Earlier this summer I posted about my frustration with arts organizations who seem to be ignoring the help of trained arts managers. One of the individuals I wrote about (who also happens to be my husband) posed an interesting question:
When putting together an artistic team for a stand-alone event, we seek out contract artists, actors, directors, designers, techies, or whatever we need on the artistic side. Why aren’t there freelance arts managers we can add to the team?
Certainly there are “freelance” arts managers, except we call them consultants, and they are usually people who have a lot of experience in overarching managerial needs, like strategic planning or fundraising. I also know event planners, who are called in primarily for fundraising events. But an itinerant arts manager, working show to show like a director or actor? Not so much.
Part of the reason for this is certainly because administrative matters often can’t be limited to a single event. It’s hard to ramp up sponsorship sales from nothing a few months prior to the event and expect any kind of success. And most good arts managers believe that planning, market research and relationship building go on 24/7/365, so it may go against our grain a bit to just be called in for a single event rather than putting in place the infrastructure that will lead to long term success.
It seems to me that contract arts managers would be useful for smaller organizations or one-off artistic projects, since larger organizations have enough work to be able to hire full time, year-round administrative staff. But for small budget organizations, it is often board members who act as de facto managers, which takes their focus away from what a board should really be doing – governing the organization.
But if the planning is sound, the research is done ahead of time, and as much care is taken with administration as with planning the artistic aspects, why not just hire someone and say here- you take care of the room scheduling, the travel details, the printing deadlines and the opening night reception?
What are your thoughts? Arts managers, what are the upsides and downsides of working on contract like actors, directors, curators and techies?