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

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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.

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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.

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