Art — a provocative painting or a haunting melody — reflects and shapes the human condition. No matter the medium, art prompts a conversation about meaning, connectedness and relevance. Arts management helps facilitate that conversation in the community. At Tulsa’s 108 Contemporary art gallery, Jen Boyd (BA ’13) and Catherine Crain (BA ’17) use their TU arts management degrees to not only join the art conversation but lead it.
As the communications and program associate at 108 Contemporary, Crain has witnessed a growing Tulsa arts scene. “The Tulsa Arts Community is experiencing a renaissance right now, and all of it is deeply connected with TU,” Crain said.
While at TU, Crain participated in the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences D’Arcy Fellowship, which is a paid internship program that is competitive and challenging with a selective process that matches students with employers, nonprofits, policy think tanks and businesses. Crain spent a summer interning for 108 Contemporary, her future employer. “It prepared me for the job hunt. Getting interviews isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but having that practice and understanding the professional setting, especially as an undergraduate student is important.”
Because there is a persistent misconception that studying art will not lead to a lucrative career, some college students ignore their passion for art. Boyd, the assistant director at 108 Contemporary, wavered between several majors before discovering arts management. “In the beginning of my junior year, I found out about the arts management program, and I thought ‘Wow, this is the perfect thing to mesh my dream for working with art and artists but not actually being an artist,’” Boyd said.
Both Boyd and Crain commonly have had to explain the definition and merits of an arts management degree. “When my father would tell people what my degree was from The University of Tulsa, they would say, ‘What’s she going to do with that?’ He was really proud to tell them that straight out of college, I was employed at 108 Contemporary.”
Professionals in arts management are needed now more than ever. With public schools forced to cut art classes, the Tulsa arts community is stepping up to ensure children experience art. “A great program that is happening right now is Any Given Child, sponsored through the Kennedy Foundation,” Boyd said. “They are bringing every child kindergarten through 8th grade in the Tulsa Public Schools district to arts and cultural organizations and giving them live art experiences.” When area sixth graders visit 108 Contemporary, they not only enjoy seeing the art exhibits, but also learn different art techniques with interactive craft kits.
As Tulsa’s art community continues to flourish, TU offers art students more professional experiences. From internships with the Tulsa Symphony to helping lead art classes at Gilcrease, TU students get out of the classroom and into the real world.
“The TU community is so well-connected to the arts community in Tulsa that you get invaluable, incredible hands on experience,” Crain said. “I truly don’t know of anyone else — whether they’re studying in Dallas, Kansas City, New York or Chicago — coming out of an undergraduate degree with so many things that they can put on their résumé.”
Arts managers are fundraisers, advocates, grant-writers and marketers. From art councils to theaters, art administrators communicate the role of the arts in society.
“Art tells a story and connects to people at an emotional level,” Crain said. “It’s an incredibly unifying thing that can help bridge a lot of differences and connect to people in creative and potent ways.”