Junwei Zhang, an alum of MacEwan University’s Arts and Cultural Management program, digs into artifacts at the Royal Alberta Museum.

Museums, movies and master’s degrees

June 19, 2020 | Arts & Culture

When Junwei Zhang moved to Canada at 18 years old, she spent much of her time in galleries and museums. It was her way of trying to understand her new country and its culture. “I felt more connected after every visit,” she says.

“Those visits made me realize that art is not just entertainment — it has the power to guide and inspire people. I can’t sing, dance or paint, but I can bring out the good in these things to other people.”

She says that’s why she chose to enroll in MacEwan University’s Arts and Cultural Management program.

A childhood dream

An essential part of the program involves a field placement, where students take the skills they’ve learned in the classroom into the real world. Those placements have taken students to some extraordinary places over the years — from record companies and festivals to museums, theatres and galleries all over the world.

Junwei's eight-week placement at the Royal Alberta Museum was a chance to learn more about museum and gallery management as she coordinated volunteers and worked in the Learning Collection Room.

“I actually got to touch fossils and other artifacts you don’t get to touch when you’re here as a visitor. That was my childhood dream,” she says. “All the work I did was fascinating and I enjoyed every day.”

Getting that behind-the-scenes experience led to Junwei landing a job at a museum in Kaifeng, China that inspired her as a child.

“China has been paying more attention to its culture and history sectors, and the city has been given more funds to support the museum. It’s now a popular site in my city. That’s the power of arts and cultural management.”

An unexpected calling

Brenda Lieberman also understands what effective arts and cultural management can do.

Before she became the co-founder of the Calgary Underground Film Festival and the lead features programmer at the Calgary International Film Festival, Brenda was enrolled in the Arts and Cultural Management program, where she gained insight into important parts of the creative industry that aren’t immediately visible to audiences — the administration, management, promotion and coordination that goes on behind the scenes to make a festival, show or production happen.

She didn’t always know that film was her calling. “I wanted to work in the arts and make a career of it somehow, but I didn’t know what that would look like.”

Her strengths — networking, research and organization skills, and a love of film — made her a natural fit for festival programming. “You don’t have to be a film major to work in and around film,” she says. “Festivals also need people in marketing, fundraising and volunteer coordination.”

Brenda's success comes from years of volunteering and collaborating with others, and her willingness to work hard has earned her an international reputation.

“Working in the arts is incredible – we get to mix our hobbies and passion with our work,” she says. “Love that, and work for it — it will pay off.”

A taste of research

Brenda's experience shows that even after earning a credential, there are many opportunities to continue learning and growing. For Charlotte Cranston, that means working toward a master’s degree.

Charlotte came to the Arts and Cultural Management program while taking a break from her degree to serve as Edmonton’s first Youth Poet Laureate. She was so impressed by what she discovered at an information session — the sense of community and opportunities for collaboration with her fellow students and with people working in the industry — that she was immediately compelled to enrol in MacEwan’s program. Though collaboration is what inspired her, she says she didn’t expect to get so invested in undergraduate research.

She was among seven students that applied for a research grant to interview artists and arts managers in Montreal about accessibility and sustainability in the arts. The experience ended up shaping her future.

That taste of undergraduate research inspired her to enter into her fourth year of a bachelor’s degree at Scotland’s Queen Margaret University in fall of 2019. “Having the chance to try research in an independent study has made me more confident as I work on my honours dissertation now,” she says. And that confidence is sure to continue serving her well as she plans to start her master’s degree in the future.

Museums, movies and master’s degrees are just three of the many places an arts and cultural management diploma can lead. The program’s alumni have taken the skills they have learned in the classroom to gain incredible professional experiences — in theatre, radio, music, museums, art galleries, cultural centres, festivals and more.



Lead and support the creative sector

Get the practical skills and professional knowledge you need to nurture and support talented artists and lead creative communities in the Arts and Cultural Management program.

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