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Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership

Three women working on laptops in a cafe and laughing

The Arts and Cultural Leadership (ACL) is a flexible, personalized master's program that prepares you to lead, whether you aim to be at the helm of an arts or cultural organization, a voice in cultural advocacy, or a creative force in your community, institution, or government agency.

Courses and program experiences are designed to enhance your skills in:

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

The ACL master's degree is:

  • Timely—Taught by today’s thought leaders from the arts, cultural, and nonprofit spheres
  • Self-curated—Take up to 12 credits of electives to focus on a specialty
  • Career-focused—Coursework can be applied to career goals in a variety of leadership areas, from creative placemaking to activism to arts administration.

Arts and Cultural Leadership Stories

Requirements and Courses

In this master’s program for leaders who will shape the future of the arts and culture sector, you have the flexibility to pursue 12 credits of elective coursework leading to potential self-curated specializations, including Culture, Place, and Community Leadership; Organizational Leadership; and Cultural Leadership in the Public Sector, among others. You have up to five years to complete this master's degree.

Course Course Number Credits
Trends and Impacts in Arts and Cultural Leadership and Management ACL 5201 3
Creative Entrepreneurship and Resource Development ACL 5221 3
Ethical Dilemmas and Legal Issues for Cultural Leaders ACL 5231 3
A Multiplicity of Ways: Epistemologies in the 21st Century ACL 6001 1
Reimagining Cultural Leadership ACL 6201 3
Service Leadership and Board Practicum ACL 6202 2
Capstone 1: Applied Research Project ACL 6002 1
Capstone 2: Reflections and Presentation ACL 6003 2

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.

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

Careers in Arts and Cultural Leadership

  • $63KMedian income*

Some positions of our graduates could include:*

  • Executive Director or Managing Director
  • Social and Community Service Manager
  • Education Manager, Director, or Coordinator
  • Community Engagement Director, Manager, or Coordinator
  • Volunteer Director, Manager, or Coordinator
  • Cultural Affairs Director, Manager, or Coordinator
  • Museum Educator
  • Collection Manager or Archivist
  • Teaching Artist
  • Program Officer
  • Producer or Director
  • Curator
  • Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
  • Membership Manager or Director
  • Artistic or Theater Director
  • Art Director

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


ACL students have enjoyed practicum experiences at the following organizations:

  • 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

Sample Specializations

The following specializations are just samples of a course of study you can pursue in the ACL program. You will work closely with your adviser to craft a curriculum that fits your professional goals.

The following specializations are sample courses of study you can pursue. 

Mill City Museum

Culture, Place, and Community Leadership

Arts and cultural organizations, as well as artists, increasingly are taking leadership roles impacting the physical, social, and economic well-being of people, neighborhoods, and cities. Complex systems known as creative placemaking, arts-led regeneration, and other names, are understood and implemented by leaders to help communities thrive.


Artist image

Organizational Leadership

Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations of all sizes require capable, innovative leaders who can navigate increasingly complex environments while appreciating the unique role such organizations play in making a difference in their communities. This focus area puts the student in direct contact with current leaders and prepares them with a range of essential technical skills and policy information.


Spoonbridge photo by Lydia Venjohn

Cultural Leadership in the Public Sector

There’s an increasing need for professionals looking to take leadership roles in city, county, or state government agencies or departments that focus on arts and cultural affairs, or who are interested in forging their own leadership pathways for employing artistic and cultural practices in transforming the public sector. Ways of working across sectors to employ and support cultural and creative practices are central to the learning.


Fall Semester Application Deadline: Extended to July 15
Spring Semester Application Deadline: October 1

Admission to the ACL program is competitive and all applications are reviewed to ensure a good fit for academic success. Notification of admission decisions is made within four to six weeks after the application deadline.

We strive to be equitable in the admissions process. Our program thrives with the inclusion of students from different backgrounds and cultural experiences. Our admissions committee reviews applications holistically including all components of the application, and does not require standardized test scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). If you have questions about the admission requirements or would like advice on how to put together application materials, please contact us.

The following items are required for admission:

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

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required.

* In exceptional circumstances, promising applicants with lower GPA may be considered for the program. Explanation for GPA, and evidence that academic success at the graduate level is achievable, must be addressed in the application (extenuating circumstances).

  1. First, access the online application.
  2. All required application materials must be attached electronically to your application.

Applicant Statements

  • Professional statement: Two to three pages, double-spaced, should describe your personal and/or professional goals, why you think the ACL program will help you achieve them, and how you plan to focus your program, including the particular issues and nuances of leadership you would like to explore.
  • Diversity statement: optional.
  • Extenuating Circumstances statement: If your undergraduate GPA is below 3.0, please provide an explanation.

Two Letters of Recommendation

Two letters of recommendation should be solicited from individuals who can provide a candid assessment of your abilities (including strengths and weaknesses), personality, character, and potential for graduate-level academic success and professional achievement. 

Writing Sample

Include a writing sample (10 pages) on any topic or genre that demonstrates critical thinking and analysis. If possible, include one sample of academic writing and one sample of written work from relevant work or volunteer experience.


Unofficial transcripts or academic records for each institution (even if you didn’t receive a degree) should be uploaded directly to the online application. International students should also upload an English translation if the transcript is not in English. If possible, make sure the institution has put your name on the transcript/record.

Resume or CV

Submit a current resume or CV.

GRE Scores

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required.

Application Fee

A nonrefundable application fee is due on submission. 

You may be able to transfer up to 10 credits of graduate-level coursework completed prior to admission, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Transfer coursework requirements:

  • Taken at the University of Minnesota or another accredited institution 
  • Completed at the graduate level and listed on a graduate transcript
  • Earned a grade of B or better
  • Completed no more than 5 years prior to admission to the program 

Transfer Coursework Taken as an Undergraduate

You may be able to transfer up to 6 of the 10 transfer coursework credits taken as an undergraduate, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and the Associate Director for Graduate Programs.

Prebaccalaureate transfer coursework requirements:

  • Completed as a prebaccalaureate student pursing an undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota and listed on your undergraduate transcript
  • Taken at the graduate level
  • Earned a grade of B or higher
  • Completed no more than five years prior to admission to the program
  • Not counted toward completion of a bachelor’s degree

In order to transfer your graduate-level credits completed as a prebaccalaureate student, submit:

  1. A petition form, signed by an undergraduate program advisor confirming credits were not used toward undergraduate degree 
  2. Syllabi from course(s), preferred
  3. Full APAS report

The DGS and the Associate Director for Graduate Programs will review the information and jointly decide on the use of the credits in your graduate program.

If your native language is not English, please submit scores from the TOEFL, MELAB, or IELTS English proficiency examination. Read more about required scores.

  • Required TOEFL scores are 84 or above, with section scores of at least 21 on writing and at least 19 on reading.
  • Required IELTS score is 6.5 overall with 6.5 section scores for both writing and reading.
  • Required MELAB score is 84.

For information on visa status, contact the International Student and Scholar Services office.

Credit courses taken before admission may be applied toward this degree. You can take a graduate-level course before being admitted if:

  • The course is graduate-level (4xxx-level or above) and
  • You register for credit as a nondegree graduate student and pay graduate-level tuition.

Follow These Steps to Register:

  1. Download and submit a Registration Request for Graduate Credit for Nondegree Students Form. Registration for nondegree students is not available online.
  2. Send the form to the department offering the courses for authorization. Use this form each term until you are admitted to a program.
  3. Upon authorization, the department offering the graduate course will forward the form to the registrar or provide you with further instructions. 
  4. Check your email for confirmation and payment instructions.

More information can be found on the One Stop page for nondegree students.

Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid

We want to ensure you have access to the education you want. Find out more about financial aid or talk to our scholarship advisor.

If you would like to be considered for any available scholarship funding for newly admitted graduate students, you must complete the annual FAFSA for the upcoming academic year. Choose the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as your school within FAFSA.

COVID-19 Information

Prospective Students: Please connect with enrollment advisor Steve Wicks with your questions or to schedule an appointment.

Current Students: Reach out to your academic advisor with any questions.

The U of M Online website offers helpful tips and resources for students for successful online learning.

Let's Connect

You can learn more about the Arts and Cultural Leadership program in a way that works for you. Enrollment Advisor Steve Wicks is here to help.

Steve Wicks headshot

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.

Meet Steve

Steve works with prospective students who are interested in one of our graduate programs or certificates. He is happy to answer your questions about our degrees, admission requirements, and the application procedure. In his free time, he can usually be found in the woods or on the water, or cheering on all the Wisconsin sports teams.