Course Descriptions

Year One

ARTL-5150: Fundamentals of the Nonprofit Arts Sector
This seminar class provides a broad and fast paced overview of the arts sector in the United States with a focus on nonprofit structures and how these have been shaped and continue to evolve today. We will explore key components that create the operating framework for arts organizations, as well as trends, challenges and opportunities, making use of the Seattle region as an example and laboratory. Class sessions will be discussion and presentation oriented. You should be prepared to read a broad array of source material and to participate fully in each class.

ARTL-5250: Leadership & Interpersonal Behavior for Arts Leaders
This course provides a space and a framework to embrace leadership as a process. Through inclusive pedagogy practices, this course is designed to integrate theory, practice, and skills on topics critical to functioning as an intersectional arts leader. Students engage in understanding how to lead within their own positionality and the body they occupy, as well as within the specific contexts in which they operate. Leadership is not static, so the purpose of this course is to create a solid container in which each student can build, expand, contract, and create a strong epistemology of leadership in the arts sector. Major assignments include a literature review and a collaborative team project.

ARTL-5400: Marketing the Arts
Students will develop specific skills of audience development to be applied in performing and visual arts organizations. This includes developing an organization's brand and image and translating it into media messages that accurately communicate the organization's mission. Topics include developing and implementing a public relations strategy, working with the media, developing print materials, and managing marketing budgets.

ARTL-5360: Financial Management for Arts Leaders
Planning, reporting and controlling of fiscal resources and overall management control systems, budgeting, terminology and principles of financial accounting and program evaluation, analysis of financial statements, responsibility and program structure, internal controls and audit responsibility, managerial financial controls and pricing.

ARTL-5380: Leading Staff and Volunteers in Arts Organizations
Best practices for implementing the management competencies needed to lead staff, political realities of staff operations, fostering creativity, coaching for excellence, achieving diversity, nonprofit aspects of personnel recruitment, administration, retention and evaluation policies and procedures, laws and regulations.

ARTL-5410: Public Policy & Advocacy in the Arts
The course examines relationships among public policy, advocacy, and the arts. The course begins by exploring and defining the value of the arts, and how those concepts of value (such as instrumental and intrinsic) are deployed to advocate for arts, cultural policy, and arts funding. The course continues with queries into local, state, and national arts policy agencies including Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, King County’s 4Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as non-governmental arts advocacy organizations including Americans for the Arts, USDAC, and Cultural Access Washington. Other topics of study include: artistic citizenship, creative economy, cultural equity, public art, legislative theatre, arts education policy, and creative placemaking. Course and in-class assignments include a presentation on the course material, an op-ed or letter to a policymaker, and analysis of public art. These assignments and in-class activities prepare students for the final project: choice of an arts policy proposal, a cultural policy analysis, or an advocacy campaign for the arts.

ARTL-5460: Strategic Planning in the Arts
This course approaches strategic planning as a vital component of a sustainable arts organization. A quality plan clarifies the strategic direction of the organization and provides strategies that will be used to achieve the organization’s artistic mission, while also ensuring organizational health and vibrancy. Through the application of decolonial methodologies, this course seeks to prepare students with the content needed in order to think strategically about planning as a function of equity and justice. Students will read leading authors in the field of arts strategic planning, hear guest speakers from local organizations involved in their strategic planning process, practice equity through planning as arts leaders, and create a full, working strategic plan.

Year Two

ARTL-5370: Governance in Arts Organizations
Organizing and leading arts volunteers to provide governance and other assistance, board and staff relations, systems and tactics of volunteer motivation, recruitment, development, utilization and retention, strategies and best practices for creating an effective, diverse and committed organizational leadership team.

ARTL-5430: Resource Development for the Arts
Specific skills, knowledge and understanding required of arts leaders to lead and manage the resource development and fundraising functions, integrating fundraising and stewardship throughout the organization, organizational readiness measures, materials and tools of resource development, best practices for involving volunteers, boards and staff in researching and soliciting contributions, methodologies for creating and using an effective, diversified and comprehensive resource development plan.

ARTL-5800: Law and the Arts
Examines the legal foundations of artistic creation including copyright, freedom of expression, ownership of ideas, and public domain laws. Students will also learn about the fundamentals of contract negotiation and creation and develop an understanding of the collective bargaining process. Topics include conflict resolution and the principles, methods and dynamics of negotiation and mediation processes.

ARTL-5990: Summary Project
The final quarter of the program is devoted to the development and presentation of a Summary Project. It integrates the student’s academic, practicum, and professional experience into one applied research project that consists of a paper, a presentation, and a project. With the guidance of faculty, the focus of this course is on inquiry or asking questions, citation or honoring past literature, and doing the work or practicing methods relevant to your research projects, analyzing data, and working through ideas and revision. 

Summary Projects are a representation of what could be as students continue to pursue arts leadership through an intersectional lens towards equity, empathy, and value. At the end of the quarter, to confer MFA in Arts Leadership degrees, students present their Summary Projects to colleagues, faculty, alumni, and invited family and friends through a curated event produced by the Arts Leadership Department.

ARTL-5951: Summary Project: Applied Research
This final quarter practicum expands to three credits and forms half of the Summary Project experience along with ARTL 5990 Summary Project. The expectation is that students will spend a concerted amount of time (120-150 hours) conducting the hand-ons methods required for their Summary Project during their final quarter. Building upon their practicum experiences, this summary work could take the form of interviewing, surveying, creating, researching, teaching, etc.


ARTL-5950: 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.

There are four (4) distinct practicum options: 

  • Organization- Work with an arts organization. Find your own opportunity or work with vetted arts organizations.
  • Interview- Interview 4-5 arts leaders in a specific field/area of interest. Choose from a curated list or find your own networks.
  • Project- Create a tangible project like a podcast, petition, educational tool, etc., to further an arts leadership idea.
  • Research- Study a chosen arts leadership need/issue.

Through consultation with program advisors, students can choose to do the same option each quarter or switch throughout the program to suit their professional goals. No matter the chosen option, it is expected that each student will spend 40-50 hours on practicum work each quarter.


ARTL-5440: Persuasive Communication for Arts Leaders
Principles and practices of speaking effectively to persuade an audience, methods of assessing audience communication preferences, preparing for formal and informal speaking opportunities expected of arts leaders including radio and television presentations, assessing your communication strengths and opportunities for improvement. This class will emphasize practice and feedback.

ARTL-5500: Social Issues through the Arts
In this course, we examine the effects and possibilities of didactic, socially engaged contemporary visual and performance arts that speak directly to peoples’ passions and politics.  In order to redefine and deconstruct “didactic” (pedagogical, instructive) art, we will view, discuss, critique and create a variety of artworks.  Individually and collaboratively, we will investigate the place where social issues and aesthetics meet, and discuss their relevance for today’s arts leaders.

ARTL-5600: Arts Education Program Management
This course addresses the elements necessary for creating, managing and sustaining quality arts education programs that effectively advance an organization’s mission and meet demonstrated community needs.

ARTL-5700: Infrastructure & Facilities
This course explores theory and practice in the planning, development, and operation of arts and cultural facilities and the other physical infrastructure used in the process of art making, presentation, education, and preservation. Students will be encouraged to explore the real-world challenges and competing priorities of arts facility planning, development and operation in the context of artistic and community needs; the political and policy environment; and the economy. They will also identify and analyze the elements of sustainable arts facility funding, development, construction and operation, at a variety of scales and in a variety of circumstances. This course will contribute to students’ deeper understanding of the role of arts leaders in shaping the physical environment, and the implications of arts and culture infrastructure for the sector’s mission-driven objectives.

ARTL-5750: Research Methodologies
This course provides students with an opportunity to actively contribute to a growing research project on the regional Seattle arts sector, and to build research skills for their own work, including their Summary Project. An overview of research methods is integrated with skills to research, document, and analyze the evolution of the arts ecosystem since the 1962 World’s Fair. Students undertake primary (original) and secondary research, defining research questions and developing skills such as interview protocols and case studies. The lived experiences of regional arts leaders as well as archives and reference materials are used by students to create new entries for the Arts Ecosystem Research Project (AERP) website and digital repository, a scholarly and community resource.

ARTL-5910: Special Topics- Arts Education: Theories of Resistance as Practice
Arts Education: Theories of Practice as Resistance will engage a deep exploration of inclusive, anti-racist pedagogies that will prepare you to center young people through an intersectional lens. You will examine contemporary issues and trends in the arts as well as educational reform, analyze and reflect upon your own teaching practice, and develop resources that connect co-creative theory with practice in arts education. Geared towards application with various arts disciplines (visual arts, performance, poetry, music, etc) at any grade level, this course will both model and provide a framework to practice equitable methods of inquiry, ideation, and creative expression within your given context – schools, nonprofits, youth programs, etc. Primarily project based, this course will provide you with ample opportunity for peer and small group collaboration and feedback. Guest speakers from local youth arts non-profits will lend diverse perspectives into topics such as restorative justice, cultural humility and youth-led practices.

ARTL-5910: Special Topics- Advanced Resource Development Strategies
This course is designed to give students an opportunity to build on the fundamentals of resource development by examining the theory and practice of planning, developing, and operating substantial fundraising campaigns.  Through case studies, readings, panel discussions, and sample scenarios, students will explore topics including the risks and rewards of capital, endowment, and special project campaigns; how to evaluate an organization’s readiness for major campaigns; components of feasibility studies; how to select, utilize, and manage fundraising counsel; campaign mechanics; structuring naming opportunities and recognition programs; how to fully engage boards of directors in all fundraising efforts, particularly special campaigns; campaign evaluation methods; and maintaining ethics and integrity in fundraising programs. Students must have taken ARTL-5430 prior to this class.

Sample syllabi are available upon request.

Contact Us

Kevin Maifeld, MFA
Arts Leadership Programs Director
JEFF 401

Student Financial Services