This semester we’ve been thrilled to welcome Dr. Michael Seman to the LEAP family. His expertise lie at intersection of music, entrepreneurship, and economic development on the urban landscape. Before joining Colorado State University, Michael was Director of Creative Industries Research and Policy at the University of Colorado Denver College of Arts and Media. Let’s meet Michael!
What is your background in and how did you find yourself in the Arts Management field?
My doctorate is in urban planning and public policy and my work focused on how music scenes operate like Silicon Valley, often benefitting their host cities in terms of economic and community development. While I was earning my master’s and doctorate degrees and working at a university center for economic development research, I was also playing in and managing the band, Shiny Around the Edges with my wife, Jennifer who earned her doctorate in U.S. history specializing in the US-Mexico borderlands. We released three albums, toured, and did all the things a band does while often working on projects with a wide array of artists in the fields of dance, film, literature, the visual arts, and design. In addition to playing in Shiny, I promoted shows, founded a boutique festival of eclectic music, and booked daytime programing for two music festivals in Denton, Texas. Before that, I worked as internal marketing executive at Creative Artist Agency in Beverly Hills for several years. That was an amazing experience and a basically a graduate degree in the inner-workings of the entertainment industry. I don’t compartmentalize my life so my work on all fronts has immersed me in the creative economy for over twenty years. Teaching in an arts management program is a perfect fit for me.
The field of Arts Management is still fairly new, relative to other fields of study. Why do you feel that earning a degree in Arts Management is important?
With the sea change brought about by the digital revolution and the increasing competition across all of the arts disciplines and the broader creative economy, it is of the utmost importance that artists have a firm grasp on how to manage their own careers, from marketing to accounting to hustling and being a “player.” The same goes for those from backgrounds such as economics, entrepreneurship, or business who want to develop careers managing artists. The traditional institutions and companies that once drove industries like music and film are either offering less opportunities to foster emerging artists or have shifted in dynamic so much that working with them is more of a partnership situation requiring the artist or artist manager to take on more business responsibilities and operate with extreme savvy. Add to that the rapidly intersecting worlds of art and technology resulting in situations where a dancer can leverage his, her, or their talents into app development and the need for a holistic education in arts management for anyone operating in the creative economy is apparent. Adjacent to all of this is the non-profit world of the arts which continues to look for individuals with a mix of knowledge spanning the arts, management, and entrepreneurship.
How do you hope to grow the Arts Management program at Colorado State University?
I am excited to be working with our Director, Michelle Stanley to develop and offer courses that will expand our options in terms of management in the music industry, including hands-on experience with music festivals, and how best to manage music in all facets of a city. We are also looking to enhance offerings concerning the creative economy and cultural policymaking and give more insight into the economics of managing an arts organization. I am beginning to explore how best to position students for careers in the emerging realm of immersive art so they can help push companies like teamLab, THÉORIZ, and Meow Wolf further or start ones of their own.
You’re new to Fort Collins, correct? What are you looking forward to the most about the town?
Yes, I’m a long-time visitor, first-time resident! I am excited to see as many shows as possible whether it’s an angular no wave band in someone’s living room, a hip hop project at The Music District, or Com Truise at the Aggie. I also can’t wait to attend everything from dance performances and plays to art exhibits and symphonies just downstairs from my office in the University Center for the Arts. It will be nice to own a bike again after several decades of not having one, I think… the odds are probably high that I’ve forgotten how to ride one and will crash spectacularly.
Tell us a couple of your favorite things – it can be anything!
Hmmm… The color orange, watching Denver Nuggets games with my wife, playing shows with Shiny Around the Edges, the Neon Indian album, Vega Intl. Night School, live sets by the Russian DJ Nina Kraviz, the films, The Philadelphia Story, Less Than Zero, and Singles. I’ve read The Orchid Thief and Polaroids from the Dead more than once and try to get to Taos, New Mexico and Denton, Texas for a break whenever possible. The airport in Singapore is also pretty amazing.