ArtsManaged Field Notes

Ten Functions of Arts Management…

publishedabout 2 months ago
2 min read

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
Naomi Shihab Nye, from the poem "Famous"

Weekly Features (scroll down to find them)
Function of the Week: Governance | Framework of the Week: The Three Sectors | NEW: Ask ArtsManaged

Dear Reader,

Last week's Field Note claimed (via Russell Ackoff) that "managers don't solve problems, they manage messes." But living and learning in the middle of an always-entangled, ever-evolving mess isn't particularly productive, or enjoyable. So we humans have evolved to seek and sort out patterns that make the mess more manageable.

The Ten Functions of Arts Management are an attempt to clarify and codify useful categories of attention, perception, and action in arts organizations. Each function clusters around a related group of problems and solutions. Each can benefit from separate study and experimentation. And most have become conventional ways to organize teams and talents within an organization.

The ten functions are further sorted into three groups – Outward, Inward, and Boundary – based on their dominant focus (although, again, this sorting is convenient not concrete).

Outward Functions (bundles of action to engage and activate the environment)

  • Marketing: Creating, communicating, and reinforcing expected or experienced value.
  • Welcoming & Guesting: Inviting, greeting, serving, and supporting guests, visitors, neighbors, artists, and staff, while also acknowledging, listening, honoring, and engaging your host in all the ways you are a guest.
  • Sales: Designing, deriving, and capturing inbound revenue from goods, services, or access.
  • Gifts & Grants: Attracting, securing, aligning, and retaining contributed resources.

Inward Functions (bundles of action to sustain or change the enterprise)

  • People Operations: Designing and driving systems and practices that attract, engage, retain, and develop people within the enterprise.
  • Spaces & Systems: Selecting, securing, stewarding, and harnessing the built environment and technological infrastructure.
  • Finance: Designing, maintaining, and sustaining systems of money and stuff.

Boundary Functions (bundles of action at the border between environment and enterprise)

  • Program & Production: Developing, assembling, preserving, and presenting coherent services or experiences.
  • Governance: Structuring, sustaining, and overseeing the organization’s purposes, resources, and goals.
  • Accounting: Recording, summarizing, analyzing, and reporting financial states and actions.

On the ArtsManaged Field Guide, each of these ten functions has a dedicated page, with links to frameworks, stories, and resources to help you dig deeper, and make some useful sense of the mess.

Functionally yours,



Function of the Week: Governance

The Governance Institute of Australia offers a helpful definition of this complex, vexing, but essential function of an arts organization:

Governance encompasses the system by which an organization is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account. Ethics, risk management, compliance, and administration are all elements of governance.

Framework of the Week: The Three Sectors

The "Three Sectors" offers a productive way to categorize the primary ecologies of collective effort in any society. Each sector has a different structure and logic. Each has access to a different array of resources. Each has a unique approach to ownership, control, and action (and therefore management). And each has systemic benefits to amplify and challenges to avoid.

Have a Question? Ask ArtsManaged

Do you have a question about Arts Management, or a particular issue you're facing in the work? Post your question to this online and anonymous form. I'll select questions to answer in the Field Guide, or in this newsletter, so that we can all learn together about real and real-world messes we face.