The Wisconsin MBA Program in arts administration is committed to providing hands-on learning opportunities in arts and community management. To help ensure that you are prepared for a career in arts leadership, the program incorporates direct experience creating viable strategies for respected cultural organizations. In addition, students make site visits to leading organizations around the country, and each student gains firsthand experience with leadership and group decision-making by serving on a nonprofit board.

Engage with Leading Arts Organizations

Applied learning scholarship projects with local arts organizations are integrated directly into the Wisconsin MBA Program in arts administration. You will engage with a wide variety of distinguished cultural organizations, including the Overture Center for the Arts, Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Wisconsin Union Directorate, to provide strategic recommendations on real business opportunities. In the past, students have consulted on topics ranging from improving the financial capacity of the organization and board development to strategy road maps and fund development. The leadership experience you gain will be a valuable building block in your career.

Connect with National Arts Innovators

Each year, arts administration students attend the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference in New York City. As part of a longstanding relationship between the Wisconsin School of Business and APAP, students collaborate with APAP on special projects and are granted unique access to events and speakers. In a recent student-led project, students evaluated the effectiveness of an APAP youth leadership development program and presented their findings and recommendations to APAP executive leadership. By providing networking, research opportunities, and exchanges of information among arts administration professionals, artists, and Wisconsin MBA students, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference offers an inside look at the strategies used by leading arts administration professionals.

Students participating in the annual APAP Conference
Wisconsin MBA students in arts administration participate in the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference, held each January in New York City.

Make a Lasting Impact on the Arts

The arts administration specialization in the Wisconsin MBA Program creates community leaders in arts and nonprofit organizations by facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships between local institutions and our students. Arts administration students receive valuable real-world experience through consulting projects, conducted as capstone courses, in which they create strategic plans connecting communities, municipal leaders, and funding sources for culturally significant groups.

For example, second-year arts administration students engaged in a consulting project involving the creation of a community-wide strategic cultural plan for Kenosha, Wis. The project gave the students the opportunity to collaborate with key community stakeholders, including local artists, business leaders, the mayor, and other civic officials.

Another recent project involved broadening the community engagement of Shake Rag Alley, a lively arts education center in Mineral Point, Wis. Students created a plan for Shake Rag Alley to engage with untapped sectors in the community, and create new and sustainable activities to attract local support, and chart growth projections.

Students working with Shake Rag Alley

For their second-year consulting project, arts administration students developed a plan to help Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts broaden community engagement.

Experience the Cutting Edge in Arts Leadership

Wisconsin MBA students in arts administration make regular visits to some of the leading innovators of cultural, arts, and community development across the country. Site visits bring students to diverse community art spaces and influential organizations in both the nonprofit and industry sectors. Recent visits to the Milwaukee Public Museum, Arts & Business Council of Chicago, Chicago Cultural Alliance, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Symphony, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland Art Museum, and Oregon Public Broadcasting gave students valuable insights into the ways different organizations deploy a variety of management techniques to achieve their goals. Trips to Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Portland have provided opportunities to hear from innovators on the forefront of community and arts engagement, while enabling students to make meaningful connections with influential alumni in successful organizations around the nation.

Collaborate with Arts Professionals

As a student in the arts administration specialization, you will have unprecedented access to arts and community leaders at the Arts Business Research Symposium, held every other year at the Wisconsin School of Business. Alumni, faculty, and friends from across the country join the Wisconsin MBA Program to network, sharpen professional skills, and share the latest research and best practices in arts and cultural leadership. You'll hear from the industry's most innovative minds on topics ranging from creative place-making and enterprise funding to building community support. In addition, the Bolz Center for Arts Administration hosts the Bolz Center Collegium, which brings together alumni, advisory board members, and arts and nonprofit professionals to network and discuss current industry trends. Recent collegium presenters have shared their perspectives on topics such as grant opportunities for local arts communities. Extensive networking sessions enable students to connect and interact with arts professionals one on one. Students act as facilitators to these conferences, planning presentations based on the research shared by faculty, peers, and guest professionals.

Speakers at a conference
Thought leaders from around the country are invited to speak at annual conferences and symposia hosted by the Bolz Center for Arts Administration in the Wisconsin School of Business.

Contribute to a Community Advisory Board

During year two of the program, the nonprofit board leadership class puts arts administration students in actual advisory positions on local nonprofit and arts leadership boards. Students on board leadership projects have contributed to the development of governance policies, fund reserve policies, and proposals to rework bylaws for leading local nonprofits such as the Goodman Community Center, the Clean Lakes Alliance, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. These direct leadership experiences with well-respected arts and cultural institutions prepare Wisconsin MBA graduates to lead diverse teams and work with governance boards to achieve successful outcomes.

Matt Dreier

“One of the things I loved best about being a student in the arts administration specialization was the full range of activities throughout the experience. One day I was analyzing the future value of a bond in finance class, and later that evening I was engaged in a discussion of the different aspects of national nonprofit development. Every day as a Wisconsin MBA student in arts administration is an immersion in learning, which is why I spent long hours in Grainger Hall trying to soak it all in.”

—Matt Dreier, MBA

Sarah Sosa-Acevedo

“Applied learning is a cornerstone of the Wisconsin MBA Program curriculum. Throughout the semester, we had nonstop interactions with managers and leaders in the arts. From one-day workshops, visits to organizations, and conversations with alumni and seminar guest speakers, our applied learning helped me connect what I'd learned in the classroom with what I need to know in an executive leadership career.”

—Sarah Sosa-Acevedo, MBA

Jessie Wright

“As a development intern for the Overture Center for the Arts, I experienced connections from my first few weeks of class and my project assistantship. I looked at balance sheets and budget projections, and met with world-class professionals to strategize fundraising and marketing objectives. The Overture Center was enormously welcoming, jumping right in with me and trusting me as a member of their team. What an incredible opportunity the arts administration specialization has given us: to continue working in the arts world as we intensively study how to be more effective leaders within it.”

—Jessie Wright, MBA

The Arts Administration Experience

Wisconsin MBA students in arts administration travel across the country regularly to see marquee nonprofit programs in action, connect with successful arts organizations, and lead strategic initiatives for nonprofit development. Learn more about how these applied learning opportunities prepare our graduates to tackle some of the industry's most pressing challenges.

Hear from our students