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«Managers theAl s Careers and opinions of senior administrators of U.S. art museums, symphony orchestras, resident theaters, and local arts agencies. ...»

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theAl s

Careers and opinions of senior administrators

of U.S. art museums, symphony orchestras,

resident theaters, and local arts agencies.

Paul DiMaggio

~ Research Division Report #20

National Endowment for the Arts


Washington, D.C./Cabin John, Md.

Managers of the Arts is Report # 20 in a series on matters of interest to

the arts community commissioned by the Research Division of the Na­

tional Endowment for the Arts.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

1. Arts administrators--United States. 2. Arts surveys--United States.

I. National Endowment for the Arts. II. Title. III. Series: Research Division report (National Endowment for the Arts. Research Division); 20.

NX765.D56 1987 700’.92’2 87-9719 ISBN 0-932020-50-X (pbk.) Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Research Division, under Grant NEA-02-4050-001.

Edited by Jane Gold Designed by Dan Thomas Printed by Thomson-Shore, Inc., Dexter, Michigan Manufactured in the United States of America First edition, September 1987 Seven Locks Press Publishers P.O. Box 27 Cabin John, Maryland 20818 301-320-2130 Books of Seven Locks Press are distributed to the trade by National Book Network Inc.

4720A Boston Way Lanham, MD 20706 I ntrod uctio n Executive Summary Index America’s first arts organizations were founded in simpler times. When Henry Lee Higginson established the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 188 l, its business affairs could be handled by a single paid manager, amply ad­ vised by Higginson himself. Approximately one mile from the orchestra’s offices, the new Boston Museum of Fine Arts was also managed by a skeleton crew, with trustees doing most of the work. Even in the 1950s, when the residenttheater movement began to grow, most theaters were administered by their charismatic founders during moments stolen from artistic duties.

In all these settings, the key personnel were experts in the artistic work at the core of their organizations’ missions. For many years, conductors, curators, and artistic directors were undisputedly the most visible and most important members of the institutional art world.

During the last two decades, however, full-time administrative roles have become more prominent in America’s arts organizations, and their functions have become more formalized. Two factors have led to this development: the internal growth of the organization and the increased com­ plexity of its external environment.

It is a staple of management literature that growth leads to differentia­ tion, and differentiation increases the demands on administrators.~ As organizations grow, they assume more tasks and need more employees to perform the tasks they already have. As the numbers of tasks and employees increase, functions that had been carried out by a single person are delegated to additional personnel, who may eventually be designated as a discrete department. (In theaters, for example, artistic directors begat managing direc­ tors who begat marketing, development, and public relations staffs.) The more employees and departments, the harder to coordinate their activities.

(The artistic director of the 1950s may have had a difficult time handling his theater’s administrative chores, but at least his right hand knew what his left hand was doing.) Consequently, management becomes more essential.

In addition, as the external environments of many arts organizations become more complex, the amount and importance of managerial work also increase.2 The museum director of the 1930s had only to manage his curators and volunteers, pursue collectors, and, if the museum benefited from municipal funds, court an occasional politician. The museum direc­ tor of the 1980s seeks support not just from private patrons, but from cor­ porations, private foundations, and the state and federal governments as well. To maintain legitimacy in their eyes, the director must be more con­ cerned than ever before both with the museum’s public image and success in attracting visitors, and with its ability to produce reasonably complete and auditable accounts that meet the requirements public and private agen­ cies impose. Consequently, museums today are more likely than those in the past to have an assistant or associate director for administration, a con­ troller, and departments like marketing, public relations, development, and government relations that concern themselves with the museum’s relation­ ships with its environment; and museum directors today devote more time to administration and public relations and less time to scholarship than did their predecessors.

These changes have been widely acknowledged. Interviews with the chief executive and operating officers of arts organizations suggest that most arts organizations’ boards have become increasingly concerned with the quality of administration. Service organizations have established intemships, workshops, and other training programs to prepare and assist administrators.

The National Endowment for the Arts, through its "Services to the Field" funding categories, has aided many efforts to improve administration, and many state arts agencies sponsor extensive technical assistance programs.

Private foundations have supported workshops, conferences, and arts ad­ ministration degree programs, as well.

But despite this activity, we have known little about the individuals who occupy the top administrative posts in our nation’s arts organizations.

Until now, research in this area has been restricted primarily to salary studies.

Such research is valuable, of course, but it tells us little about either ex­ ecutive labor markets in the arts or the executives themselves--their backgrounds and training, their careers, and their attitudes on management and policy issues.

–  –  –

In 1981, survey instruments were mailed to the chief operating officers (identified by initial phone calls to the target organizations) of four popula­ tions of arts organizations, with requests that they be completed and returned.

These were followed by a second mailing, also including a survey form, and, where necessary, by a follow-up postcard and by one or more telephone calls. Each survey instrument was reviewed by at least one National En­ dowment for the Arts program staff member and at least one staff person at the appropriate service organization.

Although we sought to survey top managers of the major organizations in each of the fields studied, the population definition differed somewhat among the four. The resident theater population consisted of managing direc­ tors of the 165 member resident theaters listed in Theatre Profiles 4 of the Theatre Communications Group. Wherever a resident theater had both an "executive producer" and a "general manager," the producer was surveyed,’ as were several artistic directors who also acted as managing directors for their theaters. In one case in which a theater was managed collectively by its artistic personnel, no survey was administered.

The 165 theaters surveyed included all or almost all of the largest resi­ dent theaters in the United States, as well as most of the artistically promi­ nent ones, the membership of the League of Resident Theaters, and all 29 theaters listed as having staff on the National Endowment for the Arts’ Theater Policy and Grants panels from 1977 through 1979. In addition, these theaters received approximately 80 percent of all Endowment grants to theaters in 1979. Although one study of the nonprofit theater universe counted 620 nonprofit theaters in the United States in 1980, only some were resident theaters.5 Of those, the group surveyed was less likely to include very new, very small, or very poor theaters, or theaters devoted largely to social rather than to conventionally defined aesthetic goals.

In the case of orchestras, we surveyed all managers of U.S. member organizations in the major, regional, and metropolitan categories of the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL). Interviews indicated that all orchestras in the "major" and "regional" categories and 95 of approx­ imately 105 orchestras in its "metropolitan" budget range were ASOL members. (These three categories accounted for 156 organizations in 1979.)6 Because the American Association of Museums (AAM) does not publish lists of art (as distinct from other) museums, identifying the largest art museums was more complicated than identifying major resident theaters and orchestras. From the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) 1978 Museum Universe Survey7 we drew up an initial list of 137 art museums with operating budgets of $120,000 or more, to which we added art museums reporting either attendance of 60,000 or more, or a total budget


of $220,000 or more.8 This list was then checked against the Museum Directory 1980 to screen out museums incorrectly classified as art museums,9 and to the remaining 175 institutions we added 17 that were not included in the NCES list: 13 art museums that reported budgets of $500,000 or more in the 1978 American Art Directory, and 4 whose direc­ tors were members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).~° The total population of large art museums thus derived numbered 192.

To develop a list of CAAs, we began with a survey made by the National Assembly of Community Arts Agencies (NACAA)(now the National Assem­ bly of Local Arts Agencies) of their own membership. NACAA estimated the universe of CAAs to number approximately 2000. Directors of all agen­ cies reporting a full-time professional administrator in response to the NACAA inquiry were included in our study’s population. Although we can­ not assess rigorously the extent to which the agencies in our population dif­ fered from those that were not NACAA members and/or those without fulltime paid administrators, our agencies were probably larger or wealthier than most (because they could afford to employ full-time directors) and were relatively cosmopolitan (because they participated in a national organiza­ tion). Nonetheless, our f’mdings regarding CAA directors should be inter­ preted with caution since we know so little about the universe of agencies.

After we eliminated organizations that were defunct or that did not, at the time of the survey, have full-time executives, we were left with responses from 102 theater managing directors (a response rate of 68.67.percent), 113 orchestra managers (72.67 percent), 132 art museum direc­ tors (67.20 percent), and 171 CAA directors (86.54 percent).

Merging our data with information from Theatre Profiles 4 permitted us to test the sample of resident theater managing directors on a variety of factors for response bias. These tests revealed that respondents’ and nonrespondents’ theaters were similar across a wide range of variables, in­ cluding region, house capacity and percentage of seats filled, percentage of income earned, and mean income.

Among art museum directors, only museum region could be used to test for response bias. Response was somewhat higher for directors from the Great Lakes, Mid-South, and Gulf regions (74.19 percent) than for direc­ tors from the Pacific, Northwest, Southwest, North Plains, and South Plains regions (60.00), with the response rate of directors from New England, the Middle Atlantic states, and New York close to the population mean.

Response rates of orchestra managers varied not by region but by ASOL budget classification. Almost all of the regional managers responded to the survey, compared with just under two thirds of the metropolitan managers.

Response from major managers was close to the population mean.


Lastly, for CAA directors, our survey was merged with data from NACAA’s 1980 survey (from which our sample was derived), providing several tests of sample bias. Response rates were very similar by region, degree of urbanization of community served, and budget size; however, directors of private, undesignated nonprofit agencies were less likely to re­ spond (78.13 percent) than were directors of either publicly designated non­ profit agencies or public CAAs (90.32 percent and 92.11 percent, respectively).

Because none of the surveys, then, appears to be flawed by dramatic response bias, given the qualifications cited and the relatively high response rates, analyses can, for the most part, be generalized to the populations surveyed.

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