Differentiating Visual Arts Administration and Museum Studies Programs | Recording and Resources

(Note: More Resources to Come)


On Tuesday, February 6 at 2pm (EST) we spoke with with Bruce J. Altshuler, Director and Professor of Museum Studies at New York University and Sandra Lang, Director and Professor of Visual Arts Administration at Laura Busby, Student in New York University’s Visual Arts Administration program and Olivia Knauss, student in New York University’s Museum Studies program.


Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Program in Museum Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University. He has held positions at the New-York Historical Society, Zabriskie Gallery, Christie’s Education, and as Director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum.  He is the author of The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th CenturyIsamu NoguchiSalon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1863-1959, Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1962-2002, editor of Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art  and co-editor of Isamu Noguchi: Essays and Conversations.  Altshuler has published extensively and lectured internationally about exhibition and curatorial history, the history of museums, and modern and contemporary art.  He has been a member of the graduate faculty of the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, and the Board of Directors of the International Association of Art Critics/United States Section (AICA/USA).

Sandra (Sandy) Lang is the Program Director of the M.A. in Visual Arts Administration and Clinical Associate Professor. A leading expert in the history of corporate collecting in the United States, Sandy was the longtime Director of The Museum of Modern Art’s Art Advisory Service, advising corporations on acquisitions and maintaining an extensive network of CEOs, senior officials, and art curators from many institutions. Sandy is also a past Executive Director of Independent Curators International (ICI) and of the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA). A tireless teacher and mentor to NYU’s vibrant student and alumni bodies, Sandy speaks widely on curatorial practice, creative placemaking, and pedagogy in arts administration. She has also served previously as board member of the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) and as past president of both ArtTable and the Association of Professional Art Advisors (APAA).

Laura Busby (b. Winnipeg, Canada) currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where she is pursuing her master’s degree in Visual Arts Administration at New York University Steinhardt. She has diverse experience interning with art non-profits, including the College Art Association, the Whitney Museum of American Art in the chief curator’s office and will be joining Creative Time in the spring. During her studies, and following her graduation in 2012 from the University of British Columbia in Canada with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History, Visual Art & Theory, she worked as an educator and arts administrator at the Vanco uver Art Gallery for nearly seven years.

Olivia Knauss is a second-year master’s student in NYU’s Museum Studies Program with an interest in development and fundraising. Since starting her program in 2018, Knauss has interned in various development departments including the Tenement Museum, the Met, and, in the spring of 2020, the External Affairs Department at the MoMA. In addition to her museum work, she has also worked as CAA’s RAAMP Program Assistant. Before moving to New York City, Olivia worked at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology as a grant writer and Phillips Exeter Academy’s Lamont Gallery as a Collections Assistant & Archives Coordinator. She received her B.A. in Art & Art History from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and is originally from Buffalo, NY.

Some of the questions we considered include:

For the program directors: 

  • What would you consider the main different between museum studies and visual arts administration in terms of the curriculum?
  • Is there a general ratio of practical to theoretical knowledge?  
  • Are there different or overlapping career goals for students in each program? 
  • How did NYU in particular come to the conclusion that they should have these separate programs?  
  • What has been the trend in such programs in the last decade or decades? 
  • Do you see students switching from one program to another? 
  • What are the advantages of earning a higher degree in one of these fields rather than going directly into a lower-level museum position? 


For the students:

  • What made you decide on one program over the other? 
  • Do you ever feel like your projects cross into or out of the boundaries of your current program? 
  • What was most important to you in considering a program? 
  • Where do you hope your education will lead? 

During the course of the conversation, a viewer also pointed out that young women should be aware of salary discrepancies in the market and offered some resources on that and similar topics:
AAM’s article Museums as a Pink Profession by Joan Baldwin

The Gender in Equity Museums Movement (GEMM)

Earlier, the AAMD’s public stance on museums providing paid internships was also mentioned




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