Close this search box.
Twelve functions of arts management under

Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash.

Andrew Taylor, Twelve Functions of Arts Management, The Artful Manager, 29 November 2021

Ask any arts professional or arts-management academic about the “functions” of arts management and they will likely have a ready list in mind. Production, marketing, management, finance, accounting, fundraising, and such, are common to division of labor in the arts. They show up in department names, job titles, conference workshops, and curriculum requirements in arts management degrees. But I haven’t seen many efforts to capture and sort these functions in more durable and consistent ways – or rather, what I’ve seen has been either too specific to an artistic discipline or too general to nonprofit management writ large.

So, here’s my attempt, posted for commentary and critique, suggestion and revision (either in the comments section, or on this comment-enabled Google Doc).

What’s a “function”? By one of Webster’s definitions, a function is “any of a group of related actions contributing to a larger action.” The word comes from the Latin action noun functio (verb fungor) which refers to something performed or executed. While it is NOT particularly productive to consider functions as fully distinct and separate (because they’re not), it CAN BE productive to explore and understand the definable pieces of a whole and their relationship to each other. Worth noting that I don’t count some roles/efforts as functions here (management, policy, strategy, as examples) if they interweave and intermingle many other functions.

What’s “arts management”? By my definition, it’s the “practice of aggregating and animating people, money, and stuff toward expressive ends.” And for these functions, I’m specifically focusing on efforts that cannot or choose not to capture their full cost through earned revenue (generally, not-for-profit organizations or NGOs, although not exclusively).

My current list includes twelve functions and their short definitions, sorted into four categories (which are also evolving, and which may or may not be useful). What think?

ENTERPRISE FUNCTIONS (generative, defining/determining the larger action and purpose)

  • Creation | Curation
    Imagining, invoking, constructing, selecting, and contextualizing creative actions or objects. Creation is the function of manifesting those imaginations into living practice. Curation is the function of assembling creative works into a larger relationship with other actions, objects, or experiences.

ENGAGING FUNCTIONS (outward facing, connective to audience and community)

  • Program | Production
    Developing, assembling, preserving, and presenting coherent services or experiences related to the created or curated work.
  • Marketing
    Creating, communicating, and reinforcing expected or experienced value for audiences, communities, and societies.
  • Hospitality (I’m not fond of this word, but I don’t have a good alternate yet)
    Welcoming, serving, and supporting guests, visitors, neighbors, staff, and artists.
  • Contributed Income
    Attracting, securing, aligning, and retaining contributed resources.
  • Earned Income
    Designing, deriving, and capturing inbound revenue from goods, services, or access.

ENACTING FUNCTIONS (inward facing, constructive and supportive of the work)

  • People Operations
    Designing and implementing organizational structures that attract, hire, retain, and develop people within the enterprise.
  • Spaces | Systems
    Selecting, securing, stewarding, developing, and harnessing the built environment and technological infrastructure.
  • Finance
    Managing systems of money, investments, assets, and other financial instruments.

ENABLING FUNCTIONS (at the intersection of inward/outward, framing and informing other functions)

  • Governance
    Structuring and sustaining purpose, outcomes, rules, norms, resources, and accountability.
  • Contracting
    Negotiating and collaborating with individuals and institutions.
  • Accounting
    Recording, summarizing, analyzing, and reporting financial transactions.

NOTE: This list draws inspiration from Otto Scharmer’s “Twelve Functions of Management” in Theory U, Henry Mintzberg “Model of Managing” in Managing, and a range of other such efforts by Ellen Rosewall, David M. Conte and Stephen Langley, and many others.