In the Business of the Arts
Following your passion while minding your wallet can often be a challenge—sometimes one that forces you to make a tough decision.
For Abigail Isaac, MBA ’13, it was finding a way to make her passion for the arts a sustainable career.
Isaac’s interests centered around the arts from a young age. Dancing at three, acting classes at ten, participation in her high school drama program during her teen years, and an excellent undergraduate theatre education at the University of South Carolina all led her to the determination that a career in the arts was where she was meant to be.
“I’ve had to navigate the work/life balance in a field that doesn’t pay very well until the very highest levels,” says Isaac.
When she started transitioning into arts management positions, she realized there was a lot to learn about running a business.
“Rather than get an arts management degree like most other arts administrators, I decided to pursue an MBA to receive a well-rounded business education and to see what the arts can learn from business practices in other industries,” Isaac says.
As a graduate student, Isaac was granted a teaching assistantship to attend the full-time MBA program. The benefits she received from the assistantship were far more than financial. “Teaching undergraduate students while earning my MBA definitely had a lasting effect on me,” she says. “I had the opportunity to apply the new skills I was learning in a very unique way: by teaching it to others!”
Isaac enjoyed the assistantship so much, that she now is an adjunct professor at the School of Management teaching organizational behavior to undergraduate students.
Not only are the arts her passion, but Isaac loves the challenge they bring too. Now the business development manager at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., Isaac hopes to use her MBA to one day lead an arts organization as artistic director or managing director, and to continue directing plays. In her current position, Isaac is responsible for generating revenue (aside from ticket sales), including managing the venue rental business. She is also the representative of the company in the neighborhood and business community.
“I have been passionate about the performing arts industry since high school, and I’ve always wanted to contribute something significant to the field. I hope to develop ways that the business of art can be sustainable, and not rely so heavily on grants and donations,” she says.