The Unique MA Program in Arts Management in Tajikistan: Trends and Challenges in Development of Arts Management Education and Practice in the Country

By Dr. Lidia Varbanova 

International Consultant, Educator and Researcher in the field of Strategy, Policy and Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Creative Industries

he first MA Program in Arts Management is a successful example of collaborative strategy between the arts, educational and nonprofit sectors. The Open Society Institute, Assistance Foundation Tajikistan undertook the first steps by initiating and supporting feasibility study and needs assessment in 2014. The study showed the need for education and training in arts management and was a key document for elaboration the content and methodology for the four training of trainers’ seminars in 2015. The carefully selected group of academic lecturers and cultural practitioners passed through the interactive training sessions that combined theoretical discourses with world practices. Leading international trainers and experts who are members of the European Network on Cultural Management and Policy (ENCATC) took part in this important kick off phase. The main aim of the seminars was to assist in strengthening the scientific, informational and teaching capacity of university professors and cultural practitioners who choose to teach courses in the field of arts and culture management.

The MA program in Arts Management is new not only for Tajikistan, but for the whole Central Asian Region. Four leading higher universities in the country stay behind the elaboration of the new program – the Technological University of Tajikistan, Tajik State University of Commerce, Tajik State Institute of the Arts and Tajik State Institute of Fine Arts and Design. The curricula development for the new program was a long and intensive process that complied with university standards in the country and took as examples world leading practices in educational programs in arts and cultural management. The final content of the program as well as local collaboration between the universities required also assistance and approval from the Ministry of Education and Science in Tajikistan who was very supportive in the process of accreditation of the new program.

The new program is designed for two years and contains key subject areas that are new and very much needed for the country and the region, for example: cultural economics, cultural diplomacy and legislation, entrepreneurship in the arts, strategic and business planning, marketing the arts, fundraising and project management, human resource management, as well as specific subject areas related to managing specific art fields such as: festivals, galleries, performing arts, cultural tourism and much more. There were 13 committed professionals, young scholars and art practitioners have been engaged in laying down the MA’s curricula. Tajikistan is not the only country in transition where such combination between economic, business, management, marketing and other matters is very much needed in the practice of arts and culture organizations in all fields of arts. The trend of looking at arts and creative industries sector as a way to earn revenues, and not only as a subsidized sector is happening in many countries in Asia and Europe.

The summer school “Arts Management: Innovative Approaches and Creative Collaboration” which was held at the end of August 2016 in Gulobod resort, Varzob, Tajikistan, proved the abilities of the already trained trainers to present efficiently, to connect theoretical discourses with practical case studies and to conduct interactive exercises with the participants. The already formed Alumni group of arts managers was joined by other well selected cultural operators and artists who have high reputation in the country. The group was well balanced in terms of gender, fields of arts and age groups. Young and experienced cultural managers, administrators, artists and project managers from diverse fields of arts and creative industries such as theatre, fine arts, photography, fashion, museums, music and others took part in the summer school. This contributed to the diversity of ideas and rainbow of experiences that participants actively shared during the week of collaborative learning and sharing of ideas.

The summer school proved that Tajikistan has potential in development of arts management practice and education, for example: there are talented and motivated young people in almost all areas of arts; development of the tourism industry in the country provide opportunities for combining culture and creative industries with tourism services; the literacy level in the country is relatively high and the university system has a long history of existence, and many more.

There are also some challenges as well as trends in the education and practice of arts management in the country. For example, local cultural organizations need to establish international collaboration and partnership with organizations abroad in order to be successful in their international presence and to eventually work on joined projects. There is a need to use much more efficiently the new technologies to promote Tajik art on the global scene with all possible methods. Innovative thinking “outside of the box” and looking at opportunities for business models in the arts would help arts managers and artists to attract much more global audiences. The local media attention to cultural events and organizations has to be provoked by regular PR campaigns in the cultural sectors and other methods of marketing and publicity. Cultural projects would benefit if they connect art projects with other societal areas such as education, environment, health care, social issues as well as issues of global concern. Lobbying and advocacy efforts in the country are needed in order to improve policy decisions in the cultural sector and influence the elaboration of efficient legislation, especially in the field of copyrights, taxation policy, statistical indicators.

The newly established informal network of arts managers in Tajikistan aims to look further at ways to address some of these burning issues by innovative projects and collaborative strategies of local and international partnership.

The new MA program in Arts Management in Tajikistan aims to also reflect on some of these challenges and trends. It is designed for students who would like to work further as arts managers, producers, impresarios, curators and managers of galleries and exhibitions, cultural administrators, organizers of concerts and cultural events, festival managers, music managers, and all others who already work in the field of arts and culture and need further qualification and knowledge. The program has a high potential for further development and for becoming a focus point for regional education and training in arts and cultural management. Its further membership at the European Network on Cultural Management and Policy (if considered by the universities in the country) would increase its visibility and contacts in an international context. The newly formed Resource Centre in Cultural Management as part of Dushanbe Art Ground aims at accumulating relevant materials in the field, such as documents, books, articles, publications, and others to be at disposal to the students. The Center will secure that the MA program is backed up by a strong methodological basis in many subject areas.

The new program needs wide national and international publicity in order to start successfully in September 2017. A well elaborated online and offline promotional campaign done by all parties involved is important so that the program makes its first steps and gains visibility.

For further information on the MA in Arts Management, contact:
Technological University of Tajikistan
Dushanbe, ul. N. Harabaeva 63/3
Tel: + 992-918657617, + 992 234 59 10, email: rectorat@tut.tj

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