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Career advice for arts managers

Brooke Boland

Sometimes we need to remember why we do what we do.
Career advice for arts managers

Image: Kate Stephens, Company Manager Victorian Opera, supplied.

Logistics. We all deal with it in the arts — some more than others — but how do we balance the really busy periods with the lulls and still maintain our wellbeing?

It’s something Kate Stephens knows all too well as the Company Manager of Victorian Opera. Currently midway through the company’s annual regional tour across Victoria, Stephens still finds time for a quick chat about the importance of maintaining your health and the passion behind what you do.

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Why do you do it? 

When we get busy and stressed — which happens often to time-poor arts workers — it can sometimes be hard to remember why you choose a career in the arts in the first place. 

For Stephens, remaining inspired is the most important thing. ‘I deliberately surround myself with people and art that inspire me and remind me why I do my job,’ she said.

‘I try to go to as many gigs as I can because that’s what invigorates me.’

Look at the bigger picture

To help maintain her passion in her work, Stephens decided to enrol in part time study while working and recently graduated with a Master of Arts and Cultural Management from the University of Melbourne

‘It was an opportunity to build on my existing work in the arts. I was interested to see how broader concerns within the cultural landscape could inform my work,’ she said. 

‘I was looking for a deeper understanding of the issues facing the sector. Because my role as Company Manager at Victorian Opera is very operational, there’s not always time to look at structural debates happening in the arts around funding and policy. That’s what I was interested in and found really valuable from the course.’ 

It will end

Amidst the madness, Stephens aims to ‘remain calm and recognise that there are always particularly busy or frantic periods, but they will pass.’ 

To help manage those busy periods when she is juggling contracting, scheduling, travel, and visa applications, among other things, Stephens focusses on being organised and communicating clearly to keep everything running smoothly.

‘There are definitely peaks and troughs for many people working in the arts, and staying resilient through those periods is really important. That might mean different things to different people, but for me it means writing really thorough lists and communicating well with people, plus making sure I have down time, rest, and look after myself,’ she said. 

Stephens also has advice for those just starting out in arts management. ‘Trust your instincts and follow what you feel is inspiring and interesting, and you’ll find where you need to be.’ 

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.

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