• Apply By
    Fall: April 15 | Spring: October 15
  • Admission GPA
  • Total Credits
  • Time to Complete
    2-3 years (average)
  • Cost
    $900 per credit

Become a Creative Force

Being a changemaker in the arts and cultural landscape can take many different shapes. You can be a curator, advocate, entrepreneur, artist, producer, or find your own role in the diverse ecosystem of arts and culture. What our arts leadership master’s students have in common is the desire to explore the role that arts and culture play in community engagement, identity, and changemaking.

What Is an Arts and Cultural Leadership Degree?

Our Arts and Cultural Leadership (ACL) master's is a flexible, personalized program. It will prepare you to to become an equitable and inclusive leader in your community, advance the arts, or pursue your own creative endeavors.

The arts and culture degree is:

  • Self-curated—Focus on a specialty through 12 credits of electives.
  • Career-focused—Apply your coursework in a variety of professional areas in the nonprofit sector, government, or corporate space.
  • Expansive—Explore the ways arts and culture intertwine across sectors and diverse communities to make change.
  • Connected—Network with faculty members and experts from the arts, culture, and nonprofit arenas.
  • Immersive—Go behind the scenes of an organization's board of directors, work with a community artist, or develop your own entrepreneurial plan in your practicum.


The ACL degree consists of 30 total credits (18 required and 12 elective).

CourseCourse NumberCredits
Trends and Impacts in Arts and Cultural Leadership and ManagementACL 52113
Creative Entrepreneurship and Resource DevelopmentACL 52213
Ethical Dilemmas and Legal Issues for Cultural LeadersACL 52313
A Multiplicity of Ways: Epistemologies in the 21st CenturyACL 60011
Reimagining Cultural LeadershipACL 62013
Experiential Leadership PlanACL 62031
Experiential Leadership PracticumACL 62041
Capstone 1: Applied Research ProjectACL 60021
Capstone 2: Reflections and PresentationACL 60032

For more course information, visit the U of M Schedule Builder.

Working with an advisor, you'll select elective courses from academic departments across the University of Minnesota, forming a specialization in an area of interest. Courses must be taken at the graduate level, approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, and should relate to the professional tasks required of arts and cultural leaders or enhance your understanding of the arts and culture within a broader cultural context.

Electives may include, but are not limited to, the following colleges and departments, such as:

  • Civic Engagement (CIVE)
  • Design (DES)
  • Public Affairs (PA), which includes urban and regional planning, human rights, nonprofit management
  • Heritage Studies and Public History (HSPH)
  • Landscape Architecture (LA)
  • Museum Studies (MST)
  • Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD)
  • Journalism and Mass Communication (JOUR)
  • Geography (GEOG)

For detailed course information, visit the U of M Schedule Builder and enter the designator above.

Students are also encouraged to explore ACL elective courses to complement their professional goals and career preparation.

ACL Electives

  • Financial Management for Arts Nonprofits, Community Organizations, and Artists (ACL 5241, 3 cr)
  • Courageous Imagination in Action: Art and Culture as Forces and Resources of Change (ACL 5251, 3 cr)
  • Culture, Place, and Community: Ways of Living Together in the 21st Century (ACL 5261, 3 cr)
  • Special Topics (ACL 5950, 1−4 cr)

Arts and Cultural Leadership students complete a comprehensive capstone project as the culmination of their graduate degree. Take a look at some of the wide-ranging capstone projects our ACL students have completed over the years!

Sample Specializations

The focus areas below are just examples of what you can study in the ACL program. You will work closely with your advisor to craft a degree plan that meets your goals.

Mill City Museum

Culture, Place, and Community Leadership
Make an impact on the well-being of people, neighborhoods, and cities. Build your skills to take an active role in creative placemaking, bringing together community members, artists, city leaders, and others to build equitable, quality public spaces and neighborhoods.



Artist image

Organizational Leadership
Become a better leader no matter where you work. Understand complex environments and the role arts and cultural organizations play in making a difference in their communities. Connect with current leaders and gain a range of technical skills.



Spoonbridge photo by Lydia Venjohn

Cultural Leadership in the Public Sector
Prepare to take on a leadership role in your city, county, or state that focuses on arts and cultural affairs. Develop and implement artistic and cultural strategies within the public sector. Learn how to work across sectors to support cultural and creative practices.



Spoonbridge photo by Lydia Venjohn

Creative Entrepreneurial Leadership
Build new skills and connections to launch or rejuvenate your creative endeavors. Whether starting up your own or refreshing an organizational model, these courses help you understand the financial, legal, management, and marketing strategies you’ll need to succeed.

Arts and Cultural Careers

  • $63KMedian income*

Our alumni work in the following areas:

  • Museums
  • Arts Consulting
  • Community Arts/Creative Placemaking
  • Education
  • Media
  • Music
  • Philanthropy
  • Theatre
  • Literary Arts

Some of their job titles include:

  • Consulting Curator
  • Program Officer
  • Director of Research
  • Development Manager
  • Public Engagement Consultant
  • Founder
  • Director of Community Partnerships
  • Project Manager
  • Producer

* Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insights™, accessed 08/6/21

Practicum Sites

As an Arts and Cultural Leadership student, you get to apply what you've learned in a hands-on practicum. The following is a list of places where ACL students have gained professional knowledge and experience:

  • American Swedish Institute
  • Artistry
  • Arts Midwest
  • The Bakkan Museum
  • The Cedar Cultural Center
  • Coffeehouse Press
  • East Side Freedom Library
  • Hennepin History Museum
  • Illusion Theatre
  • In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre  
  • Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts
  • Intermedia Arts
  • James Sewell Dance Company
  • The Loft Literary Center
  • MacPhail Center for Music
  • Metro Regional Arts Council
  • Mixed Blood Theatre
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum
  • Minnesota Opera
  • The Museum of Russian Art
  • Northern Clay Center
  • The Ordway
  • Park Square Theater
  • Penumbra Theatre
  • Public Art St Paul
  • Red Eye Theater
  • Saint John’s Boys Choir
  • Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
  • Schubert Club
  • Steppingstone Theater
  • Springboard for the Arts
  • Ten Thousand Things Theater
  • Theater Latte’ Da
  • VocalEssence

Faculty and Advising

MPS in Arts and Cultural Leadership faculty and advisory board members come from a range of artistic backgrounds and cultural organizations. Their commonality lies in their passion, dedication, and insider knowledge of the industry. They are eager to connect students to valuable, concrete opportunities.

Meet the Faculty

Admissions Advising

Graduate enrollment advisor Steve Wicks is happy to answer your questions about the ACL program and the application procedure.

Steve Wicks

Or you can give Steve a call at 612-301-6127.

Do you have a more detailed question or want to tell us a little bit about yourself before the meeting? Fill out this brief questionnaire.


Fall Semester Application Deadline: April 15
Spring Semester Application Deadline: October 15

We strive to be fair in the admissions process. Our program thrives when we have students from different backgrounds and cultural experiences. The admissions committee completes a holistic review of all required application materials to ensure that you will be successful in the program. We do not require standardized test scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

You will receive an admission decision four to six weeks after the application deadline. If you have questions about the admission requirements, would like advice on how to put together application materials, or missed the application deadline, please contact Steve Wicks.

Admission Requirements

We welcome applications from students who have:

  • a bachelor's degree from an accredited post-secondary US institution or its international equivalent.
  • an undergraduate GPA of 3.0*.
  • professional, volunteer, and/or advocacy work in the arts and cultural fields.

* If you have a GPA below 3.0, please include an explanation in the extenuating circumstances part of your professional statement.

Application Checklist

Your complete application will include:

  • An online application
  • A professional statement
  • Two letters of recommendation (now optional: see FAQ below for guidance)
  • College transcripts
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • An application fee

Application Fee Waiver

CCAPS offers a limited number of application fee waivers to US citizens/permanent residents. Complete this form if you’d like to be considered. We strongly recommend applying for a fee waiver at least two weeks before the application deadline. 

If you are applying for a fee waiver, do not submit payment along with your application. We can not reimburse your fee if you have already paid. Due to the limited number, not all application fee waivers will be approved. 

You will be notified via email if your application has been approved. If approved, the fee waiver will be applied to your account. If not approved, you should then submit your payment.

Ready to take the next step?

Frequently Asked Questions

These answers will help you get a better sense of how the ACL degree can set you up for immediate success in the arts, cultural, or nonprofit world.

Our program is designed to give you a broad, career-boosting experience. You will enhance your skills in:

  • Equitable and inclusive leadership
  • Leading system change in the arts and culture sector
  • Creative placemaking
  • Navigating ethical dilemmas
  • Fundraising and budgeting
  • Collaboration and relationship building
  • Cultural competency

Much like a traditional master of arts or master of science, a master of professional studies is a graduate degree that requires roughly three years of post-secondary schooling. However, there are subtle differences between these three degrees. Where the MA and MS degrees are earned more through study and the development of a thesis, the MPS degree combines study with the real-world skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Instead of a thesis, there is usually a capstone project requirement. And while traditional degree courses are taught by tenured faculty, MPS courses may be taught by working professionals.

In a nutshell, earning your master of professional studies may better prepare you to hit the ground running even before graduation. This is because MPS courses give you an inside look into the profession as well as the management tools needed to be an effective leader.

Students typically take 2-4 years to complete the master's degree, depending on how many credits they take per semester.

Arts management or administration refers mainly to carrying out the day-to-day operations and programming within an arts-related organization. Arts administrators often develop, plan, and evaluate arts and cultural programs.

Arts leadership, however, focuses more on creative problem-solving, critical thinking, and making positive change within organizations. It goes beyond management of systems to address complex arts and cultural issues and rethink what role arts and culture can play in communities.

In a cultural leadership position, one of your main responsibilities may be raising awareness around an issue, person, group, or organization. Cultural leadership combines a community’s history and experience with art and community engagement. It has deep ties to social justice and grassroots advocacy. As a cultural leader, you'll work closely with the community you serve to effect change, educate, enlighten, and foster civic behavior.

To be an effective cultural leader, you'll need strong skills in communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. You'll be required to maintain high standards of ethics, be resourceful and authentic, and be able to connect and inspire others. This role is one that is service-oriented, relationship-based, and rooted in community engagement.

Letters of recommendation are an additional way to share your story with the admission panel, but not submitting letters of recommendation will not decrease your chances of admission. If you’re concerned that some areas of your application are not particularly strong, you may want to include a letter of recommendation that supports that area of your application. For example, if you feel that your resume doesn’t show the extent of your professional experience, you might ask a supervisor of a recent volunteer position to write a letter of recommendation about the impact you’ve made in their organization.

CCAPS Graduate Education programs do not provide living stipends, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships as might be expected in a typical PhD program.

  • US based students: CCAPS offers modest financial need-based scholarships to eligible students, and a limited number of merit-based scholarships. However, in most cases students work while going to school in order to cover living expenses and pay tuition out of pocket, including health insurance. 
  • International students: Are not eligible for federal financial aid or CCAPS scholarships and must show financial evidence showing that they can cover tuition, living expenses, and the Student Health Benefit plan health insurance during their period of study. To learn more about planning for these expenses, visit Plan Your Expenses or make an appointment with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Request Program Information

Do you want to receive:

  • snapshots of how other students put their education to work on the job?
  • ideas about how to fund your program?
  • career-boosting tips and inspiration?
  • stories about key faculty?
  • highlights on core courses?
  • generally interesting news about the program?

You can sign up for periodic updates here and we'll deliver these and more right to your inbox.