Project Management

The Artist Must Be Paid

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Many people are unaware that I started my career in the arts. In particular, I began working in theatre. I have a degree in drama and theatre arts and specialized in technical theatre. Production management and stage management were my principal areas of focus. It is where I learned to become a project manager, before I knew that there was such a thing as project management.

The arts are a curious place to work. They thrive on creativity and innovation, obviously. They also thrive on making do, on doing more with less, and on stretching a dollar to the breaking point and beyond. Managing theatrical productions taught me discipline, collaboration, teamwork, how to hit a deadline with finesse, and how to make magic happen with very little in the way of tangible resources.

The consequence is that there is a lot of borrowing, bartering, begging and badgering to get things done. You start with little, and so you expect to continue with little. While I wish otherwise, what it means is you also expect relatively lower wages for the investment of effort, passion, creativity and learning that goes into the production of your art.

This reality has led to the reinforcement of a fundamental, underlying message for those who work in the arts:

The artist must be paid.

That can sound like an astonishingly assertive and even confrontational statement. It is not. It is a …


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