I am Programme Leader for a new MA/MFA in Executive (Creative) Arts Leadership at the Department of Art & Performance, Manchester School of Art. The following is a redacted sketch (May 2020) of how I envisage the programme. It is subject to revision and approval. The final, approved outline of the programme will be shared in December 2020.


  • Calling risk-takers, practitioners, managers, makers, change-makers, dreamers & doers, entrepreneurs & intrapreneurs in the arts, creative and cultural sectors & beyond: Tired of the status quo? Ready to be challenged?
  • This is an innovative, interdisciplinary, internationalised & inclusive programme that will empower you to not just learn the game but learn how to lead and change the game.       
  • We propose ‘creative arts leadership’ as an interdisciplinary creative research and practice paradigm that is curated through an art school ethos, and situated as extension of art intervention, social practice, seeking to catalyse and make change, within and beyond the creative and cultural community and beyond, in an Industry 4.0 and VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) contexts.     
  • You will learn the art, arts, business, science, theory, research and practice of creativity in, of, and through leadership, and how that relates to creative, arts and cultural communities and beyond
  • Curated and led by UK’s oldest comprehensive art school (1838), driven by a distinct art-school ethos that celebrates creative thinking, you will learn from distinguished leaders from the arts, business, Higher Education, and more, learn alongside peers from all backgrounds over the world.  


  • Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been clear that the world needs new types of leaders, and new definitions of ‘leadership’. 
  • The crisis has proven that ‘novel, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches are needed’ to solve global challenges (UKRI). This demands problem-solving and co-creating across silos and disciplines (Tan 2020), and, as evidenced by the United Nations’ Global Call Out To Creatives (2020) and its installation of a World Creativity and Innovation Day in 2018 to highlight the ‘role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development’, creativity is pivotal and fundamental to the mix. 
  • Outside-the-box thinking must continue to guide us in our new realities. Particularly as technological continues to govern our daily reality and Industry 4.0, a ‘still higher premium will be placed on “human” skills such as creativity, judgment and intellectual agility (World Economic Forum 2016, AHRC 2019).  


  • The most interesting forms of art and design do not provide answers but asks new questions and invent novel insights. And art drives the design and content of this Programme, with the unique art school ethos of building the learner as a creative and critical autonomous thinker at the heart. If art and design is about making, what we want to make here is change, for the better.    
  • The programme will empower you to interrogate ‘leadership’ as a problem, provocation & possibilities, through practice & probing, via processes of dialogue across diverse disciplines & sectors. We position ‘creative arts leadership’ as a process of inquiry aligned with the traditions of art intervention and social practice, that you customise for yourself as you lead and empowering others and making others leaders.
  • Acquire skills & knowledges from fine art, liberal arts, business & behavioural, organisational, management and social sciences – curated and turbocharged through the inventive, rich and resourceful traditions of creative arts. 
  • Develop artfulness & agility to navigate ever-shifting landscape. Construct your bespoke blueprint. Build your capacity to be a new type of ‘creative leader’. 
  • Learn to lead creatively. Build skills to exercise influence and create meaningful impact beyond the arts and cultural sectors. Foster innovation. Steer your cultural organisation out of unhealthy cycles of economic precarity and mental health burnout. 
  • Build your own or your institution’s cultural capital. Incite organisational and culture change. Leave your comfort zones to apply & test novel approaches through professional placements supported by mentoring and coaching with experts and peers.

It’s not business as usual anymore. Instead, it’s time to lead, creatively.

Caption: Stim! Stim! Stim! (mixed media, Kai Syng Tan 2020).