The MAMA Grand Tour: a journey through the Management of beautiful things

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A trip around Italy on the trail of the most virtuous examples of arts and cultural heritage management, from the Biennale in Venice to the Museo del Duomo in Florence and from Paestum to the Vatican museums. Thanks to a partnership with several prestigious institutions, the students of the first edition of the MAMA, the Masters in Arts Management and Administration, were transformed into modern day Goethes for 12 days, but with the added bonus of being able to take a unique look behind the scenes at the complex organizational aspects of managing some of the most important historical sites in Italy. We call it the Grand Tour, the culmination of a unique training experience. We discussed the program with Andrea Rurale, Director of the MAMA.

The Grand Tour, a noteworthy initiative within a program such as the MAMA. Could we call it “on the road” training? Tell us how the idea was born and how it developed.

The idea of the Grand Tour was born out of the need within MAMA to consolidate our academic training and theoretical foundations with a direct experience of the key functions in the management of the arts and cultural heritage. For this reason, we created partnerships with important institutions in the Heritage (museums) and Performing Arts (theaters) sectors, who have developed specific skills and projects within their organizations. Meetings with these institutions happened in one of two ways: throughout the year the partners brought concrete examples of their activities into the classroom – the evaluation of the social impact of a project, the training of human resources within an artistic institution, business management peculiarities, etc. – and at the end of the program MAMA students were able to see first hand – on the road, as we said – the practical application of what they had learned.
The Grand Tour took the MAMA class to visit 20 important cultural institutions in Italy, with a minimally touristic approach. Some examples: In Naples we had a comprehensive tour of the San Carlo Theater, going backstage and behind the scenes, discussing with the artistic director how they assemble the playbill, how they receive the public’s recommendations and how they handle scheduling. At the Biennale in Venice, we took a closer look at the role of cultural administrators and how they reached a clear and synergetic distinction between the responsibilities of the curator and the manager. This way of approaching the institutions is more fulfilling for the Master’s students than a simple visit.
Each participant had a sort of “personal diary” that had been pre-filled with questions related to all the topics studied throughout the year – leadership, organization, management control, legal, marketing and CRM, social impact, environment, fundraising, communication, etc. – that they had to answer in their own personal way while on Tour. Of course they had to concentrate on all the subjects covered throughout the year, but they also lived unique experiences such as being in the Sistine Chapel for half an hour on their own.

From a didactic point of view, and considering the dynamics among the participants, how is it different from the time they spend in the classroom?

By the end of the Master’s the participants are certainly more mature. They developed critical thinking that allows them to fully appreciate the experiences they undergo during the Grand Tour, sometimes even being critical of them. Above all, they can appreciate the managerial and organizational excellence they come in contact with, observing those aspects that are rarely seen or talked about in cultural heritage administration in Italy—such as information technology and data handling.

At the end of this first Grand Tour what was the feedback from the participants?

They were all highly involved and happy for this experience, which included a group of about 30 people coming from all over the globe. As this was the final event after an intensive year spent together, it was a chance for the participants to get together and take stock.
The mood was well captured in the video made by Andrea Quartarone, MAMA Faculty, together with some of the students. It was an experimental initiative that really shows the value of the Master’s and the Tour’s experience solely from the point of view of the participants.

How much of an effect does MAMA’s location in Italy – and in particular an initiative such as the Grand Tour – have on whether students choose to join the program, especially foreign students? Is it perceived as a complementary offer, albeit important, or does it have a real strategic appeal?

Even though many foreign students perceive the Grand Tour as the feather in MAMA’s cap, those who choose this kind of training are usually already quite well-versed in the art world. Unlike other international students who might be interested in a “compendium” of places to visit in Italy, the Grand Tour does not have, and does not want to have, a touristic appeal for its participants. The point is the chance to go behind the scenes, to look at the organization behind the greatest artistic and cultural sites. For example, our day at the Vatican Museums started at 5am, to follow the organization of a gigantic and such a highly efficient organizational mechanism, meeting the director and the managers of key areas such as security (including a visit to the control room), the management of the ticket office, of IT, of the bookstore, and marketing. This is truly unique experience for anyone who wants to get into the world of Arts management.
Keep in mind that those who participate in the MAMA are people that almost always have a strong cultural, artistic and humanistic basis, but require management training. The Master’s must give them these specific and transferrable competencies. From this point of view, the Grand Tour is not simply a way to end the Master’s in style, but it is also a key moment to assess and verify first-hand all the notions that the students learned during the program. If they also happen to experience something beautiful while doing it, it can only make the whole process better.

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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