CCM Arts Administration students use their skills to impact their hometowns over summer break

Alex Flannery and Amanda Franklin had to think outside the box for internships during the pandemic

Story by CCM Graduate Assistant Kelly Barefield

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music in partnership with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business has one of the few MA/MBA Arts Administration programs in the country. This prestigious two-year program trains future CEOs and senior managers to lead professional performing, visual and cultural arts organizations.

Alex Flannery and Amanda Franklin are current arts administration majors, entering their last year of studies at CCM. Students typically spend the summer between their first and second years in a job or internship at an arts organization, where they gain significant career development and professional experience.

In order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, nearly all summer festivals, artistic programs, and traditional performances were cancelled or moved to a virtual format, leaving many students without summer plans. Flannery and Franklin had to think outside the box to gain the experience they desired for their summer internships.

A headshot of Alex Flannery

Alex Flannery. Photo/Provided.

"The CCM Arts Administration program allowed complete flexibility and encouragement in allowing students to create a virtual self-learning plan in lieu of the traditional in-person internship model," Flannery says.

Franklin agrees and adds "Jean [Hamilton] was amazing in allowing us to find innovative ways outside of the traditional internship to accomodate internship requirements."

Flannery is the graduate assistant behind Talent for Hire, which is CCM’s student performer and artist referral service. While running the CCM Talent for Hire service this summer, Flannery returned to his hometown in Michigan, where he was able to gain professional experience by working as a consultant and by volunteering at a number of arts organizations and nonprofits. At the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, Flannery worked with other administrators to plan and implement a community art festival. The team worked to reimagine and create a socially distanced art festival that was engaging for children and the entire community.

A family stands with their chalk drawing in their driveway

The family of Upper Peninsula Children's Museum's Executive Director with their chalk drawing. Photo/Provided

"My favorite project this summer was collaborating on 'Paint the Town with Love' with the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum," Flannery says. "It was an opportunity for families to create a large art project together while sending the message to our community that creativity and love are what will get us through these tough times."

In addition to volunteer and administrative work, Flannery wrote a research paper concerning “The Economic Impact of the Arts and Culture Industry.” Focused on arts advocacy, this paper explores how dollars spent in arts organizations help the entire community. Research like this will positively impact arts organizations around the country as officials learn the importance of investing in the arts.  

"I came to the program with five years of arts administration experience," Flannery says. "My first year in the Arts Administration program at CCM reinforced many of the principles I learned in the job field, but also equipped me with knowledge of the important considerations and decisions that managers need to make to face the myriad of issues in the sector."

Amanda Franklin sits on a bench outside.

Amanda Franklin. Photo/Provided.

Franklin is the graduate assistant behind CCM Summer Programs, which offers performing arts workshops to youth, teens and adults during the summer. While keeping ties with Cincinnati through work with CCM Summer Programs and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Franklin returned to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Upon return to the city, Franklin found her hometown in need of encouragement and advocacy in the wake of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Breonna Taylor. Franklin focused much of her summer on doing what she could to unify her city through music, theatre, church and other nonprofits in the area. Her main project was the Living Green Wall, a 30 foot by seven foot wall of plants and moss that is designed to naturally help clean the air pollution. The wall spells "unity" amid the greenery and represents life, hope and shows what the community can accomplish when people come together. Construction of the wall involved a day of family activities and celebration, investing time into the community that will have a lasting impact.

A living green wall spells out unity against the brick of a building.

Louisville's living green wall, which spells "unity." Photo/Provided.

Franklin also worked with the River City Drum Corp and Dream Yard, where she worked with students in underserved communities. Franklin also applied her arts administration skills to passion projects like assisting her brother Troy Anthony, who produces performances to uplift marginalized communities through music and encouragement.

In a time so uncertain, these students felt equipped to tackle the struggles arts organizations and nonprofits are facing during the pandemic.

"My year in the Arts Administration program has prepared me for this past summer," Franklin says. "The program has taught me to think quickly and critically of the ways I can use my skills."

During the fall semester, Franklin is interning at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department. Flannery’s semester plans include researching topics in international cultural policy as well as the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on artists and arts organizations.

"I will also continue to keep up on current events, especially the conversation around racial justice and equity, to ensure I am properly listening, learning and doing my best to be part of the solution” Flannery says.

While this summer presented new challenges for everyone, these two students overcame obstacles to gain rich professional experiences. In addition to seeing how the skills they are learning at CCM can be used to help any organization, they also saw how those skills can positively impact their communities as a whole.


Featured image at the top: Arts Administration students Amanda Franklin, Emily Larson, Kelly Barefield and Jobelle Mesa at the Arts Administrators of Color Annual Convention. Photo/Provided.