Move over, New York and Los Angeles. Houston is on the rise as a major U.S. arts destination, and the University of Houston (UH) is helping shine a light on the third coast’s vibrant creativity.
At the UH Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts (KGMCA), an innovative program is preparing the next generation of dedicated arts leaders and professionals. The Master of Arts in Arts Leadership (MAAL) program, now in its 5th year, merges arts education with business practices to provide students with practical, hands-on experience for managing both for- and non-profit arts organization.
Director Fleurette Fernando launched MAAL with a clear goal in mind – to create a “go-to” talent resource for the Houston performing and visual arts community. Her approach offers students a multidisciplinary and personalized program, attracting students from various backgrounds who want to learn how to launch, develop and maintain an arts organization.
“You will see our students and alumni working across all artistic disciplines,” she says, highlighting the program’s emphasis on interdisciplinary programming.
Rachael Fernandez (MAAL ’19), a new UH student, was drawn to the program because of this. “I’m really excited to work with peers from all different backgrounds Whether someone’s background is in fine art, theatre or music, everyone here has a passion for the arts.”
Fernandez’s own background is in theatre – she earned her bachelor’s degree in stage management before moving to Houston for a behind-the-scenes job at the Houston Ballet. She now works as a stage manager for Main Street Theatre’s youth shows, and can’t wait to apply her new skills to her role. “I’m hoping to broaden my skills as a manager, and I feel like this master’s degree is really going to enhance my ability to lead.”
Janine Arostique (MAAL ’19), also a new student to the program, agrees. Though she landed a role at the Museum of Fine Arts as the Development Associate for Special Gifts and Corporate Relations after a series of successful internships, she doesn’t always think of herself as a leader in the workplace. “I’m hesitant because there is still so much to learn,” she admits, but says she looks forward to gaining confidence as she works through the MAAL program. “Learning more about arts engagement and accessibility – all of the nitty-gritty details that make companies successful – will help me become more comfortable thinking of myself as a true leader.”
In addition to Fernandez and Arostique, the 2017-18 MAAL cohort includes Malak Al Mahmoud, Erin Buck, Kara Cothern, Bobbie Hackett, Maria-Elisa Heg, Mary Karcher, Mickailis Molina, Laura Moreno, Candace Noel, Stacy Tanet and Natalie Wells. From experience in galleries and art museums to working with Houston’s Young Artist Chamber Orchestra, the new students bring a wealth of arts experience and insight to the table.
“I'm proud of our diversity – it's truly one of our program’s strengths,” Fernando says. “As we embark on year five, I’m excited for our new students and the personal and professional journeys ahead of them.”