Arts Management: Why It’s Not For Everyone

I’ve been absent from this blog for a while, partly because I didn’t know what to write, and partly because I have been extremely busy with work and studying towards my ACCA qualification. But the exam is over (I passed, thank the Lord), and I feel like enough time has finally passed for me to write this post without malice.

Those of you who have long been following me, or know me personally, know that I’ve doddled in many studies and many fields (at the oh-so-knowledgeable age of 18-21, *ahem) before I fell into finance. I studied fine arts at the Ontario College of Art & Design, from where I transferred to the University of Toronto to complete my degree, majoring in Arts Management.

Now, let me preface by saying that if it weren’t for the Arts Management program at UTSC, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Strangely enough, if it weren’t for Arts Management, there is almost no way I could’ve gotten a foot into the door leading to the world of accounting – but that’s a whole other story. Arts Management just… isn’t for everyone.

The Arts Management program was really good at promotion. We all knew from the get-go that it wasn’t about maximising profits, or earning six-figure salaries. They marketed themselves instead in an idealistic way, promising fulfilling experiences and ever-lasting friendships. Well. Very quickly into my first year I realised that both the professors and the students were a little well, to put it straight, hypocritical and naively optimistic.

They judged and frowned upon BBA students the same way they accused the BBA students of looking down upon the arts. There was always a hint of “modest arrogance” as students or professors presented their opinions to the class.

They policed and micro-managed your every move, contradictory to the program’s supposed policy. What really drove me up the wall was that despite the program’s claim to “accepting different perspectives”, they only accepted what they agreed with. Any opinion that didn’t match theirs was automatically recessive thinking, and you’d be hated for it.

Nevermind the day one of my professors told me, “I’m giving you an A because this paper is well-written, but I want you know that I no longer respect you as a woman”.

Furthermore, if you weren’t on the edge of your seat, jumping up and down to answer questions, you were automatically perceived as the student who wasn’t trying or paying attention. In my first year, I made an effort to fit in. I quickly realised I was kidding myself, and decided I just needed to sit down, shut up, and graduate… fast (because I couldn’t financially afford to change my major again).

Apart from that, the program called for a whole lot of “it depends” answers. I hated that. I like rules. I  like a formula, stability, routines, and discipline. Arts Management was definitely none of that. There were a thousand answers – none correct, none incorrect. I felt like I was constantly doing useless work. Lectures were also held for an unnecessary 3 hours – the first half completely consisting of debating on recent news and events. Perhaps this is important for an Arts Manager, but that’s why I can never be an Arts Manager. In my mind, I paid the university for a service – a service which was undelivered.

I’m not sure how much has changed in the past year, but there were also extremely limited staff. The program director taught well, almost every course. No doubt she is a brilliant woman, but it means we would have gotten limited expertise, and the same perspective on every subject. Due to her busy schedule, I also doubt she really took any real time to mark our assignments. I’ve yet to receive any feedback on my papers – a grade would just randomly appear at the end of the semester.

In the end, I became so fed up with my former Arts Managers acquaintances that I made a few hundred dollars’ donation to a senior course as a thank-you, and proceeded to delete everyone I had met from my address book.

After all this ranting, it’s still not to say that Arts Management at UTSC is necessarily a bad program. It just wasn’t for me. The majority of the students enjoyed it, and to this day can be found happily working as successful theatre managers, or program co-ordinators. But that’s because they fit the profile. My fellow classmates who thought more like me definitely all disliked the program, or straight up quit.

So basically, if you’re considering Arts Management at UTSC, understand that you’re either going to love it, or hate it. And good things can still come out of completing the program, even if you do hate the experience.

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