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Arts Management in the Real World

Business savvy students pursuing a degree in arts management are gaining valuable hands-on experience this semester at organizations around the North Country—impactful capstone internships that allow them to take what they’ve learned in the classroom out into the real world.

SUNY Potsdam’s arts management program is an interdisciplinary major that allows students to combine their passions for the arts, marketing, and business. It prepares students for dynamic careers at non-profit organizations and businesses ranging from arts councils and museums to theatre / dance companies and artist management firms.

“Once I found out about the program, I switched my major that day. I was looking for something that had practical experience like internships and business classes, but also the creative side—it just really spoke to me as someone who is interested in creative disciplines."

-Madi Bray-Trophia '22

Madi Bray-Trophia ’22

Madi Bray-Trophia ’22

Madi Bray-Trophia ’22

Bray-Trophia is currently in the middle of an internship as an outreach coordinator for the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, helping the organization with their fundraising efforts, securing grants, and establishing relationships with potential business partners. “I get asked daily, ‘You took an arts grant writing class, or you took a marketing class, right?’ And I always answer ‘yes,’ because the arts management program has prepared me so well for the work that I’m doing,” she explained. “I think the internships really prepare students for their futures. It’s helping us with networking and with making sure we know what we’re doing when we go into the field.”

For Joshua Phelps ’22, the arts management program was the reason he transferred to SUNY Potsdam. He spent his freshman year at the University at Buffalo studying mechanical engineering, but it wasn’t a good fit, and when his friend told him about the new program at SUNY Potsdam, he jumped at the opportunity. Phelps is now combining his degree with a minor in music business. “I really like it a lot. You can tell there’s a passion for the arts here and that’s helped me realize what I want to do—combine my major and minor to open up my own music store, which also offers services in line with an arts non-profit like a mini record label,” he said.

Joshua Phelps ’22 works at Brick & Mortar Music as part of his internship for the arts management program.

Joshua Phelps ’22 works at Brick & Mortar Music as part of his internship for the arts management program.

Joshua Phelps ’22 works at Brick & Mortar Music as part of his internship for the arts management program.

Joshua Phelps ’22 works at Brick & Mortar Music as part of his internship for the arts management program.

Joshua Phelps ’22 poses for a portrait in SUNY Potsdam's Proscenium Theater. 

This semester Phelps has been working at Brick & Mortar Music in downtown Potsdam to learn the finer points of running a small business. Responsible for taking in the inventory and interacting with customers, he’s also learning extensive information about music products, all of which will inform his career aspirations to operate his own music store.

Back on campus, Arts Management Coordinator Joshua Vink has been guiding students every step of the way. Starting with his introduction to arts management class, students learn to develop their own business plans, and with each subsequent course, Vink delves into topics ranging from fundraising and grant writing to marketing and public relations. “Josh has a lot of experience going into arts non-profit programs and rehabilitating them, and having that insight is really helpful,” said Phelps.

From left, Kali McCracken ’22 and Medina Vanduyne ’23 speak with Joshua Vink

For Bray-Trophia, a conversation with Vink her junior year was the catalyst she needed to enroll in the new program. “I could tell that he was very passionate, and that it was something that I really wanted to be a part of,” she said. “It was what I had been looking for, and what I had been trying to emulate through my majors and minors, and there it was right in front of me.”

Bray-Trophia has been completing numerous internships through the program, including one with the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions (MONC), an annual competition to discover young and upcoming opera stars. In her role, she worked with SUNY Potsdam alumna Melissa Wegner ’03, director of MONC, during the remote hands-on experience. “I was tasked with editing the audio and video of different auditions. Because of COVID, we wanted to recreate the live experience, but in a remote way,” Bray-Trophia said. “I’m graduating with six internships under my belt, so now I can actually apply for mid-level jobs instead of entry level, because I do have years of experience, and that’s all thanks to the arts management program.”

Internship opportunities also abound on campus. Kali McCracken ’22 and Medina Vanduyne ’23, both arts management majors, are working as marketing coordinators for TEDxSUNYPotsdam, 'A Time to Innovate,' which will take place in the Performing Arts Center during the Spring 2022 semester. “I’m taking a marketing class with Joshua Vink, so there are things that I am working on in my class that I can turn around and use for the TEDx internship,” said McCracken.

“I came into Potsdam undeclared, so once I got to meet the professors, I really fell in love with the department, between arts management and theatre, it’s just really supportive. They really want you to succeed.” 

- Kali McCracken ’22

Kali McCracken ’22, left and Medina Vanduyne ’23

Kali McCracken ’22

Medina Vanduyne ’23

An internship at the Community Performance Series Box Office, housed inside SUNY Potsdam’s Performing Arts Center, has given Macy Turner ’24 a chance to shine. As a college-community collaboration, CPS hosts a variety of artists at the College throughout the semester, bringing in talented musicians like Rhiannon Giddens, who is taking the stage this fall. Turner has been working in the box office and helping to run social media campaigns to promote the upcoming artists. “I was surprised at how hands off my supervisor is. I doubt myself a lot, but so far she’s responded to my work pretty well, and that’s given me a lot more confidence,” she said.

Macy Turner ’24

The five SUNY Potsdam students continue to gain confidence and real-world skills from their internships as they finalize their arts management degrees and prepare for careers in the arts. “One of the things I really love about Potsdam is that I have been given a certain level of responsibility, expectation and experience that I haven’t been able see anywhere else, at any SUNY school, or any other program. I feel like I’m leaving this program so unbelievably prepared, said Bray-Trophia. “SUNY Potsdam wants you to succeed. The professors are so invested in you, and it makes you want to invest in yourself, and it’s a beautiful environment. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Article and photos by Jason Hunter