Tag Archives: Cultural Policy

Planning to work in or study the arts sector? Look up the Cultural Policy Center

You do not have to be in a specific program option while in MAPH, but many students find program options a useful way to develop their interests during the year. Even those of you who are not in the option might want to check out the cultural policy course options and workshop sessions if you think you might want to work for cultural organizations.

Incoming MAPHers interested in working in the arts sector, or going on for doctoral work involving the policy aspects of cultural studies, should look into the resources at the Cultural Policy Center. The CPC is an interdisciplinary research center that is situated in the Harris School of Public Policy and the independent research organization NORC, but it has strong ties to the Humanities Division, and MAPH in particular. It focuses on three activities: research; public programming; and teaching, including overseeing the Cultural Policy Studies MAPH option.

Cultural Policy Studies MAPH option

The cultural policy option is of particular interest to MAPH students who are considering careers in cultural organizations; in public service agencies within the cultural sector, such as foundations or government agencies that support the arts; or doctoral work with a focus on the policy dimensions of cultural studies, cultural theory, or cultural history.

It requires an introductory course, a research project-based course, and at least two cultural policy-related electives, as well as the Foundations of Interpretive Theory course (the “Core” course) required of all MAPH students and a final thesis on a topic broadly related to cultural policy studies.

Further reading:

Public programming

The Cultural Policy Center’s workshops mix theory and practice: speakers include practitioners as well as academics, and the events always draw visitors from cultural organizations around the city as well as students from several different academic divisions. (Students don’t have to be in the MAPH option to attend the workshops.) See a list of past workshops, and some videos, here.


In addition to its events and curriculum, the CPC conducts its own research, and the biggest research project in its history was released this summer. Set in Stone is a study of a major building boom of museums, performing arts centers, and theaters in the United States from 1994 to 2008. Among the discoveries:

  • Cities in the South had the greatest increase in cultural buildings. The region had lagged behind the rest of the country prior to the building boom — the Northeast and West had twice the number of cultural facilities per capita in 1990 than did the South.
  • More than 80 percent of the projects studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent.
  • Smaller cities with fewer than 500,000 people were building as well, and many of these cities were building for the first time.
  • More performing arts centers were built than any other kind of arts facility.
  • There is substantial evidence that there was overinvestment during the building boom—especially when coupled with the number of organizations that experienced financial difficulties post-building.

Further reading:

Connect with the Cultural Policy Center by signing up for their mailing list.

Have questions? Contact the CPC’s assistant director, Will Anderson, MAPH’09, at willcanderson@uchicago.edu.


Jane Hanna, MAPH ’11, discusses the MAPH Cultural Policy Option

Incoming MAPH students, while you do not have to choose one of the program options to be in MAPH, many students do choose an option. If you are at all interested in working with arts organizations, non-profits, or galleries you may want to take some classes in cultural policy or consider being part of the Cultural Policy Option.  Jane Hanna, MAPH ’11, talks about her experience in the option and the nifty job she has now as Social Media Strategist for the Field Museum. Also, the Cultural Policy Center has a released a big study that was recently featured in the New York Times. It is worth reading the article if you are interested in cultural policy and some of the work CPC has been doing at the University of Chicago.

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in CPC while I completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities in 2010-11. As a MAPH student, I chose the Cultural Policy option, and much of my coursework was taken at the Harris School and Law School. I was looking for an academic program which would allow me to have an interdisciplinary focus, combining my interest in the arts and humanities with my career experience in marketing, and assist me in my aspirations towards a career in museum administration. I’m also a technologist and gamer and my research areas included mobile and social media and the ways in which these complicate traditional museum exhibition, education, and marketing strategies. At CPC, I helped with the preparations for the CultureLab Emerging Practice Seminar 2011, which was focused in part on engaging arts audiences through the use of technology.

Additionally, I was involved with the lunchtime workshop series as both an employee of CPC and an enthusiastic attendee. After graduating, I also participated in the marvelous Future of the City: The Arts Symposium by virtue of my association with CPC. Betty Farrell served as my supervisor as well as my thesis advisor and professor.

What do you do now?

I am the Social Media Strategist for The Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. In this capacity, I am responsible for maintaining a broad and ever-growing portfolio of social media pages for the Museum, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Yelp, and many more. I work closely with the scientific staff to develop engaging content that educates and entertains our digital community of fans and supporters.

I also deliver up-to-the-minute news about exhibitions, educational programs, special events, and promotions to the public several times per day, seven days per week. I monitor and evaluate the performance of these pages using Google Analytics and other tracking tools, and continually look for short- and long-term ways through which the Museum can leverage these properties for various strategic purposes. I think I have one of the best jobs at the Field not only because I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with staff working in all of the Museum’s departments, but also because I spend a large portion of my time interacting with our enthusiastic public, answering their questions, inviting them to participate in dialogues and citizen scientist activities, and learning valuable insights from their feedback.

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