Arts & Cultural Industries: Enriching Communities Through Arts and Culture

By Ann Talbott Brown, Director of Arts Education –

What are Arts and Cultural Industries?

Arts and Cultural Industries involve a cross-sector of government, nonprofit organizations, businesses and individual artists and performers that enrich communities through arts and cultural activities. A career in arts and culture is often referred to as arts administration or arts management but also includes artists and performers. This career takes place in museums, performing arts centers, dance and theatre companies, music venues, studios, foundations, arts agencies and more. Mission-driven work is at the heart of this career with professionals delivering programs and services that strengthen communities through arts and culture. Creating art is also central to this career, either with individuals creating new works of art or professionals supporting artists in their artistic pursuits.

What is A Typical Day Like?

A typical day depends on the position and organization. People who work in the arts and culture sector contribute to arts activities from conception to implementation. Programs and services may include performances, festivals, arts exhibitions and community arts education. They enjoy a mix of responsibilities including: creative programming, production, fundraising, budgeting, board development, marketing, teaching, presenting and more. The day in the life may include meetings with colleagues and community members, planning for an upcoming show, researching best practices and trends, creating a new work of art, and operating both in a general office environment as well as spaces conducive for creating and displaying art such as a music studio, dance rehearsal space or art gallery.

What Kind of Person Is Best Suited?

While many professionals have a background in the arts, a person with managerial, financial, and/or programmatic skills is also equipped to succeed in this field. Both creative thinkers and strategic thinkers are well-suited along with those who have collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills and thrive in imaginative but oftentimes fast-paced environments. People who are inspired by the arts, driven to create in the arts or are passionate about providing others with access to the arts are best suited for this industry.

What Kind of Education is Generally Required?

Professionals come into the Arts and Cultural Industries with undergraduate degrees in any of the artistic disciplines including dance, folk arts, media arts, literary arts, music, theatre and visual arts. In addition to arts degrees, professionals often bring degree concentrations in cultural policy, business, consulting, education, communications, nonprofit management or technical production. Undergraduate and graduate degrees in arts administration/arts management often merge arts study with several areas of concentration. Or there are education programs tailored to specific sub-sectors of the Arts and Cultural Industries such as degree programs in music business or museum studies.

What Growth is Possible?

There are varying degrees of growth possible depending on the selected career track. Arts administration careers may begin with program assistants or associates, advance to program managers, and peek at artistic directors and executive directors. Individual artists and performers’ paths for growth depend largely on whether individuals are self-employed, contract with organizations, or are full-time employees. There are also opportunities to grow within the academic and research sides of this field which often follow traditional paths in academia.

What is the Greatest Challenge and Greatest Reward in this Career?

Because this field encompasses a wide-range of job possibilities, one of the greatest challenges to this career is finding the position that fits the interests and needs of the individual. There is not always a direct path as this career may involve working in a variety of settings and gathering knowledge and skills along the way to the perfect job. The greatest reward in this career is being part of an industry that embraces the need to create. This work inspires people and makes communities better places to live by providing opportunities to experience, produce and learn in the arts.

How Much is This Career in Demand?

Tennessee is known for its rich artistic heritage and cultural assets. The arts and culture sector is an important part of Tennessee’s economy with music being a particular area of strength.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

  • Between 2013 and 2014, Tennessee experienced a 0.7 percent growth in Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA) employment which means the number of jobs in the arts and culture sector increased.
  • Compensation for arts-related jobs in Tennessee also grew 5 percent between 2013 and 2014 compared to an increase of 4.96 percent in compensation for the U.S.

According to Americans for the Arts:

  • As of April 2017, 673,656 businesses are involved in the creation or distribution of the arts and employ 3.48 million people in the U.S. This represents 4.01 percent of all U.S. businesses and 2.04 percent of all U.S. employees.
  • Mapping of the Arts and Cultural Industries shows these businesses are broadly distributed geographically and thriving in communities throughout the U.S.

Additional Information

Some types of individual artists and performers, government, nonprofit organizations and businesses included in the Arts and Cultural Industries are listed below. For additional information, research the Definition of the Creative Industries with Classifications of the Nation’s Arts-Related Businesses put forth by Americans for the Arts.

Individual artists and performers are those who by education, experience or natural talent engage in a particular art form or discipline. Examples include: actors, choreographers, composers, craft makers, creative writers, dancers, filmmakers, muralists, musicians, photographers, puppeteers, songwriters, storytellers and weavers.

Examples of government, nonprofit organizations and businesses include: arts councils, museums, arts centers, art galleries, symphony orchestras, theatrical companies, opera companies, performing arts centers, community arts centers, dance studios, instrument manufacturing companies, arts schools, booking agencies, film production companies, festivals and publishing companies.

Links to Learn More about Arts and Cultural Industries

This article was originally published in the Tennessee Career Guide: The Official Guidebook for Tennessee High School Students Selecting a Career, Issue 2017-2018, pages 38-39.