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Gabriel Benghiat

Learning (and Lunching) in the Bolz Center for Arts Administration

by Gabriel Benghiat Monday, November 16, 2015

We’re doing some seriously cool things in the Bolz Center this semester.

Weekly Lunch & Learn sessions and our Arts Administration Seminar class provide us the opportunity to go beyond the core business classes and spend time examining arts and nonprofit management. The great thing about the career specialization model in the Full-Time MBA Program is the career preparation tailored to each of our interests and the chance to jump into the specifics of each industry.

On Wednesdays, the Bolzies spend the afternoon exploring what it means to be an arts administrator. Each week, a student or faculty member leads the Lunch & Learn session, where we eat and discuss current topics and trends in the field. Recent topics have included STEM vs. STEAM education, the launch of Handmade at Amazon, municipal tax funding for the arts, and the partnership between Oregon Ballet Theatre and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (yep, good ole’ PBR). We are able to take a break from debits and credits, bond amortizations, and regressions and really focus on the issues that are most relevant to us.

After the weekly Lunch & Learn session, we head directly into our Arts Administration class, which is a key component of the Arts Administration curriculum. Guest speakers often join us to lead the class and work with us on different areas of arts management. These seminar classes are an incredible opportunity to actively engage with top leaders in the field through discussions and workshops relating specifically to the work we will be doing upon graduation. Whether they’re alumni of the program or special friends of the Bolz Center, these speakers help us build incredible knowledge and give us an insider’s perspective of the industry. This is also an indispensable networking opportunity for each of us. So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to have Chad Bauman, Managing Director of Milwaukee Repertory Theater talk with us about marketing strategies for earned revenue development; a crash course in development with alumni Pete Schmeling from the UW Foundation and Dani Luckett from Madison Children’s Museum; and a panel about the Creative Economy that included Anne Katz of Arts Wisconsin, alumnus George Tzougros of the Wisconsin Arts Board, Todd Schmidt from the Village of Waunakee, WI, and Christine Harris of Christine Harris Connections.

In each seminar class, we dive deeper in the specifics of managing an arts or nonprofit organization. These sectors require some nuanced business insight that extends what we’re learning in our core classes (which tend to focus on the for-profit sector). So, Arts Administration Seminar really rounds out our knowledge and prepares us to leave here as both great business leaders and great arts leaders. It’s a great complement to our other classes.

At the same time, what we’ve learned in our core classes enriches and frames our seminar discussions and allows us to dive deeper into understanding what goes into managing arts organizations. For example, last week we were provided a workshop on financial management for nonprofits with Scott Haumerson from Wegner CPAs. Because we all now know how to create and analyze financial statements from our accounting class, we were able to really dive into looking at the specifics of nonprofit financial management and have a very active discussion with Scott.

A major component of these weekly discussions is to draw upon our own experiences from the organizations we have worked at or are working at during our Project Assistantships. Our discussions are so much richer when we can tie in real-life examples. Everyone’s backgrounds are in different areas of arts management, yet we all share the same passion for the arts and the desire to grow as arts leaders. This type of specialized class is a key draw of the Bolz Center and an incredible complement to our Wisconsin School of Business education.