Art gallery management takes more than a passionate interest and a keen eye. It takes a unique knowledgebase and a combination of technical and soft skills to enter and succeed in the field. A degree in art business is a good place to start, but to build a long-term career, you’ll need to plan a path that’s rich in knowledge, experience, connections, and an unwavering work ethic.
To Become an Art Gallery Manager, You’ll Need a Degree
Large art galleries often require managers to have advanced degrees, but you can begin your career with a degree in art and experience at art shows and small galleries. Choose a degree program that meets basic educational requirements and also those specific to art and the business of art. Among the courses to look for are:
- Fine Arts
- Art Appreciation
- Art History
- Modern Art
- Drawing Fundamentals
- Graphic Design
- Portfolio Presentation
Depending on the type of art you hope to manage, you’ll also want to choose electives wisely. Consider such focuses as Sculpture, Painting, Ceramics, Photography, and Printing.
Find an Internship at an Art Gallery
During your undergraduate work, attain an internship at a local gallery. Alternatively, you might find one working at a museum or college—even if it’s not yours. Or perhaps there are local artists who regularly exhibit and need some help. The purpose of any internship is to learn how things are done in that future role you hope to have. As you observe and learn, be sure to ask questions, offer to help wherever you might be needed, and be a sponge for the knowledge available to you. If you can’t find an internship at a gallery, museum, or institution of higher education, consider volunteering your time. Nonprofits like small museums often have limited budgets and rely on volunteers to fill the void.
Network with People in the Art World
Begin networking in school with professors and peers. Your instructors already have networks of their own you might be able to tap into and your peers will be professionals one day. Get to know them now and they’ll remember you later. You’ll meet contacts at your internships and when you volunteer. Be sure to ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. But don’t stop there. Attend shows, visit galleries, support local artists. Network with others in the field and learn as much as you can from them. This can help you increase your knowledge and give you connections you may be able to call on later in your career. Consider asking one or more of your new contacts to serve as a mentor. Professionals who love what they do often are happy to share their world with others.
Hone Skills That Will Make You a Successful Art Gallery Manager
Focus your learning on the different skills you need to run an art gallery. Get as much practice and understanding as you can with the following:
- Written and oral communication
- Marketing and Selling Art
- Flexibility to deal with many different types of people
- Leadership and motivation
- Practical acumen in programs like Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and social media apps
Consider Art as Business
If you choose an art business degree, you’ll learn all about art and also the important skillset you’ll need to help operate a business. Target programs that develop a wide range of skills, including:
- Business Management
- Internet Marketing
- Art History
- Various computer programs like spreadsheets, word processing, slide decks, etc.
If you want a career in art, there may be another reason to continue on your path. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for archivists, curators and gallery workers will grow 19% (much faster than average) from 2020 to 2030. Get ready now.
Bluefield University offers an art business bachelor’s degree taught in a nurturing Christian learning environment. Our art studies programs are housed inside the historic brick Donald and Maria Cox Visual Arts Building. This space was designed to inspire and build creativity for everyone that walks inside. Request more info to learn how a degree in art business might help you on your path to managing an art gallery.