Become a Creative Force

Being a leader in the arts and cultural landscape can take many different shapes. You can be a curator, advocate, entrepreneur, artist, producer, or any number of roles. What our arts leadership master’s students have in common is the desire to celebrate the arts, bring them to a wider audience, and make a positive impact.

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 lead in your community, organization, institution, or government agency.

The arts and culture degree is:

  • Self-curated—Focus on a specialty through 12 credits of electives.
  • Career-focused—Apply your coursework to a variety of professional areas, from creative placemaking to arts administration.
  • Connected–Network with faculty members (link) and guest speakers 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.

What Will I Learn in an Arts and Cultural Leadership Degree?

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

Arts and Cultural Careers

  • $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

Courses

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

Course Course Number Credits
Trends and Impacts in Arts and Cultural Leadership and Management ACL 5211 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
Experiential Leadership Plan ACL 6203 1
Experiential Leadership Practicum ACL 6204 1
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.

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)

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
Help your organization make an impact on the overall well-being of people, neighborhoods, and cities. Take an active role in creative placemaking, a process where community members, artists, developers, and others collaborate to create quality public spaces.

 

 

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.

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

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

Apply

Fall Semester Application Deadline: March 1
Spring Semester Application Deadline: October 1

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 looks at all the pieces of your application to ensure that you will be successful in the program. We do 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 Steve Wicks.

Read the video transcript.

Admission Requirements

We welcome applications from students who have:

  • a bachelor's degree from an accredited post-secondary US institution or its foreign 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
  • A writing sample
  • College transcripts
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • An application fee

Ready to take the next step?

Admissions Advising

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

 

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.

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.

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.

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, and enlighten.

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.

Request 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.