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Arts Leadership, MFA

​Seattle University’s Arts Leadership MFA degree delivers the creativity, community, entrepreneurship, innovation, and management skills to lead in the arts.

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About this Program

Empowering a New Wave of Arts Leaders

The first of its kind on the West Coast, the MFA Arts Leadership provides the essential entrepreneurship, social innovation, management, and advocacy skills vital to create change as a global leader in the arts sector.

Seattle University's commitment to ethical leadership is at the core of our program, combined with professional development and complemented by a deep foundation of academic rigor and applied research.

Throughout our program, you hone your skills and knowledge to build your arts leadership portfolio through applied practicums. In doing so, you will work with historic and emerging arts organizations, interview arts innovators, research arts and culture organizations, and more.

For example, you apply coursework learning as a practicing arts leader through your graduate management practicum, working in organizations, interviewing arts practitioners, researching emerging issues within arts and cultural policy and more.

Plus, a signature of our program is your capstone summary project, where you focus on a topic such a cultural sector, curatorial practice, public policy issue, or arts management.

MFA Arts Leadership Degree at a Glance

Learn how this graduate degree from the Department of Performing Arts and Arts Leadership will contribute to your career goals. Then, explore course requirements and see how impactful a Seattle University degree can be.

Seattle University’s MFA Arts Leadership program develops professional skills and strategic insight informed by a commitment to social justice.

The 2-year, 48-credit program includes coursework, a summary project, plus a minimum of 4-5 hours a week at your practicum.

Through practicums, students work in local organizations to gain experience, and develop professional relationships within the arts sector.

Arts Leadership students also have the opportunity to earn a Certificate in Fundraising Leadership.

During the final quarter of the MFA program, students complete their Summary Project, connecting their academic achievements and artistic passions.

MFA Curriculum

Our learning outcomes seek to create a balance between theory and practice, and reflect the university's focus on leadership. With the completion of the MFA Arts Leadership degree, students should possess specific core competencies in certain areas including:

  • Develop a culturally competent perspective on the arts through an intersectional lens towards social justice
  • Demonstrate leadership in complex organizational environments including the dynamics of working with boards, organizational structure and staffing, and working with artists and other constituencies
  • Exhibit understanding of the dynamics and logistics of institutional development related to how art gets presented and produced
  • Demonstrate application of research methodologies to the field including the ability to conceptualize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate data
  • Recognize and address the legal, ethical, and policy environments for the arts
  • Demonstrate mastery in financial and audience development, strategic analysis and planning

What You’ll Learn

Learn about the classes you’ll take as a student here.

Integrated, Experiential Learning to Build Your Career

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Graduate Management Practicum

A key aspect of the MFA Arts Leadership program is development of a portfolio of practice in the field. The graduate management practicum integrates and applies the arts leadership theories learned in the classroom with the realities of arts leadership. Practicums are real opportunities meant to help build a career through hands on, interactive experience.

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Summary Project: Applied Research and Presentation

Your summary project is a representation of what could be as you continue to pursue arts leadership through an intersectional lens towards equity, empathy and value. It integrates your academic, practicum and professional experience into one applied research project that consists of a paper, a presentation and a project.

Bill Hedreen in front of donated painting

Largest Art Gift Ever

Richard Hedreen's transformative donation of his $300M art collection to Seattle University, along with $25 million for a new art museum, enriches the university's educational landscape. Graduate students gain unparalleled access to a diverse range of masterpieces, fostering research, study, and appreciation across centuries of art history while also benefiting the broader community by providing access to world-class art.

Strong Support Networks

Our low student-to-faculty ratio and cohort approach give you direct access to faculty. You begin building your support networks from your first day, making connections with fellow students and active, engaged alumni. You meet a diverse array of arts and cultural colleagues through coursework and events.

Learn alongside your cohort from a wide variety of backgrounds, and build a network that includes community artists, curators, program officers, education managers, event planners, grant writers, tech producers, marketing directors, and more. In collaboration, you gain the theoretical and practical experience necessary to be successful in arts leadership positions nationally, and internationally.

Seattle’s Thriving Arts Community

A thriving, arts-dense region and a hub for innovation, Seattle is home to a dynamic and historic arts community. With a variety of performance and visual arts centers throughout the city, you will build essential relationships with our community partners, connections that can turn into lifelong careers in arts leadership.

The Pacific Northwest is a destination for the arts, nature, and tech. Seattle U is located in the walkable Capitol Hill Arts District, which includes accessible public transit. Within a half hour walk from campus are the 5th Avenue Theater, Benaroya Hall, Cal Anderson Park, Elliott Bay Book Company, Frye Art Museum, Hedreen Gallery, Hugo House, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, Lee Center for the Arts, Northwest Film Forum, Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park Conservatory, Wa Na Wari, Wing Luke Museum, and more. Join us and others who are passionate about the arts.

Featured Faculty

Get in Touch

If you have any questions about the program or application, we’re here to help!

Ashley Miller

Senior Admissions Counselor

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