The buck stops with artistic directors. They take on the challenge of developing a recognizable artistic identity or brand for the company, and act as its spokesperson and chief promoter. The role may vary widely depending on the size of the company, but artistic directors work closely with the chief administrator and board of directors to maintain a budget, while also hiring and supervising artists and other key personnel and acting as a general creative resource for directors. Designing the performance season—whether it is theater, dance, or music—is a pivotal part of the gig, and involves selecting themes to explore; original works to develop; and writers, directors, and composers with whom to work.
Artistic Director at a Glance
Artistic directors need a strong and diverse performing arts education and professional background encompassing music, theater, and dance. A Master of Fine Arts degree isn't required, but often is preferred. Founders of small theater companies may go on to become artistic directors at larger organizations and have likely amassed significant experience as directors.
Theaters, dance companies, opera companies, orchestras, television production companies, and museums
Theater, theatrical training, leadership, attention to detail, multitasking, creativity, strategic vision, communication, management
Artistic directors need to be strong leaders who are able to clearly communicate abstract ideas and delegate duties to staff. Multitasking without losing focus is a priceless skill that serves them well given the varied nature of the position. Organization, prioritization, grace under pressure, and ease in public also are prerequisites.
Artistic directors often work long hours, but have more predictable schedules than many in the performing arts. Their schedules are sure to ramp up in the days or weeks immediately preceding a production, or during the crunch of budget season. If working with a touring company, they also may travel quite a bit with the crew. If not, they may travel to see talented prospects perform.