Arts administrators play an important part in the development of new projects, making arrangements for tours and events and taking on marketing and planning responsibilities

As an arts administrator, you'll manage activities and projects provided by a range of organisations in the arts sector. It's your job to facilitate the work of artists and arts programmes. These include:

  • arts festivals and centres
  • community and disability arts organisations
  • dance companies
  • local authorities and arts councils
  • theatres, galleries and museums.

Many organisations rely heavily on funding, which affects the staffing structure they can maintain.

Types of art administrator

The type of work you’ll do will depend on the size of the organisation you work for and the type of service it provides. This may include some or all of the following:

  • education
  • front of house administration
  • programming
  • sponsorship.

Responsibilities

As an arts administrator, you’ll need to:

  • plan and organise logistics relating to events, buildings, performers or artists and other personnel
  • work to secure funding for venues or specific events
  • write or contribute to publications which accompany events and activities
  • arrange venues, security, catering and sale of tickets
  • handle the programming for events, including booking performances and making arrangements for tours in the UK and abroad
  • market performances and events through social media, direct mail, advertising, websites, posters or publicity leaflets and attract media coverage
  • plan and manage budgets
  • develop new projects and initiatives in consultation with arts professionals and key stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, local government and communities, venue directors and regional arts boards)
  • use skills in press liaison, public relations, arts-related law and accountancy
  • take responsibility for operational and office management issues such as venue accessibility, health and safety issues and building maintenance
  • select and train staff
  • implement and maintain office and information systems
  • provide administrative support to managers and directors
  • ensure corporate and legal requirements are complied with, and report to the board of directors
  • carry out strategic planning and make managerial decisions - this is usually a requirement in more senior roles.

Salary

  • Starting salaries range from £15,000 to £20,000. Salary scales are often related to local government administrators.
  • Experienced arts administrators could earn £20,000 to £30,000.
  • Typical salaries at senior management or chief executive level range from £30,000 to £60,000+ depending on the size of organisation.

Freelance consultants may earn a higher income depending on the nature of the contracts they secure. Positions at all levels attract higher salaries in and around London.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

The hours you work will vary, but can include evening and weekend work. This will be the case if you're involved in performances, exhibitions and festivals, or if you work in smaller organisations with less staff.

Job-sharing is becoming increasingly popular and part-time work is often possible. Smaller organisations may only be able to offer part-time roles or fixed-term contracts due to fluctuations in funding.

What to expect

  • A significant proportion of people in this profession are women. The arts sector has a strong commitment to the development of equal opportunities policies and welcomes applications from underrepresented groups.
  • Many arts organisations offer supportive working environments for those with family commitments.
  • The working week may often be divided between office-based work and visits to venues or partner organisations, involving regional or national travel.
  • Jobs are available across the UK.
  • For some posts, absence from home overnight is required on occasion. Overseas work is uncommon unless the organisation regularly tours abroad or has specific connections with other countries.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, certain subjects may prove to be an advantage for some jobs. The following are particularly relevant, either at degree, diploma or certificate level:

  • arts administration options in other arts-related courses
  • art history
  • arts management
  • business-related studies, e.g. finance, logistics, marketing and human resources
  • English and literary studies
  • events and entertainment management
  • performing arts
  • visual arts and design.

Entry without a degree, diploma, certificate or related qualification is possible via a secretarial, support or assistant role, or after gaining administrative experience at a similar level in another field.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification, such as arts or cultural administration or management, is not essential but might be useful. However, it may be difficult to gain financial support for one of these courses. You might consider undertaking a part-time course over two years, so that you can work at the same time.

Occasionally, graduates are able to secure Research Council funding. Some courses integrate placements in arts organisations and enable students to build their contacts and relevant experience, while the more competitive courses usually require candidates to come equipped with prior experience.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • good communication, teamwork, interpersonal and organisational skills
  • knowledge of, and an interest in, the arts
  • ability to work independently, meet deadlines and manage a number of projects at the same time and with accuracy
  • awareness of the specific arts activities and events in the area in which you are applying
  • knowledge of political and economic issues affecting the arts sector
  • administrative skills and experience of working to budgets
  • excellent IT skills including spreadsheets, social media and database management
  • high-quality customer service.

Work experience

Jobs in the arts are highly competitive. Gaining substantial experience in administration, management and the arts is likely to be of greater benefit to you than a specific academic qualification.

However, administrative skills alone are not usually enough and should be enhanced with more specific experience in arts projects and events, perhaps while at university, for example:

  • promoting a drama society
  • writing reviews of productions
  • staging an art exhibition
  • organising and gaining sponsorship for events.

Anything from volunteering in a local art gallery to carrying out temporary work at a theatre or arts festival will be relevant. Try to become involved in as many areas as possible and be sure to demonstrate your passion for the sector. Any contacts you build up may be useful later on.

Arts magazines, websites and social media pages are a valuable source of information for upcoming events and projects that you may wish to become involved with. Relevant resources include:

Employers

Arts administrators can be employed in any organisation that has responsibility for organising, planning and delivering artistic or cultural events.

There are many government-funded initiatives and local partnerships which employ administrators on various short and longer-term contracts.

Many of these projects focus on development of arts activity in both urban and rural communities with a view to stimulating local economic development, addressing social inclusion and ultimately building stronger communities. These UK-wide projects are proving to be major sources of arts administration jobs. You can also find job opportunities with:

  • concert venues
  • galleries
  • local authority venues
  • museums
  • photography and media centres
  • theatres
  • touring companies.

Many local authorities employ arts administrators, usually in leisure and recreation or planning and development departments.

Other organisations that employ arts administrators include arts councils and bodies involved in grant aiding, such as:

It's likely that roles within these bodies will require administrators to have some experience.

Look for job vacancies at:

Regional arts magazines and websites may also list opportunities.

Some jobs are not formally advertised, so establishing contacts is a crucial part of developing your career as they may help you to uncover hidden opportunities.

Professional development

Training and continuing professional development (CPD) are vital for those who work in such diverse and often project-based roles.

In order to maintain sector knowledge and support career development opportunities, you'll need to undertake ongoing training in a variety of areas such as accountancy, HR, law, or marketing.

There are numerous organisations that provide relevant training opportunities:

There are groups on social media dedicated to arts administration which encourage knowledge sharing as well as providing opportunities for networking.

Career prospects

Jobs and promotion within arts administration are highly sought after and competition is strong. As a result, it may be necessary to relocate, or commute further, in order to move jobs and gain experience.

Progression may include becoming a general manager, director or chief executive of an arts company or local authority arts division.

Another option is to work freelance for Lottery-funded projects or resident companies. You could also consider becoming a consultant, undertaking research and feasibility studies and contributing to the development of arts policies for a range of establishments.

Getting involved in project partnerships between European and British arts companies, where European artists are brought to Britain, may open up opportunities for working overseas.

With experience, you could make the transition from arts sector administration into public, private or voluntary sector posts, or into the media industry in a role such as arts agent or promoter. Such a move may provide greater career development and promotion opportunities.

Alternatively, you may decide to specialise in a specific area of work such as:

  • communications
  • education
  • events organising
  • HR
  • marketing
  • PR
  • programme management.

Find out how Ailsa became a museum membership coordinator at BBC Bitesize.

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