SINGAPORE: More students are looking to take up arts management courses, with one school reporting a 30 per cent spike in applications from 2013. With the opening of a major new gallery and several festivals this year, students have seen behind-the-scenes work as an increasingly viable field.
Ms Chin Ailin, 30, is among a growing number of people who are interested in arts management. She recalled taking her students to the theatre, when she taught English Literature in a secondary school.
To pursue her interest in the arts, Ms Chin quit her job to take up a Masters in Arts and Cultural Management at LASALLE in 2015.
"When you look at the arts industry in Singapore in the past decade, for example, it has really just exploded, and it has just accelerated, and so many exciting things are happening, so many things are opening up,” she said. “And I think just the fact that LASALLE had an arts management speciality as well - that was also a very good sign.
“I think all of that just gave me the assurance that this industry is going somewhere and that there are a lot more opportunities that are opening up now."
LASALLE College of the Arts said it has received more applications for such courses in recent years.
"We do see a very competitive student intake nowadays,” said Ms Michelle Loh, a lecturer for Arts Management at the college. “This increase, I think, is attributed to increased knowledge of students, of the younger generation, who have come to know that arts management is a career that they can pursue.
“They know that in the arts, it is more than just performing and putting up an exhibition. Behind the scenes, there is much more that can be done. So we have more students who are in contact with the managing of the arts when they're in school, through their CCAs, maybe through SYF, and from there, they've come to realise that there is a need."
Ms Loh also explained how such courses would help students.
“How are you accountable for an art, whether is it good art or bad art? Should it be censored or should it be not? Should it be priced at a certain level or should it be lower? So these are certain skills and knowledge that arts managers would have, and they would have gotten similar skills such as finance and accounting, law, and how to manage a business. But these are all superficial and very primary skill sets. These skill sets are taught in arts management as well as business management, but in the arts, it's more specific," she said.
Other schools have reported a similar trend. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) offers a Diploma in Arts Management, and its enrolment climbed to 70 students in 2015. The number of applications has also jumped by 30 per cent since 2013. The school started offering the Diploma in Arts Management programme in 2000.
According to NAFA, almost four out of five graduates from the course found related jobs between 2012 and 2014.
Meanwhile, total employment in the arts industry rose from about 24,000 in 2012, to 27,000 in 2014.
Institutions also said developments in the scene could have helped more students see the arts as a viable career option. For example, the opening of the National Gallery Singapore created about 250 new jobs in the arts industry.
The gallery, which showcases Singapore and Southeast Asian modern art, opened in November. It started active hiring in late 2013 and recruited staff from diverse backgrounds.
"We are looking at people who have a passion for arts, some exposure to museum or the gallery's environment, ideally, some relevant working experience in the galleries as well,” said Mr Albert Seah, deputy director of human resource and admin at National Gallery.
“But we know that some of these skill sets are hard to come by, but as we look through, look across, through all the different skill sets that are required, right from the corporate planning to corporate governance to marketing, I think we also need to reach out to a wider audience per se, not just specifically on the arts-related, but also people who have been there done that in terms of the marketing, in terms of business development for example."
To build a bigger talent pool, it has been working with schools and museums to put in place internship and attachment programmes, where students can experience working in the gallery.
To date, the gallery has welcomed interns from LASALLE, Singapore Management University, Yale-NUS College, Nanyang Technological University, School of the Arts, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and various overseas universities for its internship and attachment programmes.
The interns come from various disciplines, including arts management, depending on the projects assigned. The gallery has also been working with other museums to explore ways to widen the talent pool and develop the necessary skill sets.
“We are looking into, for example, how we could go down to schools, for example, build a programme, whereby we have apprenticeships, and whereby the students who come to the different museums and the galleries to have their internships and attachments as well,” said Mr Seah. “And then we provide them with a different environment for them to be trained, to be exposed to the different disciplines. So with that, I think they are able to find an area whereby they can anchor in their future career, and also a place of interest in terms of the passion for the arts.
“One of our challenges in terms of hiring, is in certain skill sets such as artwork handling, artwork management, conservation for example - these are some of the disciplines which you cannot find easily here," he added.
National Gallery hopes to groom more local talent in niche areas where there is a shortage, such as artwork handling, artwork management and conservation.
While Dr Jeffrey Tan, vice dean of Arts Management Programmes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, said there is ultimately a limit to the number of jobs in museums, he added that arts management courses equip students with transferable skills that can be applied to different jobs.