Arts administrators play an important part in the development of new projects, making arrangements for tours and events as well as 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.
The type of work that an arts administrator carries out will differ greatly between organisations depending on the size and service provided. Many of the above rely heavily on funding, which affects the staffing structure they can maintain.
Types of art administrator
In a small company you'll probably cover a number of functions from marketing and managing performers and audiences to handling finance and insurance matters.
In larger companies, your role may be in a much more specific area such as:
- front of house administration
Arts administrator roles and job titles vary a great deal between organisations. Typically, your tasks will include:
- planning and organising logistics related to events, buildings, performers or artists and other personnel
- using skills in arts-related law, accountancy, press liaison and public relations
- working to secure funding for venues or specific events
- writing or contributing to publications which accompany events and activities
- arranging performances, artists, venues, security, catering and sale of tickets
- marketing a performance or event through social media, direct mail, advertising, websites, posters or publicity leaflets and attracting media coverage
- planning and managing budgets
- programming and booking performances and events, including arrangements for tours in the UK and abroad
- developing 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)
- taking responsibility for operational and office management issues such as venue accessibility, health and safety issues and building maintenance
- selecting and training staff
- implementing and maintaining office and information systems
- providing administration support to managers and directors
- ensuring corporate and legal requirements are complied with, and reporting to the board of directors.
At a more senior level, you might be involved in strategic planning and management decisions.
- 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.
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
- Freelance and consultancy work, which is usually undertaken by experienced administrators, has recently increased due to Lottery-funded projects. This includes project management, public relations and marketing, carrying out feasibility studies and delivering training.
- 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.
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.
You will need to show:
- good communication, team work, 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.
Jobs in the arts are highly competitive. Gaining substantial experience in administration, management and the arts is much more likely to be of benefit to you than a specific academic qualification. For a career in arts administration, there's no substitute for relevant experience.
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.
Showing a passion for the area concerned is important.
Try to become involved in as many areas as possible. Anything from volunteering in a local art gallery to carrying out temporary work at a theatre or arts festival will be relevant. In whatever role you secure, find out who the key arts workers are in that area as any contacts you build up may be useful later on.
Arts magazines and websites are a valuable source of information for upcoming events that you may wish to become involved with. Relevant resources include:
Similarly, many magazines and arts organisations have Twitter and Facebook pages where opportunities are posted. Following key people in the arts world could be beneficial in keeping up to date and finding out about changes in the industry.
Consider taking a temporary job as your first step into an arts administration career. Typical temporary roles may be on a Lottery-funded project or at an arts festival. This may provide a platform from which you can demonstrate your creative and administrative ability and allow you to network with other arts administrators.
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
- local authority venues
- photography and media centres
- 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:
- Arts Council England
- Arts Council of Wales
- British Film Institute (BFI)
- Crafts Council
- Creative Scotland
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.
Recruitment agencies may sometimes handle temporary vacancies.
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.
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:
- Creative and Cultural Skills, the Sector Skills Council for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing and visual arts, coordinates and promotes training and skills development within the sector.
- The Arts Marketing Association (AMA) and Independent Theatre Council (ITC) both run a range of workshops, courses and seminars throughout the year, specifically designed for personal and professional development.
- The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM) also offers relevant training courses.
There are groups on social media dedicated to arts administration which encourage knowledge sharing as well as providing opportunities for networking.
Jobs and promotion within arts administration are highly sought after and competition is strong.
Progression may include becoming a general manager, director or chief executive of an arts company or local authority arts division.
Working freelance for Lottery-funded projects or resident companies is another option, as is becoming a consultant, undertaking research and feasibility studies and contributing to the development of arts policies for a range of establishments.
Increasingly, organisations are partnering with European arts companies to stage joint projects to bring European artists to Britain. Working for such employers with an international reputation may allow you to develop an overseas career.
You may need to be prepared to relocate or commute in order to move jobs and gain experience, particularly in the search for senior or promotional posts.
With experience, you may make the transition from arts sector administration into public, private or voluntary sector posts where there may be greater career development and promotion opportunities.
Career development opportunities can also be found within the media industry. For example, you may wish to diversify as an arts agent or promoter, specialising in a particular aspect of the arts business and working proactively to enhance an artist's career. The usual route would be to gain experience in a variety of arts administration or other commercial jobs before setting up your own licensed agency.
Alternatively you may decide to specialise in a specific area of work such as:
- events organising
- programme management.
Find out how Ailsa became a museum membership coordinator at BBC Bitesize.