Behind Houston’s electric dance recitals and breathtaking vocal performances are managers, administrators and directors. The University of Houston’s Master of Arts in Arts Leadership Program (MAAL) is preparing students to step into these crucial leadership positions.
MAAL’s courses focus on developing students’ administrative and managerial skills within for- and non-profit arts organizations. Moreover, the curriculum taps into an ever-growing Houston art sector and cultivates students’ outside interests and abilities.
UH alumna Lauren Miller, one of the nine students entering the program this year, says she’s excited to both learn and apply these skills.
Miller received her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance in 2017 at the Moores School of Music, where she studied opera and classical music, before later turning to teaching. She believes MAAL will help her achieve her ultimate goal of creating educational outreach programs rather than just honing in on her individual craft.
“I feel like, as an artist or a person who went to music school, I have the creative side but haven’t explored the business side,” Miller says. “Just in the first week of MAAL, we’re already talking about how we can get funding and develop our programs in a way that will sustain them.”
The program recently introduced two new courses, Introduction to Museum and Gallery Management and Introduction to Arts and Health, that echo Miller’s experience. These courses are designed to prepare students for positions in budding fields and answer community needs, explains Fleurette Fernando, director of MAAL.
"There is no graduate course of study for Museum and Gallery Management in Houston at this time, which is surprising since we have such a huge and accomplished museum district,” Fernando says. “The sector expressed to us how much it needs trained employees who have basic skills to fill in entry-level positions. We’re aiming to respond to the community with this program.”
Stacy Tanet and Jennifer Staples, two new MAAL students entering the program alongside Miller, feel the same way.
Tanet, who studied theatre arts during her undergraduate studies, looks forward to returning to the art sector. A certified paralegal and division order analyst working in the oil and gas industry, she hopes to reengage with the Houston arts community and use her legal and accounting experience to help other artists with their creative endeavors. MAAL allows her to combine her passion for the arts with her professional experience.
“I am looking forward to being an asset to artists by freeing them from those legal, financial issues,” Tanet says. “I hope to pursue more legal and accounting education to better sharpen my skills for both my daytime job, as well as working in the Houston arts leadership and art community.”
Likewise, Staples agrees with Tanet and says, “I’m taking finance, fundraising, and art and technology courses. The examples they give in class are applicable to my current work as the artistic administrative associate at the Houston Ballet. The more I learn the ins-and-outs of non-profit organizations, the more I can contribute to my current work and organization.”
After moving from Los Angeles to Houston to work at the Houston Ballet, Staples discovered MAAL by word-of-mouth. Her coworkers, themselves alumni, recommended the program as the perfect next step in her career. Now in her fourth week, Staples said she’s thrilled to be a part of this enlightening experience.“I’m really excited to see how I develop in the program,” Staples says. “I’m excited to learn more about myself and what it means to be a leader.”