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Arts Management | Selected Student Profiles

Steven Dawson

What is your background? 
My background is in live musical theatre. Before attending AU, I worked as a professional actor for over seven years in many theatre organizations around the country. I have always had at least one foot in the theatre, even when I needed to take another “day job” to make ends meet.
 
Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
I was accepted into multiple graduate arts management programs, but once I visited AU and talked with faculty members, I knew that this was the place for me. It goes without saying that the faculty is top-notch and the arts management education is unmatched. But the other opportunities are what really drew me. The faculty connections with other arts professionals are invaluable and allow the students to really get to know and pick the brains of the leaders in the field. The “extracurricular activities” were also enticing. The opportunities to hear speakers at the colloquia, the internship connections and opportunities, the fellowship program, and the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium all add to the experience at AU.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
I have interned at two places so far during my time at AU. The first was the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), at which I worked on conference operations (for the APAP NYC 2012 conference), speaker relations and contracts, and volunteer setup. I also interned at Washington Improv Theater as the senior management intern. While there, I gained valuable experience in many fields, including budgeting, grant writing, marketing, audience engagement, and volunteer management. I am currently serving as the executive chair of the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS), the annual forum designed for arts management students and professionals to learn directly from the leaders in the field. Right now, we are working hard in planning the April 7, 2013 event.
 
What do you hope to do with the degree?
My goal coming into the program has not changed much. It was and still remains to use the degree to help me provide knowledge and proper management practice to an arts organization. The specific capacity is still undefined, but I can definitely see myself working in any number of departments: marketing, development, artistic programming, production, etc. I just want to continue working for my passion, which is the production of wonderful musical theatre art form.

Watch profile video about Steven.

Sarah Durkee

What is your background?
I graduated with an undergraduate degree in art history and international relations, and have always had a particular interest in the intersection of art and politics (maybe because I am a DC native!). For the last twelve years, I have been an employee at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, with a focus on educational and cultural programming and community outreach. I am extremely interested in how art can be a relevant and consistent presence in peoples’ lives, and how it can help us to connect to ideas and to each other and ourselves.
 
Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
I have been aware of the Arts Management Program at AU for a long time; a number of colleagues for whom I have a great deal of respect have graduated from the program. Once I made the decision to finally go back to school, I knew that AU was the program for me.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
I am continuing to work full time while going to school full time so have not yet had a chance to complete an internship. However, I am looking forward to interning somewhere that could complement the experience that I have had at the Corcoran. Perhaps something in cultural policy or advocacy. I have had the chance to work in the ART CART program which seeks to preserve the legacy of aging artists by connecting them with graduate students.

What do you hope to do with the degree?
I hope to be a better and more sophisticated arts administrator! The training that I have received already in the program is making me think about my job and field in new ways; has provided me with access to new resources; and the confidence to navigate the challenges in the field to ensure a successful future for the arts.

Alex Emmerman

What is your background?
I was born and raised in the D.C. metropolitan area and have studied and worked in the field of graphic design and branding development for the past twelve years. I received my bachelor of fine arts in visual arts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2006. While in the program I was able to take a semester abroad in Schwabach Hall, Germany to study digital media design at the University of Applied Science. While in high school and throughout college I was able to take a number of internships and freelance jobs honing my marketing and graphic design skills and developing an understanding for the software and tools being used. After college I moved to San Jose, California where I worked with tech start-ups on developing their corporate branding, including marketing materials and interactive online content. I moved back to the D.C. metropolitan area roughly three years ago and since then have been working for a tech start-up out in McLean, Virginia and volunteering my time to non-profit art events in the area and in New Jersey.

Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?

When I was conducting my research on arts management programs, two programs really grabbed my attention: Columbia University Teachers College Arts Administration Program and American University’s Arts Management Program. Both had great reputations, prestigious names, and connections, but I needed much closer insight on each program to figure out what I wanted. What I found was American University's program was more tailored to the arts area that I was interested in, the technology aspects. It also helped that the program was in D.C., which is where I want to further develop my career and connections. Knowing that I can personalize the direction of the program to get the results I need to effectively grow as a tech savvy arts leader really solidified American University as my top choice in schools. 

What internships/work have you done while in the program?
Since starting the program a few months ago I have been working with the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University and am on the Graduate Student Council in the College of Arts and Science - I present my proposal for the Winter Gathering event soon. These actives have helped me establish bonds with my fellow classmates and other future arts leaders, which will turn into a valuable business network down the road.

What do you hope to do with the degree?
With this degree I want to pull away from the tech start-up industry and focus my career and skills full time in the arts. I am aspiring to build a better connection between art organizations and their patrons through new means of communications. Now, I will not only be able to design the front end systems such as logos, websites, and graphics, but I will have working knowledge of the best way to setup the back-end systems as well and hopefully leading me towards a director level role in an arts organization.

Anjali Lalani

What is your background?
I received my BA in english from Oberlin College. For most of my time after graduation, I lived in New York and worked as a paralegal in a top Intellectual Property firm. As a paralegal, I managed roughly 30 trademark and design patent portfolios and also worked with U.S. Customs to monitor trademark infringement. While I enjoyed the detailed work, I missed being creative and after doing some research, I "discovered" arts management and knew it would be the perfect way to utilize my office experience and artistic background in classical music and dance.
 
 
Why did you choose Arts Management at AU?
The most important factor in my decision to attend AU was the near 100% hiring rate. It was important to me that American University's program is well established and highly respected in the field. I also appreciated the personal attention I received as a prospective student. I continue to be impressed by the dedication of the faculty to the students.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
My first internship was in spring 2012 with Americans for the Arts in their Local Arts Advancement department. I managed the scholarship application process for the Annual Convention, worked at Arts Advocacy Day, and researched cultural districts throughout the country. Immediately following the internship I was contracted to compile and organize data and images for the 2012 Public Art Network's Year in Review presentation.
 
Last summer I interned at Bellevue Arts Museum in my home state of Washington. I worked in the development department, where I consolidated previous capital campaign records. I analyzed recent and long-term donor giving patterns. I also conducted prospect research and helped with annual fundraising gala and arts fair.
 
This fall I am a development intern at the Kennedy Center with the Washington National Opera and National Symphony Orchestra. I conduct individual prospect research, participate in cultivation efforts, help with special events, and am learning important fundraising technology such as Tessitura and WealthEngine. I have also been analyzing moves that have led to new members to determine what cultivation methods are working well for the organization.
 
What do you hope to do with the degree?
I'd like to work in development for a mid or large-sized organization.

Dominique Lopes

What is your background?           
I received a BA in art history with a minor in Japanese literature from the University of Georgia in 2009. Since then I have become increasingly fascinated with the ever evolving concept of culture. I have broadened my research in the arts to encompass sociologists and political theorists to better understand the role arts and culture play in any given society. My work experience has been limited to short runs in galleries and university administrative offices.
 
Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
I chose AU’s Arts Management Program because I am able to pursue my interest in cultural policies and analysis. Also, along with a MA in arts management I am able to receive a certificate in international arts management. This program looks into the political side of the arts and cultural diplomacy. I also chose this program because of the teachers, they are passionate about their topics and bring years of experience in the arts world to the class room.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
Currently I am working as a graduate assistant at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. This allows me to work closely with the director of the museum and the chief registrar. My responsibilities include managing loan agreements for incoming exhibitions, handling art work for instillation and de-instillation, and sitting in on meetings between the director, registrar, and artists.
 
What do you hope to do with the degree?
With this degree I hope to work within a government institute for arts advocacy and cultural diplomacy like American Voices or the National Endowment for the Arts. I want to help further the role of art in community development and cross-cultural understanding.

Joshua Midgett

What is your background?
I have a bachelor’s in directing with a minor in choreography and a bachelor’s in economics from Keene State College in New Hampshire. I have since worked in numerous regional theatres in a myriad of positions. I’ve managed tours, designed front of house merchandise, managed stage crews, company managed, and assisted in production and executive management.

Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
Four factors led me to American over other potential suitors. The international component was a large factor for me. Managing tours led me to understand the impact of the arts as a cultural escort and I would like to further pursue this goal and better understand different economic landscapes for the arts across the world. American is renowned for their international education and the certificate option was very appealing. The artistic component was also important. Many other programs felt as though they wanted business people and they would tailor their skills to the arts. I preferred a program that wanted artists that they would teach to become managers. This way the passion is for the art, not the managing of it. The third factor was the location. Washington, D.C. has always been a dream destination of mine. I am lucky enough to have a community of friends already established here and I love the vast amount of artistic opportunity this city offers. The last factor of equal significance is the warmth and humor of the faculty. This allows learning to be accidental and fun to be inevitable. This is vital during the stressful moments of being buried under work and financial burden. These factors all made American the clear choice.

What internships/work have you done while in the program?
I’ve only just begun here at American and yet I’ve already had numerous practical experiences. I’m lucky enough to have an assistantship that allows me to work with the theatre attached to the university: the Greenberg Theatre. Here I’ve been allowed to pursue any passion, working in marketing, electrics, scenic, front of house, and audio. This rounded skill development is perfect for accumulating a vocabulary with which to speak to those I may potentially oversee. Beyond this I’ve had the chance to work in other theatres across the city such as GALA in various capacities. I am also currently in the process of multiple internship applications and hope to add more and more to this list

What do you hope to do with the degree?
Part of the beauty of the degree being an MA, rather than an MFA (which was originally a concern of mine) is that it allows many of my dreams to still be possibilities, rather than forcing my hand and leaving but one or two left viable. I can see myself doing a number of things from managing international tours to production management to possibly being a managing director of a regional theatre. The unique aspect provided by the international certificate also provides new paths I hadn’t thought of; such as arts advocacy, cultural diplomacy, and international arts exchange program leadership. These are all new interests that have me even more excited and convinced that I’m following the right career path.

Violet Morris

What is your background?
I pursued a double major in art history and communications from the University of Michigan because I wanted to leverage my communications skills to advocate for and advance the visual arts. My first job after graduation was managing a small gallery in D.C. Over those two years, I realized that arts administration involves an exceptional range of skills and knowledge, from financial management to public relations to exhibition planning. I knew that a future in the field would require a graduate degree that covered these facets and more.
 
Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
AU’s Arts Management Program is comprehensive, but also tailored. The core classes provide a strong foundation for running an arts organization or business, while electives like Leadership in the Arts and Curatorial Practice provide opportunities for specialization. Of course, I was also drawn to the top-tier faculty. Their expertise translates into an engaging and challenging curriculum, and they have become valuable resources to me.
 
In addition, the capstone is an opportunity to distinguish yourself as an expert in a specific area. I’m working on a thesis on museum branding. It’s a chance to learn more about an area of particular interest to me, while in the process connecting with a network of leading professionals in the sector. A capstone is both a contribution to our field and a valuable self-marketing tool, so AU’s emphasis on this research was a real draw for me.
 
Finally, the program’s partnership with Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London is a major advantage. I’ll be to spending my last semester in the auction house’s Art Business program, which will expose me to the systems and theories of the commercial art world.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
Since joining the program, I’ve interned in development at The Textile Museum, external affairs at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and in public affairs at the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler galleries. Currently, I’m working with Hamiltonian Gallery/Hamiltonian Artists on marketing, development, and art fair support. It’s been so rewarding to gain experience in my various interest areas while expanding my network. In addition, these positions have enhanced my coursework, and vice versa. I’m constantly connecting my work experience with class discussions and projects.
 
What do you hope to do with the degree?
I hope to return to the gallery world, or start a career in museum administration through marketing, public relations, or external affairs. I have to say, it’s a great feeling when your sense of preparedness matches your excitement for the future.

Shannon Musgrave

What is your background?
I came to AU from Salt Lake City, Utah armed with a BA in musical theatre and a thirst for knowledge, connections, and inspiration. After undergrad, I spent four years working for an incredible non-profit theatre company called Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC), while also freelance acting and choreographing.
 
Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
My work at SLAC sparked my interest in arts management, and I’ve had a crush on DC for many years. I love the theatre scene here, I love the history, and I love the traffic. (Is she kidding?) When I discovered AU’s Arts Management Program, I was instantly drawn to its opportunities for real experience and connections, not to mention its attractive job placement rate and the successes of the program’s alumni. I visited in the spring, attended the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium, met the faculty, and I was sold. The faculty here are not only insanely knowledgeable and connected in the arts world, but also incredibly personable, supportive, and helpful. They create a terrific atmosphere to learn, experiment, and grow.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
I’m in my first year of the program and I am currently working as the graduate assistant in the Theatre/Musical Theatre Program here at AU. I’m also serving as assistant to the chair on the committee organizing this year’s Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium - a phenomenal event put on each year by the students of the Arts Management Program. It’s a great opportunity to network with other up-and-coming arts managers, while also getting to meet seasoned professionals and hear about the challenges and successes of their careers. Soon I’ll be deciding where to do my internship. The vast opportunities D.C. offers makes it difficult to decide, but it’s a good problem to have.
 
What do you hope to do with the degree?
The beauty of this program is I’m learning so much about all the different areas of arts management that my hopes and goals are continually evolving. One week I’m sure I want to work in development, the next it’s definitely education and outreach. I am passionate about new work and supporting emerging playwrights, so in whatever capacity I end up working, it will hopefully be with a theatre company dedicated to developing and producing new work.

Chen Yang

What is your background?
I completed my psychology undergraduate degree in Beijing, China, then worked at China Central Television as a journalist for a year before coming to the U.S. for my graduate studies in human development (cognitive and educational psychology) at University of Maryland. After getting my first master’s degree, I worked for a trade association for about two years and developed strong interest in international development and nonprofit management. My passion in the nonprofit arts field was incubated during the same time. I truly believe arts carry solid “soft power” that plays an inevitable role in any forms of national and international communication and collaboration activities. While applying for the master’s program in arts management at American University, I left my job at the trade association and found a temporary position at China National Centre for the Performing Arts’ International Arts Division. Speaking of arts hobbies, I am a Chinese folk dancer and a passionate public arts patron. I’ve recently fallen in love with jazz during a trip to New Orleans.
 
Why did you choose the Arts Management Program at AU?
Washington, D.C. is a national hub for cultural policy and arts advocacy as well as a center for nonprofit arts organizations of all kinds - from grassroots to behemoths. AU’s physical location eases the access to these institutions and some power minds for potential internships and/or work opportunities. Secondly, AU’s arts management study is among the first programs of its kind in the nation. The network of resources that has been built through the decades is huge. For me, coming from a psychology background to the arts was not a natural transition. However, it was helpful to be part of a resourceful network for future career development and various forms of professional collaborations. In addition, AU has established strong programs in the School of International Services and School of Public Affairs that could provide me additional knowledge of international relations, cross-cultural communication, and policy analysis. Finally, AU’s arts management’s curriculum design has left a substantial level of flexibility for students who want to expand knowledge horizon and be more relevant to the ever changing world.
 
What internships/work have you done while in the program?
Being a member of the AU Arts Management Program offers me priceless opportunities to break into the field. I’ve had opportunities to work with National Endowment of Arts, the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, The Freer | Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution, and International Arts and Artists on varieties of internships. Because of my interest in development and international cultural diplomacy, I have been working with American Association of Museums (now known as American Alliance of Museums) on Chinese outreach program as well as an international performing arts facilitator Ping Pong Productions.
 
 
What do you hope to do with the degree?
In the immediate future, I will continue some of my professional activities in international cultural exchange between China and the U.S. I am also going to devote a lot of energy on research in organizational development and arts philanthropy in the international arena. Eventually I hope I can be an entrepreneur working to help senior citizens age well through arts. The Arts Management Program is like a melting pot, which has provided me opportunities to assimilate all my prior experiences and trainings into a cohesive whole towards fulfilling my goal.