Transitioning from centre stage to behind the scenes: An interview with Shayna Schlosberg, Managing Director of The Catastrophic Theatre in Houston, Texas

Shayna ShlosbergShayna Schlosberg was a professional actor in the United States before deciding to pursue graduate studies in international arts management. She graduated from the MMIAM program in 2014 and is now the Managing Director of The Catastrophic Theatre in Houston, Texas. What made her decide to make this career change and how did her studies help her in her current position?

What made you decide to make the career change from artist to arts manager?

Admittedly I had very little experience in arts management before applying to the program. I had a BFA in Drama but decided not to pursue performing as a career. After taking a break from acting, I realized I wanted to work in the arts, but as an administrator rather than as an artist. I believe cross-cultural exchange is very powerful and I wanted to learn how to create more opportunities for artistic and creative exchange between different cultures.

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

I am the Managing Director for The Catastrophic Theatre in Houston. We are a small staff, so I wear many hats, but my primary responsibilities include strategic planning, fundraising, board governance, and financial management.

Photo credit: Pin Lim.

Tamarie’s Merry Evening of Mistakes and Regrets by Tamarie Cooper and Friends. Photo: Pin Lim.

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

Our courses in financial management, fundraising and leadership have been the most valuable to my career so far. We received very practical tools and skills in these classes which I put into practice as soon as I started working. I still use a lot of the materials shared in our fundraising course at Southern Methodist University. The courses in comparative international cultural policy and cultural economics with Kathleen Gallagher provided a strong theoretical foundation. In these courses, we learned about the history of funding for the arts in the United States and the particular economic challenges that the cultural sector faces.

Which campus was the most memorable for you and why?

This is difficult to decide, because each campus was memorable in its own way. I’d have to say the semester in Montreal was the most memorable, because we were there in the dead of winter. I’m from Texas, so I had never experienced that kind of winter before! Living through winter in Montreal is an educational experience unto itself. It was also my favorite city of the three.

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

I gained an appreciation for the singular approach to funding the arts in the United States. We often lament how little federal funding is given to the arts here compared to Europe, for example, which I agree is problematic. However, as a result, there is a vibrant and democratic culture of philanthopy in the U.S. that has produced a very healthy and diverse arts and cultural sector.

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’ve noticed that funders, particularly foundations, are now investing more in organizations that provide services to multiple not-for-profits rather than to individual not-for-profits. Funders are looking to support projects with the broadest impact. This trend offers both opportunities and threats to arts managers. For someone like me in a leadership position at a mid-sized organization,  this could allow my organization to continue growing administratively without having to assume the costs of hiring new full-time staff members. However, this trend reduces mid-level management opportunities in the sector and is also taking away from very crucial general operating support grants to individual organizations.

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

Oh boy! Where to begin! I would say a stagnant economy is our greatest challenge today. Wages are not keeping up with the cost of living in the U.S. and this greatly impacts both artists and patrons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *