance Company, presenting its seasons out of Bass Performance Hall. He was the Artistic Director and sole choreographer, so he was creating new works specifically for the company all the time. He was very successful, the company was touring nationally. However, as the company continued to grow, funding the company became more challenging and it ended up folding in 2007.

He had made great strides with the company. They were performing four shows a year, building a new dance audience, so when the company folded there was a big gap, there was nothing comparable happening in the region. I went to speak with him and asked if he would consider beginning a new version of the company in Dallas called Bruce Wood Dance Project. This was in 2010, around the time the Dallas Arts District, the Winspear Opera House, and the Wyly Theatre had just opened.  Bruce was intrigued and appreciative of the support coming from the Dallas Arts District and started to create new works for Dallas Black Dance Theatre and the dance program at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. We were bringing Bruce Wood Dance back to life one project at a time.

Bruce Wood, Photographer Brian Guilliaux

Bruce Wood, Photographer Brian Guilliaux

In 2014, Bruce died unexpectedly and, in spite of this terrible loss, the Board of Directors decided they wanted to continue, to keep Bruce’s dance company alive and growing, so here we are today! We changed the name in 2017 to Bruce Wood Dance, at the suggestion of an agent we hired to represent us for touring and promotion.

I understand you have volunteered your services to the organization from the very beginning. Who else works with you at the company?

I started out with Bruce as his business partner, and have volunteered my time and expertise in an administrative role to this day. For the longest time, it was just Bruce and I running the organization, but I just got the official title of Executive Director last year! In fact, I am in a position to also help fund the operations of the organization, and we now have two staff members – a Development Manager and an Operations Manager. Our creative director who creates our branding and marketing collateral has been with us from the beginning. On the artistic team, we have an Artistic Director, an Artistic Advisor, a Rehearsal Director, and ten dancers – five men and five women.

RED - choreographer Bruce Wood, Lighting Designer Tony Tucci, Photographer Sharen Bradford.

RED – choreographer Bruce Wood, Lighting Designer Tony Tucci, Photographer Sharen Bradford.

What distinguishes Bruce Wood Dance from other dance companies in America?

Our mission is to harness the power of dance, to entertain, enrich and heal through all of our programs, whether they are educational outreach classes, mainstage productions, or collaboration with other Dallas arts organizations. Bruce created productions about emotional experiences that are common to our humanity and one of his many gifts was his ability to tap into the nuances of a broad range of emotions – from something that is very funny to a very intimate experience to loneliness and profound grief. His motto was “less is more”; he did not like melodrama. For him, it was about simplicity and honing a creative idea down to the essence. He believed that every audience member should be able to watch a dance performance and know what the dance was about. So we continue to perform his work, but also commission new works with choreographers who share his esthetic.

Tell us about some of your outreach programs.

We launched our first outreach dance program with the Nexus Recovery Centre, which is a facility that provides rehabilitation and housing for women who are suffering from addiction and domestic abuse. We started teaching classes there in 2014 and now teach two classes a week for most of the year. The healing aspect of dance is so important there.

When we started working at Nexus, we also provided complimentary tickets to the women we were working with and we would often have about 30 of them at our shows. This was so successful that we decided to extend this offer to a wide range of groups, from social service organizations and their clients to the Girl Scouts to middle school students! In total, we now provide about 250 tickets to the weekend productions (in a 750 capacity theatre), with the goal of making dance accessible to everyone, especially to those who may not be able to attend on their own or who may never have experienced a dance performance before.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

We are such a global community these days that it is so important to understand how the arts work in other parts of the world. We are developing very strong relationships with international dance groups and moving beyond local interaction. This provides more opportunities and growth for the organization, so it is so important to understand the dynamics and necessary skills for managing the arts on a global scale.

What specific qualities do you look for when you are hiring an arts manager that are unique to the industry?

First and foremost, passion for and understanding about dance. You can certainly learn about it, but dance doesn’t receive the same level of funding as other disciplines, so it is really essential to have someone who is well connected and passionate about the dance industry and able to talk about and sell dance. You also need lots of energy and imagination and drive!

What are some of your future plans for Bruce Wood Dance?

I would really love for us to tour more in the future, across the United States and beyond. Last year, we toured quite a bit. We performed at Jacob’s Pillow last July, which was a big milestone, but to date,we have primarily toured throughout Texas. We have an agent now, so are hoping our touring activity will increase in the near future.

Bolero -- choreographer Bruce Wood, Lighting Designer Tony Tucci, Photographer Sharen Bradford res-1000

Bolero — choreographer Bruce Wood, Lighting Designer Tony Tucci, Photographer Sharen Bradford.

Dancing on the Edge of Innovation: MMIAM Graduate Leaves Italy to Join Dance Therapy Team at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens

Anna-Aglietta-ILL-Abilities - Credit_ Kien Quan-xsm

Anna AgliettaAnna Aglietta graduated from the MMIAM program in 2017. Originally from Turin, Italy, she is one of the first two graduates of the program to have received a double Master degree in international arts management from both Bocconi University and HEC Montréal. Anna became interested in arts management, because she wanted to be more in contact with people and work in a field using the arts to directly help society. She decided the MMIAM degree would offer her the academic and cultural experience to help realize her goal. Laura Adlers recently caught up with her at her new job in Montréal, Canada.


Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am an Assistant to the National Centre for Dance Therapy at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. The centre’s mission is to support dance intervention and dance for the well-being of people, and they also conduct research and support other research projects about the health benefits of dance. For example, we offer services in dance therapy through hospitals, schools and prisons, and we are starting a new program in a youth prison here in Quebec. We also offer classes in our studios for anyone who wants to take dance classes adapted to their needs. For example, we offer ballet classes for children with Down Syndrome, or hip-hop for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Adapted Danse at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Patrick Pleau.

Adapted Danse at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Patrick Pleau.

As the Assistant, I coordinate the day-to-day activities, but in particular I provide marketing support and help to organize events. I also help with fundraising and grantwriting. We are a small staff of three in this department, so we are all doing a bit of everything!

What aspect(s) of the program were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

I certainly use a lot of tools I learned in marketing and fundraising, but I think the most important aspect was the international nature of our class. We came from eight different countries. We all learned a lot from one another and our shared experiences from our home countries. It forced me to challenge myself and others and to look at things from different perspectives.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

Being flexible, adapting to working with others in new environments and learning to compromise in a team environment, especially with students from different parts of the world. Our cohort had students from Italy, China, India, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Iran and Japan.

Which campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?

Definitely Montréal, so much so that I stayed! I arrived and I fell in love with the city, the vibe of the people, their openness. I was reluctant about the Montréal part of the program before I applied, I was worried about the snow and cold, coming from Italy, but I really love it!

How did your studies in international arts management change your perspective of arts management practices in your home country?

It has shown me that Italy still has some work to do in terms of exploring new ideas. Young people need to find their own place and find a way to combine the status quo, which is based on a more traditional system, with more contemporary approaches, to best highlight what our beautiful country has to offer.

ILL Abilities at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Kien Quan.

ILL Abilities at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Kien Quan.

The arts world is changing, but it is slow and it requires changing the way people think there, which will take time. I didn’t realize this until I did the MMIAM program, met other arts managers and learned about arts organizations in other countries. The program allowed me to see the differences between Italy and other parts of the world. Montréal in particular is really lively, very open to debate and challenging common opinions, to innovation and new ideas by the public, not just at the high level in the institutions. Les Grands Ballets, for instance, really tries to connect with the general public through its programming, that tries to offer something for everyone. Moreover, the multicultural aspect of Montréal, and the fact that so many different cultures live peacefully together, is so interesting and inspirational to me.

What is one of the greatest challenges facing arts managers in Italy today?
How do you think these challenges need to be addressed and by whom?

The current government in Italy (with a populist leader) seems to be focusing its investments in support of an older part of the population, to the detriment of youth programs, culture, and education. Artists and arts organizations are doing a really good job at encouraging public opinion and trying to open up debate. I think arts managers are trying to find their role in supporting Italian values, as well as human values. An example is the immigration debate, which at the moment dominates Italian politics. Many artists and arts organization have come up with initiatives and performances supporting cultural diversity and inclusion. For instance, the Egyptian museum in Turin offers free entrance to Arabic natives (in acknowledgement of the origin of the museum’s collection). To me, the fact that this was debated goes to show the importance that arts can have in promoting social change.

What is one of the challenges you face in your role at Les Grands Ballets?

What Les Grands Ballets is trying to do is change the way people think about dance and the way that dance can affect people’s lives.  We want people to know that this is not just high art. We also provide a safe and accessible space for people to come and heal through our dance therapy program. It is also a challenge to convince those who don’t understand the benefits of the arts and dance therapy that it can really help to improve people’s health. For example, some of the populations we serve suffer from chronic pain or mental health issues,  and research has shown that dance therapy is very successful at alleviating their symptoms, so we are always working on communicating the benefits to the public and promoting the program.

The members of the MMIAM's 4th cohort visit Jacanamijoy in Bogota.

The members of the MMIAM’s 4th cohort visit Jacanamijoy in Bogota.

MMIAM Graduate and Gallery Owner Showcases Quebec Artists to the World: In Conversation with Anne D’Amours McDonald

Anne D'Amours McDonald (Photo: Étienne L. Côté).

Anne D'Amours McDonald (Photo: Étienne L. Côté).Anne D’Amours McDonald graduated from the MMIAM programme’s third cohort in 2016. Prior to her studies, she completed Bachelor and Master degrees in Fine Art and worked as an arts manager for several art galleries in her hometown of Québec City. Following her MMIAM studies, Anne returned home and founded Galerie.a to develop an international network of artists and collectors for contemporary art from Quebec. Laura Adlers interviewed Anne recently to discuss her new business and becoming a cultural entrepreneur.


Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

More and more museums are programming international projects, featuring international artists, or shared exhibitions between countries. In 2006, I was so impressed with the exhibition «Le Louvre à Québec» at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. I was shocked to realize that a giant work of art in marble could travel across the ocean for this amazing show and wanted to gain the knowledge and tools needed to work on these kinds of projects. I liked that the MMIAM programme covered a broad range of skills and subjects needed to be a better arts manager.

At the time, I was also very aware that in Quebec, we are very regionalized and we have very few exchanges with cultural organizations outside of our region and I really wanted to gain new knowledge in the programme and return to Québec City to develop new projects.

Tell us about your business and your primary responsibilities?

I run a gallery, but for me, it’s more than an exhibition space, it’s a platform to promote artists through a broad range of projects. I work with local Quebec artists, many are people with whom I have studied. My goal is to tell the story of their art in order to sell it, because when potential buyers learn about an individual’s work of art, they see the value and enjoy it more. I want to help these artists make a living by promoting their artwork and allowing them to continue making their art. At the moment, I am working with four artists, but in a year, I plan to be engaged with twelve.

Through my MMIAM studies, I developed new strategies for showcasing Quebec artists to international markets. Another MMIAM graduate, Yan Gu, has partnered with me and is showing my artists’ work to potential clients in Shanghai. I am now trying to duplicate this model with someone in Montréal who works with galleries and potential buyers in Mexico City and South America.

At the moment, I am doing a lot of market research, visiting the art fairs in Montréal, Toronto, Seattle, New York City, learning about what sells and what doesn’t, how other galleries market their artists and what their success rates are. The art fairs are good events to be a part of, as you can reach a targetted critical mass over these weekends and you can receive market development grants from the government to attend and exhibit. Exhibiting at these fairs is a major part of my business strategy at the moment.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

One of the reasons people become entrepreneurs is out of need, because when you graduate from such a unique programme as the MMIAM, you have very specialized knowledge and experience and, in my case, I was looking for a very specific role in a unique creative environment. I really needed to find my place here in Québec City, because I had no intention of moving elsewhere. I found that the easiest way for me to find my place and build the kind of project I had envisioned was to become an entrepreneur.

When and how did you start your business?

I actually wrote my first business plan for this gallery in 2012, which combined my two personalities and passions: my creative side of artist and curator, and my business side, the organizer, manager, salesperson. I had decided at that time that I wanted to run my own art gallery, but at the time the plan seemed too complicated and not feasible, so I paused it to gain experience and build confidence. I decided to complete my MFA and then completed the MMIAM programme.

In the spring of this year, I decided to revisit and rewrite my business plan, armed with new knowledge from my studies. The Montréal magazine Les Affaires organizes a pitch contest every year called “Launch a Start-up in Seven Days with $700”, and I entered and was a finalist. This exercise really motivated me to just go for it and launch my business.

Conference with Paolo Barata, President of the Venice Biennale (Photo: Alex Turrini)

Conference with Paolo Barata, President of the Venice Biennale (Photo: Alex Turrini).

Which MMIAM campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?

I would have to say Milan, for the reason that it was the last campus. Milan was so different from Dallas. During my fine art studies and business planning, I always thought about what I could create, what new ideas I should be working on. I never stopped to think about heritage, preserving and restoring what we have. That was a big wake-up call for me in Milan, despite the fact that Québec City is also a UNESCO designated heritage city. I really enjoyed the site visits in Milan, many of which were related to heritage preservation. These were very unexpected and fascinating visits. I felt like I was discovering a new universe all over again after learning so much in Dallas, Montréal and, Bogotá.

In addition, I wrote my thesis about the Venice Biennale, and the SDA Bocconi faculty arranged for me to have a private meeting with the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Biennale as part of my research. We also had a site visit to the Biennale and met with the President. These connections would likely not have happened if I had not been in the MMIAM programme. The faculty helped me reach my thesis research goal in a very concrete way.

View of the Venice Biennale's Palazzo (photo: Anne D'Amours McDonald).

View of the Venice Biennale’s Palazzo (photo: Anne D’Amours McDonald).


Bringing International Experience Back to Bogotá’s Teatro Villa Mayor: In Conversation with General Manager Álvaro Martínez

Alvaro Martinez

Alvaro MartinezÁlvaro Martínez is a graduate of the MMIAM programme’s first cohort in 2014. Prior to his studies, he had worked for many years in arts management in Bogotá, primarily with the Ministry of Culture, developing arts education programmes and other related projects. He has always been an active volunteer in the Bogotá arts community. Laura Adlers interviewed Álvaro to learn about his new leadership position in his native country.


Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

I met François Colbert through Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez at Universidad de los Andes, where I first learned of the MMIAM programme. I was intrigued by living and studying in different cities, the possibility of learning about different arts management models in different countries. I was very driven by the mix of academia and practical knowledge and bringing this all back to Colombia.

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am the General Manager of Teatro Villa Mayor, a small theatre in southern Bogotá built 20 years ago. It has always been an artists’ hub, mostly for emerging artists. It is a public house, but has never had an operational model for functioning professionally and in a sustainable, long-term way. It was built by the local city hall of one of the 20 localities of Bogotá and I work with them to run the theatre.  For the past year and a half, I have been developing a new operational model for the theatre, upgrading the technical and structural framework and developing programming for the local community. I am in effect taking an artists’ centre and working to establish theatre and dance companies in residence here.

Teatro Villa Mayor (photo Johanna Abril)

Teatro Villa Mayor (photo Johanna Abril).

Which courses / What aspect(s) of the programme were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

The most important thing was the site visits, the experience of meeting with the managers of so many arts organizations in the different cities.  I learned so much from those experiences and got a lot of insight to bring back to Bogotá.  The programme itself teaches a wide range of courses needed in arts management, including strategic planning, marketing, finance and accounting, research.  I took something from all of the courses and apply most of it on a regular basis.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

I don’t know if you can separate the personal from the professional. You have to adapt to different cultures and management models, different mindsets and different ways of working styles and lifestyles. This adaptability is an invaluable skill both personally and professionally.

Which campus was the most memorable for you and why?

Let me be diplomatic and say each place had special qualities. I liked them all and I took something special away from each. Actually, being from Bogotá, I found it very interesting to return with the cohort to my city, having lived and studied in Dallas and Montreal at that point. It was interesting to see how my colleagues reacted and what they noticed about Bogotá. They were visiting my home and viewing it as a case study, which was very interesting to experience. For me, it was like I was looking at my city with different eyes, through the international lens, with this new international experience and knowledge, and this was invaluable.

Street Art Tour in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

Street Art Tour in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers).

How did your studies in international arts management change your perspective of arts management practices in Colombia?

I returned home with lots of new ideas and perspectives and I now reflect on arts management practices with new eyes. I will try something new, see how it goes, change something if it needs changing, reflect again to see if things are working better, and so on.  Of  course, I have a lot of insight from my studies and have a lot of material to refer to and apply to what I am doing now.

What is one of the greatest challenges facing arts managers in Colombia today?
How do you think these challenges need to be addressed and by whom?

In Colombia, the relationship between culture and social development has always been very important. This is something we need to acknowledge and keep supporting in many ways. But these are days in which we also have to pay attention to all the dimensions of the relationship between culture and economic development. We still have a lot of work to do to create powerful business models and ways of doing things that will help the cultural economy become stronger, more sustainable and meaningful. This can only be addressed by arts managers working with communities, artists and governments to help create and improve these business models, which is something I am starting to do at the theatre.

What are the current trends in the cultural sector in Colombia and what new opportunities are emerging for arts managers as a result?

It is a very interesting time in Bogotá and Colombia right now. I see a lot of emerging performing artists creating companies with new and innovative programming, in all performing arts, but especially in music. We should really be paying attention to what is happening with the music scene in Colombia.  The same pertains to theatre and dance. Emerging and experienced artists are more willing to take risks and try new things, including getting involved with other sectors which are not traditionally associated with the arts. I see such opportunities with the development of new cultural venues for presenting the thriving performing arts scene. There are also beautiful opportunities to help social projects working with culture and arts education. Savvy arts managers are needed in some underserved regions to help implement these kinds of programmes.

MMIAM 2013-2014 (archival photo)

MMIAM 2013-2014 (archival photo).

Arts Management and the Creation of Social Values: Exploring Bogotá with Professor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers)

Jaime Ruiz-GutiérrezProfessor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez is Associate Professor of the Faculty of Administration at the Universidad de los Andes, where he teaches Culture Management. He has a PhD in Mathematics applied to Social Sciences and has conducted extensive research of arts and culture organizations using a rigorous approach based on numbers, indexes and indicators. Professor Ruiz-Gutiérrez is the coordinator of the campus abroad programme in Bogotá, Colombia. Laura Adlers interviewed him to learn more about the cultural sector in Bogotá and what MMIAM students experience during their visit.

The MMIAM students visit Bogotá at the end of their term in Montréal before starting the final phase of study in Milan. You are the architect of the Bogotá programme, which has evolved over the last five years.  What do the students experience during their visit?

First of all, I try to show the students experiences which demonstrate the high impact that arts management has on our society in terms of the creation of social and cultural values, as opposed to focussing on economic impact. Most of the cultural activities in our communities demonstrate a change of priorities: first, how arts management generates social value and then, how it generates economic value. In the case of Colombia, our communities and our arts managers have learned a lot from concrete experiences which have taken place in our country over many years, and these experiences determine management priorities.

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers)

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

Another element that I share with the students is the importance of the social environment and its impact on management processes. In Colombia, the majority of initiatives and management processes developed by arts and culture organizations have mostly been led by the private sector or individual efforts. The Colombian state, despite having developed a cultural policy with the objective of promoting the cultural sector, has scarce resources and therefore culture is not considered a priority compared with other social sectors such as health, education, or security.

These individuals and the communities leading cultural initiatives develop strategies that are sometimes quite creative, to maintain and strengthen their artistic and cultural activities.  In Colombia, for example, there are many popular festivals in many different communities, some of which have existed since as far back as the 19th century. These festivals have grown – in size, budget and quality of programming – with minimal support from the state. These artistic and cultural experiences are very interesting as research subjects. It’s valuable to know the types of strategies that helped develop these communities and the sustainibility of these popular festivals to the point that they have become well known in their regions, with some of them developing into real enterprises.

Another experiential element that speaks to Colombian character is the importance of social relationships in daily life. This element makes it very easy for the students to have spontaneous conversations with the many people the students meet during their visit.

Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Mónica Muñoz and François Colbert in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Mónica Muñoz and François Colbert in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

There have been several students from Colombia in the MMIAM program. Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector in your country?

In Colombia and in Latin America in general, the management of arts and cultural projects and organizations has traditionally been managed in an intuitive way, by artists or people close to the sector. However, cultural activity has been gaining considerable importance in many qualitative and quantitative dimensions, requiring a professionalization of the sector and its management processes.

Additionally, the Colombian Constitution was changed in 1991; the previous one was written in 1886. In this new constitution, Colombia is defined as a multicultural and multiethnic society. This important change made the concept of culture a central element of the definition of the Colombian nationality. This led to the implementation of the Culture Law in 1997 and gave birth to the Ministry of Culture, the National System of Culture and the proposition of a good number of cultural policies. Under this new constitution, culture is conceived not only as a right, but as a resource requiring rigorous management processes.

National Library in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

National Library in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers).

I believe that the international perspective of MMIAM is fundamental. The programme provides the knowledge of other arts management practices in different countries. These different perspectives  contribute to the restructuring and strengthening of the cultural sector in Colombia. This international vision also allows students to compare the development of our arts organizations to a globalized world. At the same time, our own cultural expression contributes to enrich the cultural sector on an international level.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Colombia which are leading the new wave in arts management?

Arts management has been led and developed by countries with advanced economies. Their educational and research institutions have established the principles of what we know as arts management. However, arts management activities have always been happening in Colombia, just intuitively, and they have only recently become academic topics, at the university level.

I believe the experience of arts management in Latin America can make contributions to the field in the following ways: the first one is, as I mentioned earlier, the exploration of arts management as a source of value creation from various non-economical perspectives. These are valuable perspectives of dual societies, as with most of the Latin American countries. The second one is related to the concept of “cultural responsibility”, corresponding with the establishment of cultural or artistic projects organized in and for vulnerable communities.

An example of this would be the development of a project for a vulnerable community in Bogotá which would create economic value and help provide for the community’s basic needs. In some cases, these projects generate conflict with the cultural structure of the community. For example, a change of traditional roles in the families, or some form of non-traditional work. In general, if projects do not take into account the cultural elements of the community, they will often not succeed.

François Colbert, Philip Grant and I have published an article “Arts Management in Developing Countries: A Latin American Perspective,” International Journal of Arts Management, Special Edition Latin America, Printemps 2016, p. 6-17, in which we address these issues.

Many alumni of the MMIAM program say that their time in Bogotá left the most profound impression about the relationship between culture and politics and the power of culture to heal a nation.  Can you comment on this?

The historical evolution of Colombia and the present-day situation have reaffirmed the enormous importance that art and culture have in the country, as a strategy for the cohesion and integration of society, after a good number of years of conflict and violence. There are many projects and experiences, some more successful than others, which have been developed from this perspective. Experiences in terms of music, visual, scenic, and plastic arts, etc. have been managed in a creative way with the communities most affected by the conflict, and with the population in general. In this sense, academia has a very important mission in terms of collecting, analyzing and understanding these experiences in order to achieve a greater impact on our society.

Los Andes University (photo Laura Adlers)

Los Andes University (photo Laura Adlers).

Leading an Exciting New Initiative for the MMIAM Program in India and China: In Conversation with MMIAM Professor Andrea Rurale

Professor Andrea Rurale with the program coordinator in SMU Melissa Keene, Professors Alex Turrini, François Colbert and James Hart, and the students of the MMIAM's 6th cohort.

Professor Andrea Rurale (Photo: personal archives)Andrea Rurale is Director of the Master in Arts Management and Administration (MAMA) program and Professor of Marketing and Heritage Management at SDA Bocconi in Milan. He is also the Regional President of FAI Lombardia (The National Trust for Italy) and is President of the Monteverdi Conservatory in Cremona. Laura Adlers interviewed Professor Rurale recently to find out more about projects he is passionate about and recent developments in the MMIAM program.


SDA Bocconi in Milan is the third phase of the MMIAM program, from the end of April until the beginning of July. In addition to the study program in Milan, you are leading an exciting new initiative with the next cohort. Can you tell us more about the plans for phase three in 2019?

Yes, it is very exciting! There will now be the possibility of exploring two more countries, starting with the 2018-2019 cohort. Instead of coming directly to Milan for the third phase of the MMIAM program, the students will join the International Program in Arts Management (IPAM) which SDA Bocconi created at its campus in Mumbai. We have developed a new international program in arts management which consists of approximately  ten days in Mumbai, ten days in Delhi, ten days in Beijing and ten days in Milan, with additional tours to other Italian cities. The course in consulting management will be taught in Mumbai, the performing arts management course will be taught in Delhi, and heritage management will be taught in Milan. The students will visit many cultural organizations while they are in India, China and Italy, as they do in Colombia.

Group picture of the MMIAM's 6th cohort and some professors

Professor Andrea Rurale with the program coordinator in SMU Melissa Keene, Professors Alex Turrini, François Colbert and James Hart, and the students of the MMIAM’s 6th cohort (Photo: personal archives).

The mutual cooperation with SMU in Dallas, HEC Montréal and SDA Bocconi is very strong, which is why we are also able to bring the MMIAM program to Mumbai. The idea is to explore the fields of performing arts (festivals, theatres) and heritage (museums, archeological sites, monuments, temples) in the Indian system, but with a deep outlook to the European and Italian system. When we will be in Delhi, for example, we will conduct our courses at the Italian Institute of Culture in the compound of the Italian Embassy. Students will learn about theoretical and practical approaches to arts management by visiting museums, art galleries, festivals and other institutions in Mumbai and Delhi which are important for the promotion of the arts in India.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

An international perspective is very important when we study arts management, mainly because each country has its peculiarities which no one would understand without a deeper experience. It is very important for arts managers to be open to the international market as a whole, beyond the cultural sector, to understand how cultural institutions function in different countries, in their economies, in their societies. It is also important, from a curatorial perspective, to understand the current trends in different parts of the world, what is working and what is not working, how art is treated in China, Russia, the US and New Zealand, for example.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Italy which are leading the new wave in cultural management?

For sure there are windows opening to the international community. There are new directors of museums that are trying to manage cultural institutions with all of the Italian constraints. On the one hand, the Italian public system is so stuck in bureaucracy that even directors coming from the US or Germany with international perspectives are not able to survive the bureaucracy of the Italian cultural and public institution. On the other hand, everyone is talking about this now, how we should be approaching cultural products, how we should convey the cultural message to the people, the importance of culture in the Italian system, the fact that it is a primary need for Italians to enjoy art and culture and therefore the necessity for a strong, well-run cultural sector is very important and urgent.  In response to this, in Italy we now have the new “super-directors” who run these institutions, which is a new concept and which is proving very successful in bringing the importance of Italian culture to the people. (Ed. note: In 2015, the Italian minister of culture announced 20 museum directors who were to become “super-directors” of some of Italy’s most important institutions and heritage sites, and were granted full financial autonomy.)

You are also the Regional President of FAI Lombardia (The National Trust for Italy). Can you explain what the foundation does and the kinds of projects you are currently working on?

FAI represents an important pillar in Italian heritage preservation since it was founded in 1975, with the goal of attracting the private sector to support the restoration of heritage sites and opening them to the public for private events. These sites would otherwise be abandoned and fall into disrepair.  FAI restores heritage properties which have been bequeathed to them or which have been supported by private donations. These are most often private homes. We study the history of the properties and convey their stories and the spirit of the properties to the public. These stories are important, not only from the artistic point of view, but because they tell the story of the Italian bourgeoisie that lived in Milan in the 1920s and 1930s. FAI operates on a budget of 28 million Euro, and owns 53 properties, 30 of those are open to the public, many are currently being restored.

Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan (Photo: F. Clerici).

Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan (Photo: F. Clerici – © FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano).

Tell us more about the Monteverdi Conservatory in Cremona.

Cremona is famous for its importance as a city where violins have been made for centuries. Violin-making has been recognized as an art which must be protected under UNESCO’s intangible heritage designation. As the President of the Board, I meet with many people who want to study music in Cremona, because of this rich history. It is very interesting, because I experience in a very tangible way the social and cultural impact of music on the Italian community. Nowadays, Cremona is investing a lot in the promotion of music and, thanks to this, there is an increase in visitors coming to spend time in the city, investing in knowledge about music and culture.

MMIAM Graduate Amanda Vojvodin-Dargenio Launches Career in the Fashion Industry in Milan

Amanda Vojvodin (Photo: Lively Creative Co.)

Amanda Vojvodin (Photo: Lively Creative Co.)Amanda Vojvodin-Dargenio graduated from the second cohort of the MMIAM program in 2015. She had recently completed undergraduate studies at the University of Ottawa in theatre and arts management, and wanted to broaden her knowledge of arts management on an international scale in pursuit of a career in the fashion industry. She is now working in Milan as the Events and Marketing Manager at Louisiane HCP Group, a branch of Hermès International. In a recent interview with the Canadian native, we discussed her MMIAM experience and her new career in Milan.


What are your primary responsibilities as Events and Marketing Manager at Louisiane?

At Louisiane we sell leather to the fashion industry, so I attend four international fairs per year, twice in Milan and twice in Paris. I also manage client events in various cities in Italy, in addition to overseeing social media and marketing campaigns. I speak Italian and French all day long!

Amanda at a work event she was managing.

Amanda at a work event she was managing (Photo: personal archives).

Which MMIAM courses were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

Definitely all of the marketing courses from HEC Montréal, which I use every day. The fact that I studied at SDA Bocconi is a big plus for me here in Italy. I also tap into what I learned in JoLynne Jensen’s fundraising course in Dallas regularly, since this is a big part of event planning.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

I certainly gained a broader perspective of what working in the arts means in each of the four countries..  Canada is very bureaucratic. In Italy, it is more art for art’s sake and just making things happen because we serve the art.

The international cohort made it very interesting and at times more challenging, as we sometimes had different work ethics, different ideas of time management, etc and we had to make it work somehow, so this was a good lesson for the real world and we learned a lot from each other. In the real work world, great teams need different dynamics with different skills and approaches in order to get great results.

Which campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?

Dallas!  I really loved it there. Dallas was such an unexpected experience and it was the first campus in our study year.  I would go back for a work contract in a heartbeat.  It was such an interesting place, so different from Canada.

MMIAM 2nd Cohort in front of Dallas AT&T Performing Arts Centre

MMIAM 2nd Cohort in front of Dallas AT&T Performing Arts Centre (Photo: personal archives).

What are the current trends in the cultural sector in Italy and what new opportunities are emerging for arts managers as a result?

Culturally, I think Italy is becoming more international.  More and more I see Italian cultural organizations adopting American business structures and methods of administration.

What kinds of innovative developments are happening in the fashion industry right now that are worth checking out?

Google has a new virtual fashion museum – “We Wear Culture” which was developed in collaboration with many of the great museums and fashion houses. It brings the world of fashion to people everywhere.  It is an invaluable resource for people working in or interested in the fashion industry.

You entered the MMIAM program with the goal of working in the fashion industry, which was an unconventional approach compared to many other people who apply to the program.  What would you like to share with other potential candidates who are wondering if this is the right program for them?

I think it is important for potential candidates to know that the program isn’t just for those who are interested in working in arts management in the not for profit sector. Much of the course content is geared towards this sector, with some courses focussing more on for profit cultural industries.  I came into the program always knowing I wanted to work in the fashion industry, which is increasingly recognized as a cultural industry. I was still able to focus many of my course projects and assignments on the fashion industry and my career goals.  I use the knowledge I gained in the MMIAM program every day, particularly in marketing and fundraising, and the analytical skills and international experience are invaluable to the work I am doing now.


Cultural Democracy at the Heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: In Conversation with Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Society


Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Shona McCarthy.

9 May 2016. Picture by JANE BARLOW

© Jane Barlow 2016 {all rights reserved}
m: 07870 152324
FREE USE IMAGE Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Shona McCarthy. 9 May 2016. Picture by JANE BARLOW © Jane Barlow 2016 {all rights reserved} janebarlowphotography@gmail.com m: 07870 152324

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. 9 May 2016. Picture by JANE BARLOW © Jane Barlow 2016 {all rights reserved}

Shona McCarthy has been Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Society, the umbrella organization of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, since 2016 and is a member of the International Advisory Committee for the MMIAM program. A passionate leader of the largest arts festival in the world, McCarthy recently discussed the challenges of running a festival of this size with such a unique business model and shared why the study of international arts management is so important in developing a highly adaptable work force.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world.  What makes this festival so unique?

The Fringe, how it began and what it represents, speaks to cultural democracy. It is open access, which means we don’t select or curate the work, and anyone with a voice or a story to tell can participate in the Fringe. This extraordinary innovation started 71 years ago with just 8 companies, 6 from Scotland and 2 from England. They had not been selected for the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival program, but decided to turn up and perform anyway, so the starting point of the Fringe was an act of defiance.


“Counting Sheep” at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (Photo: David Monteith-Hodge)

Over the last 71 years, the Fringe has maintained its founding principle of open access, establishing itself as the greatest platform for creative freedom of expression in the world. This was YouTube before social media existed.

This year there will be over 3,500 shows, with over 30,000 performers, in over 300 venues, representing 55 countries in the Fringe. But the Fringe isn’t about numbers or size, it’s about ideas, experiences, and creativity. Since it began in Edinburgh in 1947, it has gone from strength to strength, inspiring a global network of more than 200 Fringes around the world.

It is also a place where the audiences themselves become the curators, creating their own program from the thousands of shows on offer. So there is a cultural democracy that underpins what we do.

The Fringe is also unlike any other, in that it is largely self-financed by those who take the risk to make and show work here. It is made up of hundreds of parts, all of which are important. It is a wonderful balance of ticketed venues, street performances, free shows, pay what you want shows, new discoveries and world class artists. It is the sum of these parts that makes it distinctive, inclusive and extraordinary.


The 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe at Highstreet. (Photo: James Ratchford)

The economic and artistic scope of this festival is remarkable.  What are some of the challenges you face in managing such a major festival?

The Fringe Society does not manage the Fringe, we are the glue that holds it all together and provides the centralised services of participant support, audience navigation, and overall marketing and promotion that enables the Fringe to be coherent and a quality experience for participants and audiences alike.

Challenges include managing the expectations of everyone involved and continually communicating the opportunities and risks of bringing work to the Fringe, so that participants approach the festival in an informed and prepared way; balancing the interests of local artists and stakeholders with the global platform that the Fringe has become; ensuring that the Fringe continues to provide opportunities for new connections to be made between creatives from across the world, so that work presented here can tour nationally and internationally; and working to keep the Fringe affordable for the artists that are essential to its existence.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

I think it is important because there are increasing opportunities for excellence and professionalism in arts management around the world. Arts management is no longer a local endeavour, but an international landscape where knowledgeable, experienced, globally mobile professionals can readily adjust their skills and experience to different countries and contexts. It is essential that this is rooted in an understanding of different models, different cultural contexts, and ideally practical experience. It is enriching for the cultural sector to have a global workforce which can transcend geographies and bring new insights, models and experiences across the global arts network.

What specific qualities do you look for when you are hiring an arts manager that are unique to the industry?

I look for passion and belief in the arts as a force for good in the world; enabling leadership that can nurture and develop teams; solutions-focused innovators who bring new thinking through listening, reflection and analysis; and strategic thinkers who can turn strategy into plans that are successfuly delivered.

Flexibility, enthusiasm, honesty and openness are important qualities, as are good communication and relationship-building skills, and professionalism coupled with warmth and humanity.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector which are leading the new wave in cultural management?

I am enjoying seeing more public realm work and work that meets the audience where they are, more engagement of audience members as creative participants rather than passive consumers, and a shift in the notion of one single curatorial voice towards a more devolved or democratised approach to curation to cater for wider tastes and interests.


“Trainspotting” at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (Photo: David Monteith-Hodge)

What are some of your future plans for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Following our 70th anniversary celebrations in 2017, we felt it was important to take stock, gather feedback, challenge assumptions, and lay the groundwork for our 75th anniversary in 2022. The culmination of all this work is the Fringe Blueprint, an action plan which we believe represents an ambitious but achievable vision of what the Fringe could look like in the next five years.

The Blueprint identifies new approaches to ensure anyone can participate in the Fringe, regardless of their background. From driving down the cost of attendance to engaging young people in the arts, enhancing our street performance space on the Royal Mile to reaching out to under-represented groups in Edinburgh and further afield, we want the Fringe to be the greatest festival on earth at which to perform and produce, run a venue, develop a career, see shows and discover talent.

Combining technology and the arts: In conversation with Robert O’Brien, General Manager of Hammerstep’s Indigo Grey project


robert-obrien-head-shotRobert O’Brien graduated from the third cohort of the MMIAM program in 2016. He has been involved in arts management since high school and already had valuable professional experience before applying for the MMIAM program, serving on arts boards, performing as an actor and singer, and working as a general manager of several arts organizations. In a recent interview with the Connecticut native, we discussed his experience in the MMIAM program and where his career in arts management has taken him since.

Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

My goal was to gain a more theoretical business background with a focus on challenges in the arts industry. Two aspects of the program which stuck out for me were the international scope (to learn how arts are produced in other jurisdictions) and the one-year duration. I wanted to get back to work and gain practical experience as quickly as possible without taking the summer off.

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am currently working as the General Manager with a start-up organization called Hammerstep, based in New York. We have a project called Indigo Grey, which combines technology, dance, and non-traditional staging to create an immersive and interactive experience for audiences. Because it is a start-up, we have a small team of dedicated staff who each do a large number and broader range of tasks.

Which MMIAM courses were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

One course that stands out for me as having been immediately useful was process and information management. We applied topics covered in that course in our consulting class at Bocconi University in Milan. More broadly, I find process management to be extremely important to the efficiency of any organization and one which arts managers need to know in order to reform ailing organizations.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

It reinforced my ability to adapt to any situation and be flexible as new circumstances arise. It allowed me to see many places I have never been before and to enjoy the unique cultural assets different cities and countries have to offer. It is assumed, often incorrectly, that people outside your immediate cultural area consume culture the same way you do. I feel like I have an improved understanding of cultural consumption outside my area. It also gave me a very geographically dispersed network, which is very effective in testing ideas in different dynamics.

Which MMIAM campus was the most memorable for you and why?


Robert O’Brien in Rome, Italy

This is a really difficult question because the four campuses are completely different and that is not an exaggeration. I attended McGill in Montreal for my undergrad. One of the best advantages of the school is its location in one of the most unique cities in North American, in a country that, while related, is different from my own [being from the United States]. But during my MMIAM studies, I would have to say Milan was my favorite campus. The lynchpin for this choice is not so much Bocconi University, but rather that, like McGill and Montreal, the campus for Bocconi in my eyes [represented] the entire country of Italy and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel all over the country and really take in what a diverse place that area of the world is, especially historically.

How did your studies in international arts management change your perspective of arts management practices in your home country?

I would not say it changed my perspective, but rather highlighted the difference. The United States takes a devolved view of arts funding with government support being on the low end. Amongst many of my colleagues in arts management in the United States, lack of government support looks like a clear disadvantage, and it certainly has its disadvantages. However, a devolved approach actually has many less obvious advantages. I would say I appreciate more the possibilities that come with having to seek funding outside of the government, including both earned and contributed income as well as equity investments.

What are the current trends in the cultural sector in your home country and what new opportunities are emerging for arts managers as a result?

I would say the biggest trend is the integration of technology into the product offerings of arts organizations. Words like “innovation” and “technology” are very sexy in organizations and arts councils today. However, I feel many misunderstand their implications. I personally have seen the integration of arts and technology be very effective and also very ineffective in arts organizations. There is still a lot of experimentation in the arts industry (especially in not-for-profit arts organizations whose funding is lower). When organizations discover what works, others will copy them, and the integration of arts and technology will become more the norm, but I feel we are not at that point yet.


An Indigo Grey performance. (Courtesy of Hammerstep.)

On the other hand, many groups in the private sector have been integrating technology into arts and cultural ventures for a long time and very successfully. One major difference between the two is the availability of funding for these ventures. Technology can be expensive. An organization like Disney has vast sums of money to invest in technology. In many ways their product also succeeds and fails on its ability to innovate with technology. It can’t be ignored because of the companies with whom they are competing (for Universal, think of using magic wands in the Harry Potter world [The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, Florida]). A clever arts manager today could bridge the gap between the private and not for profit sector, tech companies and arts organizations to redefine how organizations offer their products.

Building a lasting legacy and the future of arts leadership in Canada: In conversation with Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre



Peter Herrndorf is often called the “godfather of Canadian arts,” and given his remarkable career and groundbreaking accomplishments as President and CEO of the National Arts Centre (NAC) for nearly twenty years, it is easy to understand why. Peter is also a member of the MMIAM International Advisory Committee. He will be leaving the NAC at the end of May to pursue exciting new opportunities in Toronto. Laura Adlers had the pleasure of meeting with Peter recently to talk about Canada’s unique national cultural institution, what makes a good arts manager, and the future of arts leadership in Canada.

The National Arts Centre is a unique place in the arts world, both in Canada and internationally. What makes it so unique?

There is nothing like the National Arts Centre anywhere in the world. To start with, it is national, it is multidisciplinary (with a national orchestra, dance program and theatre programs) and it is bilingual. In the last two years, we added one other element, which is that we now run three theatre companies: English, French and Indigenous. Then we add the fact that we run educational programs right across the country, from British Columbia to Nunavut to Newfoundland. We are the only arts organization in the country that actively fundraises in every province in the country.  We are also a federal crown corporation that is highly entrepreneurial. The entrepreneurial side of the organization is critical, because it has allowed us to do a lot of our national and international projects.


The Kipnes Lantern at the National Arts Centre. (Photo courtesy of the National Arts Centre.)

When we did our tour with the NAC Orchestra to China in 2013, we raised about $1.4 million privately, almost all of it from individuals. We were able to raise all of the funds privately for the UK tour commemorating the 100th anniversary of Canadians going to war in England in 1914. When we organized our Canada Scene festival for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, 1000 artists came here from all over the country and we raised that money from multiple sources. So, we are very entrepreneurial in a way that very few government organizations are, and all of these factors together make it a very unusual place.

With that of course comes a level of pluralism that is beyond any arts organization I have seen. This in turn poses fascinating and unique management challenges, which is part of the reason I love this job.

We also do a lot of touring. In 2017, as part of the Canada 150 celebrations, we had three tours going on at the same time. We were doing a national tour with the orchestra – first to Eastern Canada, then to Western Canada and then to the North. We did an English Theatre tour of Molière’s Tartuffe to Newfoundland, and we did a French Theatre tour of Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show  through Ottawa, Montréal, and then headed West. For an organization to do three tours of three different disciplines all at once was pretty exciting. Next year, the orchestra will celebrate the NAC’s 50th anniversary with a European tour.

The NAC Orchestra’s tour of China was a great case study in cultural diplomacy and building important cross-cultural partnerships. Can you tell our readers a bit more about this tour?

For the China tour, we were able to get a small but meaningful amount of money from Foreign Affairs (now Global Affairs) under John Baird, who was the Minister at the time. We told him we thought we could leverage the government funding about 6:1, and we did that in terms of raising private funding. As a result, we went to China with the tour fully paid in advance, and that allowed us to add other elements. We made sure that an Ottawa trade mission came with us, and that the Canada-China Business Council had their annual meeting while we were there. We persuaded the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be there and we brought the Governor General with us. We had several hundred Canadians with us on this tour!


The NAC Orchestra at Southam Hall in Ottawa under the musical direction of Alexander Shelley. (Photo courtesy of the National Arts Centre.)

You will be retiring from the NAC at the end of the month. During your tenure, you have led many strategic initiatives which have transformed the NAC in myriad ways. What are some of these initiatives?

I have been here a long time, so there are a lot, but let me just mention a few. The very first one has to be the creation of the NAC Indigenous Theatre and then, a year later, the announcement of the appointment of Kevin Loring as the theatre’s first Artistic Director. This was such an emotional experience. There were hundreds of people at this press conference, which of course included Indigenous ceremony. People had flown in from across the country to be there. We all understood this was an historic moment in our collective history. Since then, we have put together the core of the team for the theatre and will launch in September 2019. At the time, I said that I wished we had done this 50 years ago, but really the fact that we have English, French and Indigenous theatres at the NAC reflects the new way in which we see Canada, and not the way we saw the country 50 years ago.

The second thing is that we did consultations across the country 10 years ago and came to the conclusion that one of the great weaknesses in the arts in Canada was that not enough was being done in terms of new creation in music, theatre and dance. Part of it was lack of funding, part of it was lack of time, part of it was lack of appropriate facilities, so we launched a $25 million campaign across Canada to raise venture capital for artists and arts organizations. We were successful with that campaign, particularly in Western Canada. It is very unusual for an Ottawa-based organization to be that successful with fundraising in another part of the country, and for such an unusual cause as well. This money is not for a tour or a new production, but is going to be used to invest in the development of new projects. A little over a year ago, we announced the first-ever National Creation Fund and Heather Moore took over running that. On June 8, we are going to announce the first ten investment decisions under this program and in the fall, we will announce another ten.

The third would be the Architectural Rejuvenation and Production Renewal Projects which together have not only changed the face of the National Arts Centre, but have also brought our performance facilities back to something close to state of the art. For years and years, we were an organization that had its back to the city and the capital. We faced the canal, with our back to the city, and that was somehow metaphorical. We were sending a subliminal message that the public is not really welcome here. It was dark and gloomy and a bit forbidding. So we have flipped the building, so it is now facing Elgin Street and the capital. It is more open and transparent. We want people to drop in for free events and activities, come in for coffee, meet with friends, use the place as a community hub, and of course, we would also be happy if they bought a ticket to see a show, but it is much more than that now. We hired 14 college and university students as welcome staff and their only job is to be there for people coming into the building to tell them about the place. So, not only has the NAC changed from an architectural point of view, but the biggest change is the psychology and sensibility of the place.


“Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave,” a co-production of the NAC. (Photo courtesy of the National Arts Centre.)

In 2017, for Canada 150, we made a significant investment in partnering with the Canadian Opera Company to remount Harry Somers’ and Mavor Moore’s opera Louis Riel, arguably one of the most important Canadian operas ever produced.

The creation of the NAC Foundation was very important. It signalled to other crown corporations across the country that they can be both a crown and enterpreneurial. While it is important to receive government funding, it is even more important that you generate revenue from other sources. The NAC Foundation has raised about $140 million over the last 15 years, so it has made a huge difference for the organization.

Finally, I am very proud of the quality of the management team and the artistic leadership at the NAC. We have very strong teams. Gender parity is in the news a lot lately, and we quietly point out that of seven Artistic Directors at the NAC, five of them are women. The artistic team is arguably the best combined artistic leadership team in North America. There are places where you go to work because you need to, and there are places where you go because you really want to, and this is one of those places. People really like working here.

How many staff do you manage at the NAC and how would you describe your style of management?

There are about 900 people on average who work here full and part-time, including the executive and administrative staff, the artistic staff and the second-shift staff – the very important people who work at our shows in the evenings.

My management style is about setting a clear direction, finding the necessary resources to achieve our goals, hiring exceptional people, being a cheerleader for the team, and then managing with a light touch. The Artistic Director of English Theatre doesn’t need me to tell her what to do. She knows very well what needs to be done. The Artistic Directors and administrative staff work for me theoretically, but this is a pluralistic organization, and if the CEO has charted a clear path and hired the right people, they should be left to follow that path and the CEO should give them the space to do so.

I get quite involved in terms of helping with government relations, branding, shaping and managing the organization, rather than managing the day-to-day operations. I see myself much more as a leader than an administrator. I also make the distinction about the past, the present and the future. My job is almost entirely about the future. There are other people on my team who concentrate on the past and the current. That is a very important distinction.

What specific qualities do you look for when you are hiring an arts manager that are unique to the industry?

The first is sensibility, which includes a tolerance for ambiguity, something which is essential when working with artists and arts organizations, and especially an organization as complex as the NAC. If you believe everything is black and white, you are in the wrong place! The other thing in terms of sensibility is EQ – Emotional Quotient – which is key to working in this environment.

The second is experience. Because this organization is so big and complicated, I want to see that candidates have gained significant experience elsewhere, that they have already had successes and failures elsewhere, and that they have learned from those experiences.

The third is leadership skills.  As I said earlier, I believe leadership skills are more important than pure administrative skills.

The fourth would be a passion for the arts. We do 1,300 performances a year here, so if that is not of interest to you, you should probably work somewhere else!

The fifth is a “light touch” management style. The most effective managers at the NAC have this quality, which is very important. It doesn’t mean they are pushovers, but it means they achieve their goals without making a federal case of everything or micromanaging.

The sixth is having the ability to collaborate and work well with others.

I am looking for people who are risk-takers, people who have the ability to build partnerships, the ability to keep their egos in check and, finally, people with strong analytical skills.

If I can find all of these qualities in a candidate, they will probably do very well at the NAC!

Why do you think studies in international arts management are important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

The big change that is happening at the NAC is that we do so much that is international and someone who has international training has begun to understand the necessary international sensibility. I think about Cathy Levy, the Artistic Director of the NAC Dance program. Cathy is the ultimate international figure. She is brilliant at showcasing Canadian artists, but she is also so good at working with Israel, China and Argentina, for example, so her dance world really is international. People working with her have to have those kinds of international skills.


“OCD LOVE” by Israeli dance company L-E-V. (Photo by Regina Brocke, courtesy of the National Arts Centre.)

The NAC French Theatre does a great deal of work with France. The NAC Orchestra is very much international in terms of its activities. We do a lot of work with international promoters, so a national organization like ours works on an international scale and people who only function on a local level are going to have problems. Everything is more interconnected now, thanks to social media and the way we do business, so those who are as comfortable working with colleagues in Oslo as they are with fellow Canadians are going to be more successful at an organization like the NAC. I think that other Canadian business schools are realizing that they have to emphasize the international much more in their curriculum.

There has been a lot of discussion in Canada about the fact that many of our cultural institutions are hiring arts leaders from outside Canada, rather than hiring Canadian talent.  What do you think is behind this trend and what should we be doing to ensure we are training and retaining arts leaders for middle management and executive positions?

First of all, I am deeply troubled that a lot of these jobs are not going to Canadians. Listen, I like the people who have been hired for these executive positions, but my concern is that Canadians didn’t get the jobs. I think there are a couple of reasons for it. First, we don’t have enough large organizations that can systematically train people for these CEO positions. We tend to have a few large ones and a lot of small to mid-sized organizations, which is not ideal for preparing people professionally for these kinds of jobs.

Secondly, I don’t think there is enough professional development for people who are potential high flyers. I’ll give you an example. When I went to Harvard Business School, the organization that sent the most people to the school was the US military. They had decided that the future of the US military was with an Officer Corps that was much better educated, must better prepared intellectually, so they went to business schools and PhD programs and decided to really develop their personnel in this way.

We have never said as a country that we have to develop Canadian talent in the cultural sector, both on the artistic side and the management side. We have to make a commitment that this is important to us. It is terrific that Karen Kain is the Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada, but we have to ensure that while she is there, we are preparing the next generation, so that when she retires, we have a couple of stellar Canadian candidates waiting in the wings who have a good shot at that position. The same thing goes for all of our major Canadian cultural organizations.

I have started conversations with the Banff Centre, for example, to see if they could begin professional development programs for those who are one job away from this level of leadership, so that there are intensive programs with ten or twelve other people in the same situation, both on the artistic and management side. I think the business schools themselves need to do this for professionals. Harvard does it brilliantly for their Advanced Management Program and their Professional Development for Managers Program. We need to create similar programs, because it is a real issue and it needs to be addressed. I have never seen it made a priority in this country. We frequently lose the really talented mid-career managers to the United States, and they are earning much better salaries in the US than they could ever make in Canada. The Canadian government has to recognize that it is a big deal that we train and help develop the careers of Canadians to run our cultural organizations.

You have had a fascinating career, starting out in journalism and reinventing yourself several times in executive leadership roles in broadcasting and publishing before coming to the National Arts Centre. What does it take to reinvent yourself? Do you have any advice for those who are considering moving into a new career in the cultural sector?

I was speaking with someone yesterday about the therapeutic value of being scared half to death! I have gone through several moments in my professional life when I had to start all over again, and each time I went from being somebody who was completely comfortable with the issues and the field I was in to going into a field where I knew effectively nothing. And it’s scary, it’s healthy, there’s a flood of new learning, it’s stimulating, it’s exciting and harrowing. And it’s really good for you, because it keeps you fresh and on your toes.

Ottawa, ON: NOVEMBER 21, 2008 – National Arts Centre CEO Peter Herndorff in Southam Hall Theatre. Photo by David Kawai

National Arts Centre CEO Peter Herndorff in Southam Hall Theatre. Ottawa, ON: November 21, 2008. (Photo: David Kawai.)

When I moved into publishing and I showed up for my first day of work, I thought they would all think I was a fraud, because I had never worked in publishing before. The first year was really tough, a steep learning curve. The second year was a bit easier, but the third year was exhilarating, because I had learned a whole new career.

The same happened when I went from broadcasting to the performing arts here at the NAC. The common denominator with all of my career moves was my passion and success at running creative organizations, but otherwise they were very different fields. I also had a reputation for coming into organizations that were in a bit of trouble, but my real transferable skill was that I knew how to work with creative people, people who did not work well with authority, who were very individualistic in their work.

When I left the CBC at 42, I was truly starting over again, but if I hadn’t made that move back then, my life would have been completely different. As it was, it was much more interesting doing a whole bunch of things, starting again, learning again, developing new muscles.

In this day and age, no one is staying in a career or any job for 30 or 40 years anymore.  Millennials and older generations will be changing careers several times over the course of their working lives, so it is important for them to develop the skills to be able to do that.

What are your plans for the next chapter of your life?

I am going to become a Senior Resident and Chair of Arts at Massey College, University of Toronto as of June. I was there for a year in 1998-1999. It is a very interesting environment, because there are Senior Fellows who are major scholars, there are post-graduate students, it is a real hothouse environment, so I am looking forward to that.

I have also agreed to become Chairman of the Board of the Luminato Festival in Toronto and start that in September. I am in the process of negotiating with another organization in Canada about taking a part-time job with them. I am still deciding about that, but if I have these three things to work on, that should either get me into trouble or keep me out of trouble!

Facilitating professional development for arts managers in Alberta: In conversation with Derek Stevenson, Arts Leadership Manager at The Rozsa Foundation



Derek Stevenson graduated from the second cohort of the MMIAM program in 2015.  He entered the program with a B.A. in theatre and a B.Mgt. in finance from the University of Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada). He was the Artistic Director and General Manager of TheatreXtra, the university’s student-run theatre company. After graduation, he worked for the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator and later as the Assistant to the Executive Director. We caught up with him recently to find out why he decided to apply to the MMIAM program and what he is doing now.

Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

My decision was two-fold: one was my search for something more than what Lethbridge had to offer, the other was my interest in traveling and exploring. I knew what I wanted to do with my career, but I knew my opportunities were limited where I was. I began to seek out professional development courses and further training in arts management and it eventually led me to the MMIAM program. The program itself seemed like a perfect fit for both my professional and personal growth, so I took the leap and applied!

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am working for two different organizations now. I am the General Manager of New West Theatre in Lethbridge, where I have been working to revitalize and establish the organization as a premier theatre in Canada. I also recently began working for the Rozsa (pronounced “rosé,” like the wine) Foundation in Calgary as the Arts Leadership Manager. This particular role is very connected to the work I did in the MMIAM program as I facilitate professional development programs for arts managers in Alberta. I have incorporated some of the material from my MMIAM studies into my own courses and continue to develop and tweak our offerings to help build capacity in the cultural sector in the province.


Derek teaching a seminar at the Rozsa Foundation in Calgary, Alberta. (Photo: Rozsa Foundation.)

Which MMIAM courses were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

When I look back on the program I find I use skills from many courses in my daily work life. The courses which were most relevant to my interests were probably the cultural policy and economics courses at Southern Methodist University taught by Kathleen Gallagher. I have always been interested in public policy in the arts, particularly when it comes to government funding. My thesis was directly connected to these courses as I focused on municpal tax policies that fund arts and culture initiatives. I referenced quite a bit of information in my thesis from those two courses, and I am to this day still updating my research as I recently presented it to Creative Calgary, an organization advocating for increased funding to the arts and culture sector in Calgary.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

Growing up, going to school and working in the same city gave me a pretty closed off perspective of the world of arts and culture. Travelling and studying abroad gave me an opportunity to become more independent, gain confidence in my knowledge, and broaden my perspectives on what arts and culture management means in other countries.


Derek with MMIAM classmates at Monserrate mountain in Bogotá, Colombia, 2015. (Photo: MMIAM.)

What is one of the greatest challenges facing arts managers in your home country today? How do you think these challenges need to be addressed and by whom?

I find this question particularly challenging to answer on a national level, as I think the struggles of arts managers differ from region to region in Canada. However, one thing that is being talked about a lot lately in Canada is how we are developing and growing Canadian arts leaders. Many of the large arts institutions in Canada have been hiring people from the United Kingdom and the United States to take on leadership roles. I think that Canada has many bright, innovative and talented leaders who need an opportunity to prove themselves on a larger scale, but they are not given the chance. The MMIAM program and the Rozsa Foundation are at the forefront of training the next generation of arts leaders, and I think this is an important part of addressing this issue.

During your study year, you produced a very interesting project to help promote the MMIAM program. Can you tell us about it?

My friend and colleague John Wells and I worked on developing a video marketing project for the program. We had so many fantastic opportunities while travelling the world to see incredible performances, attend festivals, see new cities, and take in unique cultural experiences that we wanted a way to capture all of that. John was integral to this project as he worked tirelessly on editing, directing and producing the video. I was an assistant at best, but I was thrilled to be a part of it and happy to get to share our year of adventures with future cohorts.

MMIAM cohorts are an interesting part of the program, since they are small groups of international students.  Are you still in contact with people from your cohort?

I am still in contact with many of my cohort friends. I have been lucky to have had opportunities to travel to Europe since the program ended, as well as across Canada to visit with a few of my colleagues, which has been extremely rewarding for me. I truly feel like we became a little family in that year and I am always looking for opportunities to travel and visit my MMIAM colleagues.

Developing Museum Audiences: Interview with Morgan Marks, Associate Director of Outreach at the Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Old West Museum



Morgan Marks (2014) is a graduate of the MMIAM program’s first cohort. As an undergraduate student, she completed a combined Bachelor of Science in Business Economics and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Morgan saw graduate studies in international arts management as a unique way to combine her business background with her passion for the arts. Laura Adlers recently caught up with her in Cheyenne, Wyoming to see where her career path has led since graduating from the MMIAM program.



Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am the Associate Director of Outreach / Marketing Director at the Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I am responsible for all print and digital media for the museum, including web design, writing press releases, managing TV and radio interviews, creating advertising and promotional pieces for our events. As the Associate Director of Outreach, I oversee the development, arts education and volunteer programs and staff for the organization.


The CFD Old West Museum Hall of Fame Gallery. (Courtesy: The CFD Old West Museum)

Which MMIAM courses were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

All of the marketing courses, the financial management courses, the fundraising course and Kathleen Gallagher’s courses in cultural economics and cultural policy all had a huge impact on my work at the museum. I tap into all of this knowledge on some level on a daily basis.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

Personally, the connections and friendships that I formed with people in my cohort were invaluable. It sounds cliché, but I am a sentimental person and the people I met and worked with during my study year really are like family to me now. We shared so many experiences, especially as international students with our own unique cultural backgrounds. Professionally, these experiences helped me to gain a new perspective in my career.  It is so easy to get stuck in the idea that “this is how it has always been done”, and so much of what I experienced with my cohort and in my studies has given me the tools to try new things and move in new directions.

Which of the four MMIAM campuses was the most memorable for you and why?

Definitely our trip to Bogotá. That was where everything fell into place for me mentally,


Street memorial for Gabriel García Márquez. (Courtesy: Morgan Marks)

where I understood the importance of my studies and how the cultural sector impacts people’s lives on a daily basis. The national library system really had an impact on me. The fact that it is built to be accessible to everyone and that everyone was welcome and encouraged to be there. We were also there days after the death of Gabriel García Márquez and witnessed the national mourning for Colombia’s most famous writer. People placed yellow butterflies everywhere in his memory, there was a makeshift memorial created on the street in his honour and we observed a moment of silence before a theatre performance at the Ibero-American Theatre Festival. It was very powerful to see a cultural figure respected and revered in this way, and to understand that he was such a big part of Colombia’s national identity. We don’t see this often in the United States.

What is one of the greatest challenges facing arts managers in your community today?

One challenge that the state of Wyoming and by extension the Cheyenne community is facing is this sense by Wyoming residents and tourists that our state has nothing to offer from a cultural perspective. In fact, Wyoming has six accredited museums, which is a lot for a state of our population size. Wyoming has five affiliate museums of the Smithsonian Institution, including the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, and the Draper Natural History Museum. Wyoming is also home to the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which has internationally recognized artists.


Bronze artist Chip Jones creating his “quick draw” sculpture during the 2018 Western Spirit Art Show and Sale. (Courtesy: The CFD Old West Museum)

So our challenge as arts managers is that we not only have to put great effort into attracting international tourists and those from out of state to Wyoming, but we also have a challenge in convincing our own constituents that we have culturally-rich offerings.  Interestingly, our number one foreign tourists are Germans, who love all things Western, especially the rodeo! At Cheyenne Frontier Days, we have diehard local fans who visit us on a regular basis, but we have many who think that since they were here when they were kids, they have seen everything we have to offer, not realizing that exhibits are always changing and we have interesting events happening here all the time.

Another challenge we face at the museum which is common for the whole state is finding a balance between accessibility and exclusivity and engaging the community at different levels. We have an exhibit right now, for instance, for which we charge $45 a ticket for the opening reception, which is geared more towards the general public, but at the beginning of the summer, just before the Frontier Days events, we have a big fundraising event at the museum which is $160 per person, targetted towards more exclusive constituents. All this is to say there is a great need for outreach and new approaches to audience development!

What are the current trends in the cultural sector in your community and what new opportunities are emerging for arts managers as a result?

We have a champion volunteer in Cheyenne, Bill Dubois, who is also Cheyenne’s official Historian Laureate, who is widely quoted as saying: “Volunteering is a Cheyenne thing to do!” and so we are in the enviable position of having a huge culture of volunteerism in our community and, at our museum anyway, far more volunteers than we can handle! This is also the case with our corporate sponsors, who encourage their employees to volunteer at events which they are sponsoring  It is a good problem to have as an arts manager, and it provides an opportunity for us as an organization to diversify the roles our volunteers may play and ensure we harness that enthusiasm and engage our volunteers in areas which play to their strengths and which are beneficial to our organization.

Adaptability, Understanding the International Arts Market Key to Success for International Arts Managers: In Conversation with MMIAM Professor Kathleen Gallagher



Kathleen Gallagher is Assistant Professor at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. Her interest in cultural policy, the arts and nonprofit management derive from an education which includes a B.A. in Art and Architectural Histories, an M.B.A. with emphases on marketing and arts management, an M.A. in Modern Art Connoisseurship and the History of the Art Market, and a Ph.D. in Public Affairs.  She is also a certified appraiser of fine arts.  Kathleen has been teaching in the MMIAM program since its inception. Laura Adlers was pleased to have an opportunity to speak with her recently to find out what she is teaching and working on now.

Which MMIAM courses do you teach at Southern Methodist University?

I teach two courses: Comparative International Cultural Policy and Cultural Economics and the International Art Market. In the Cultural Policy course we analyze cultural policy case studies from around the world and marry them with theory to help students understand how to interact with the public sector from a strategic advocacy standpoint. They develop the skills and tools necessary for civic engagement (writing positioning statements, policy briefs, talking points) and as a final project, they write an advocacy plan.

In the Cultural Economics course we analyze international case studies from all arts sectors, including the performing arts, museums, art galleries, publishing, film and television, and examine how key economic concepts affect and influence each sector.


Professor Kathleen Gallagher talks with students of the International Comparative Cultural Policy class during a visit to the State Fair of Texas as part of a research project. (Photo courtesy: Kim Leeson)


You will be on a research sabbatical in the 2018 fall semester.  What will be the focus of your research?

My research centres around sub-national cultural policies that support sustainability of arts organizations, since this is an issue that the arts sector struggles with across the board.  I am looking at not only government funding policies, but also philanthropic and private sector funding. I am also looking at things like creative placemaking, capacity-building models and issues facing arts organizations with geographically dispersed populations.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in the United States which are leading the new wave in cultural management?

There are two that I can think of which are not really new, but we are looking at in new ways recently. The first is creative placemaking, which evolved from ideas about placemaking Jane Jacobs wrote about in the ‘60s. There has been a resurgence of this concept since around 2000, a renewed realization about the value that the cultural sector brings to authenticity of place, and that this can be scaled and taken on as a project for a community, a neighbourhood, a city, a region, even at a state level. Policymakers and communities are looking at how the arts fit in and help to sustain the population. We talk about cultural identity and how cultural economics can provide opportunities, for example, to smaller or dispersed communities and we are increasingly recognizing the heterogeneity of our landscape.

The second innovative idea is that of artist as entrepreneur. This is really not a new concept.  Artists have always been entrepreneurs. They have always had to build up their patrons and support outside of government support, but there are more programmes being created by local and state arts funding agencies to help facilitate training artists in basic business skills, helping them build up their networks through social marketing and other tools which help connect small businesses with other artists and businesses and encourage cross-promotion. There are also more and more cultural trails and cultural districts emerging which foster and provide business support to artists. This kind of support benefits the artist and helps their ability to continue creating art, which by extension trickles down to and further benefits the community in which they live and work.

Photo courtesy of Southern Methodist University, Hillsman S. Jackson


Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

I think it all centers around being able to adapt easily and skillfully to diversity in today’s world. It is about working with colleagues, employers, donors, and business partners in diverse environments, going out into the world and having the ability to consider the context and adapt to any given situation. By going through this program, students observe and adapt to different faculty at different institutions in different countries, and work with a diverse student body and different cultural approaches to their studies and everyday life.

This all requires understanding cultural differences and working style, observing and processing this information, honing communication skills and finding ways of working together in the cohort. So not only does everyone in the cohort grapple with these concepts and ideas, but they also go through this in four different countries. I think this is such an amazing opportunity for the students and an important aspect of the program which should be highlighted to potential employers. In addition to the specialized course material, these life skills would be important and desireable to any employer who would have the wisdom to hire a MMIAM graduate.

Bringing the Business of the Arts Back to Bogotá: Interview with Daniela Alzate, Marketing Advisor to Teatro Colon



Daniela Alzate (2014) is a graduate of the MMIAM program’s first cohort.  She completed undergraduate studies in piano performance in 2012 and was working as a piano teacher in a music academy in Bogotá, Colombia when she decided to apply to the MMIAM program. We asked her what influenced her decision to pursue graduate studies in international arts management and talked about where her studies have led her in her professional life.

What was your experience in arts management prior to applying to the program?

I didn’t have any experience at all. I finished my undergraduate studies in piano performance in 2012 and soon afterwards, I was flying to Dallas for the MMIAM program, so even my work experience was limited. I was working with children as a piano teacher for a music academy in Bogotá for one and a half years before moving to Dallas to begin the MMIAM, so my experience was more focused in music education rather than anything related to arts management.

Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

When I was teaching piano, I knew that I was helping only one child at a time. I was not making a big impact on improving the cultural environment in my city. My decision to pursue graduate studies was mainly to learn about arts management and how I could help improve the cultural sector in Bogotá. In addition to working as a piano teacher, I also worked with an entrepreneurial friend at his business. Through him, I learned a lot about marketing and discovered a new field of knowledge that interested me.

I realized that I could use this knowledge to help artists in my country. In our music programs, musicians learn a lot about music history, performance, and so on, but not about how to face the real world of the arts once you finish university. There are no courses to teach them about this and they are left to learn on their own. I enjoyed teaching, but did not see myself doing that for my entire life and I saw an opportunity to help the cultural sector in Bogotá on the business side.

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am currently working as the Marketing Advisor to the Teatro Colon in Bogotá. I have many different responsibilities, including managing various aspects of box office operations, including determining ticket prices and promotional offers, the allocation of complimentary tickets and customer service; managing space rentals and coordinating all the ensuing requirements for rentals in the theatre; negotiating corporate event packages for different companies; creating and managing patron satisfaction and audience profile questionnaires; conducting market research for communications and programming purposes; and managing stewardship of all sponsors, including activating sponsorship benefits and writing follow-up reports.


Teatro Colon in Bogotá, Colombia. (Image via teatrocolon.gov.co)

Which courses/what aspect(s) of the program were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

The marketing research course with Professor Alain D’Astous was very important for me. I am conducting a study right now to profile audience members and identify key demographics for different events. François Colbert’s marketing courses were very important for the work I am doing now as well. Perhaps the most applicable and useful course for me was the fundraising course in Dallas with JoLynne Jensen. Even though the reality of fundraising opportunities in the United States is very different from that of Bogotá, it helped me to understand how the fundraising process works in another country, how funds and sponsorship benefits are managed for an event, the element of publicity and media coverage, and so on.

Which campus was the most memorable for you and why?

From an academic perspective, definitely Montreal. It was a very interesting time in my studies, not just because I experienced living in wintertime, but also because, academically, it was a lot of work. Adapting to different environments was a good life skill to learn. The focus in Montreal was MBA-level marketing and was very demanding compared to the other countries.

Giving arts managers an edge in the international market: In conversation with François Colbert, Co-Director of the MMIAM


colbertfrancois_2008-smallFrançois Colbert holds the Carmelle and Rémi Marcoux Chair in Arts Management at HEC Montréal and the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Management. He is also the Co-Director of the Master of Management in International Arts Management program.  Laura Adlers met with François recently via Skype and asked him how this program, now in its fifth year, is different from other arts management programs.

What is it about the MMIAM program that differentiates it from any other arts management graduate programs in the world?

First of all, this is the first program that is focussed specifically on international arts management, but more than that, it is the first program offered over one year in four international cities, with the experience of living in four different cities, adapting to new environments and truly living the international experience.  In addition, our cohorts are small (ideally 10-15 students), and are truly diverse in terms of their cultural backgrounds and experiences in arts management in their home countries.

Why were Dallas, Montreal and Milan chosen as the three main international campuses for the MMIAM program?

There are many graduate programs around the world which have arts management components as part of an MBA or which have business courses as part of an arts management graduate degree, but we are unique in that our course curriculum is taught by exceptional faculty at internationally-recognized business schools which also have great arts management programs.  The program idea was mine, but it really developed in partnership with Dr. Zannie Voss at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  Her reputation as a leading academic researcher and instructor in both the Cox School of Business MBA program and at the Meadows School of the Arts arts management program is well-known. This is why our two schools formed the foundation of the program.

Many people ask, “Why Dallas?” In fact, I was surprised when I visited Dallas for the first time at the incredible cultural district, which is a concentration of cultural facilities and arts organizations on 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks in downtown Dallas.  It is the largest arts district in the United States and is home to some of the city’s most important cultural facilities and organizations, including the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Crow Collection of Asian Art, Perot Museum of Art and Nature, AT&T Performing Arts Centre, Winspear Opera House, Dallas Opera, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas Symphony, Dee and Charles Wyly Theater, Dallas Theater Center, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and Klyde Warren Park, among other attractions. So, not only is this cultural district a very interesting case study in municipal cultural planning, but our visits to these facilities and organizations as part of the MMIAM program also add so much to the academic and cultural experience.


The Dallas Arts District. (Image via dallasartsdistrict.org)

Our partnerships with SDA Bocconi and Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá were created, because they are regarded as two of the top business schools in Europe and South America respectively, but also because we already had established relationships with Alex Turrini at Bocconi and Jaime Gutiérrez at Los Andes. The culture and history in both of these cities are unique and fascinating and add so much to the MMIAM program. The faculty members at all four schools are passionate about the arts; many of them have been arts managers themselves, or have served on arts boards for many years.

What is the focus of study at HEC Montréal, where you are based?

We teach a Master’s in Arts Management at HEC in French, so when we were developing the curriculum for the MMIAM program, I wanted to ensure that our students got the full benefit of being taught by experts in the field of arts management. Our focus in Montréal is more on marketing, but there are also other topics which I thought were important, like the Leadership Management course, and a course in Information Technology.  Our strength at HEC is marketing and market research, however, so this is the primary focus for the MMIAM program.

The students also visit Bogotá, Colombia for a 10-day Campus Abroad program. What do they experience there?

We visit the beautiful Universidad de Los Andes campus and about twenty cultural and private sector organizations which are involved in innovative cultural programs. We also travel for two days outside of Bogotá to visit Villa de Leyva, where there are many artisans and cultural activities.


The MMIAM’s second cohort in Colombia

The Bogotá campus is unique in that students learn about how a developing country can use cultural activity for social innovation to benefit the broader community. Besides the high art concert halls and theatres, there are foundations and businesses which work with the underserved communities of Bogotá to engage them in the arts and cultural projects and give them opportunities which will hopefully benefit them long-term. There is a real push towards the democratization of culture in Colombia, which has six class levels [according to Colombia’s system of legally defined socioeconomic levels], the bottom two being very poor and the top two being very wealthy.

For the students, it is eye-opening, as it was for me the first time I visited. We visit the national library, which has a system in place which allows everyone to access literature across the country.  The philosophy in Bogotá is that the poor and underprivileged deserve the best.  The national concert hall offers free tickets for 20% of the hall, and brings families in on buses from the poorer parts of the city to see world-class orchestral, dance, theatre performances for free. Colombia is the most stable country in South America right now and they have really done a lot in the last twenty years to improve the quality of life in the country. The cultural policy and private sector investment, including foreign investment, has had a lot to do with this.

The MMIAM program was launched in the 2013-14 academic year and is now in its fifth cohort.  How many students have completed the program to date and where are MMIAM graduates from?

To date, 54 students from 18 countries have graduated from the program.  They have mostly been from the United States and Canada, but we have also had candidates from Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Peru, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Czech Republic, India, Iran, Indonesia, Singapore, and Australia.

Who is your ideal applicant for the program or are you looking for a broad range of backgrounds?

We are looking for broad diversity in terms of country of origin, arts sector, and level of experience, and of course we want people who are passionate about the arts. We are not going for quantity, we are really going for quality. The ideal candidate is around 25-30 years of age, and with at least five years of experience, but we have had more experienced arts managers in their late 30s and 40s in the program, as well as a few very bright candidates under 25. We really choose our candidates on a case-by-case basis.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

More and more globalization is happening in the arts. I have been in this field for 45 years, and know that most individual artists and arts organizations want to tour – dance companies, orchestras, art or museum exhibits – and the international market is open to them as never before.  More than anything, we would like to give our alumni the edge to be able to work in the international market and to understand that working with different cultures means learning and understanding different ways of doing business.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Canada which are leading the new wave in culture management?

With larger arts organizations, I am seeing that they want to really engage with their communities and go beyond their art form. The two brightest examples in Montréal are Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and its new dance therapy centre [The National Centre for Dance Therapy] and the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and its new art therapy centre. They both want to serve the community through presenting wonderful art, but also by using art to help their community. This kind of engagement also forces boards of directors to broaden the scope of their strategic planning and fundraising.


The dance therapy program at Les Grands Ballets. (Image by Karine Kalfon via grandsballets.com)


An international approach to training the next generation of arts managers – In conversation with Alex Turrini, SDA Bocconi


Alex TurriniAlex Turrini is a member of the MMIAM Program Committee, in addition to being former Director of the Master in Arts Management and Administration (MAMA) at SDA Bocconi in Milan. Alex has been instrumental in developing the academic program for the MMIAM program in Milan.  We asked him to talk a bit about the focus of study at SDA Bocconi, the final phase of the MMIAM year.

SDA Bocconi in Milan is the third and final phase of the MMIAM program, from the end of April until the end of July.  What is the focus of study in Milan?

When in Milan, MMIAM students explore the arts world in Europe from an artistic and managerial/policy perspective. They are engaged in field projects, off-campus visits and guest lectures with practitioners within the three workshops SDA Bocconi develops for MMIAM: the performing arts workshop, the heritage management workshop and the consulting management workshop. The latter brings students to work for an Italian institution which engages them as consultants. Last year, we worked in Chiusi (close to Siena, Tuscany), investigating the rebranding of this little city that is one of the most important Etruscan cities in Italy. This year we will partner with the City of Cremona, the birthplace of Stradivari.


Teamwork project for the city of Chiusi. Photo credit: Alex Turrini.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

The globalization of the cultural sector is happening at a very fast pace. Even careers in the arts are more and more international. Let’s take Italy as an example. Ten years ago, no one could have ever imagined that the director of the Uffizi Gallery would be German! In this context, an arts manager needs to understand quickly the different cultural mindset, institutional arrangements, backgrounds. Being an international arts manager is a necessity nowadays.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Italy which are leading the new wave in cultural management?

I see cultural innovation and entrepreneurship emerging as a new wave in the Italian cultural arena. Thanks to new technologies and innovative ideas, startups are flourishing in the field. It’s normal. If the cultural sector or the arts do not welcome and foster innovation, what is their true value?

The MMIAM program is unique in that it is the only international arts management program which is taught on three campuses of internationallyrecognized universities.  Why do you think this model is so important for the students?

I think that field experiences in different settings accelerate the capacity of learning. Many top universities explore double and triple degrees for this reason. In the arts, MMIAM stands alone as the only program giving students this opportunity in outstanding universities in the field of arts management and entrepreneurship.

MMIAM students from the 4th cohort visiting Teatro Franco Parenti in Milan

MMIAM students from the 4th cohort visiting Teatro Franco Parenti in Milan. Photo credit: Alex Turrini.

At Bocconi, the MMIAM students are in classes together with students from the MAMA program.  How does this model benefit the students in both programs?

The Masters in Arts Management and Administration (MAMA) is a resident Masters program at Bocconi designed to strengthen management competencies for students passionate about the arts. Thanks to this ‘injection’, the MMIAM students have the opportunity to grow their professional networks. We believe that nurturing an exclusive international network of arts professionals and managers will benefit the arts organizations who choose this talent for their management teams. They may be assured of the management focus and skills of MAMA-MMIAM graduates. It will also help the MAMA-MMIAM alumni to share information and professional advice from their peers. I believe that often managers find solutions to their workplace problems outside their organizations and the MAMA-MMIAM network might be the place to find those solutions.

A visit of the France pavillion at the Milan World Expo 2015

A visit of the France pavillion at the Milan World Expo 2015. Photo credit: Laura Adlers.