Managing the arts

Senior Caroline Mandler has been on the stage for most of her life, but this summer she was able to try a new role. Mandler was taken behind the scenes working for the nation’s largest performing arts center, the Kennedy Center.

As one of 20 interns chosen from an applicant pool of 300 at the Kennedy Center’s Vilar School of Arts Management, Mandler learned about the process of funding and operating a large performing arts venue. Mandler has had heavy involvement in theater and singing throughout high school and at GW, where the dramatic literature major takes classes in theater history, directing and Shakespeare. Her accolades include Outstanding Female Vocalist in 2001 and the Dewitt-Clinton Croissant Prize for best drama essay in 2004. In addition, she is the director and an executive board member of GW’s Fourteenth Grade Players.

Despite her involvement as a performer, Mandler knew she was headed for a different career. “I realized that I didn’t want to perform professionally, so that led me to other options,” said Mandler, who began her career in arts management at City Center, a theater and dance venue in New York City.

“(The Kennedy Center) is such a huge organization that there are 60 people working in my office alone,” she said. “Also, it’s a pretty national scope, as opposed to working in City Center, which was just the New York area. So I guess I was just interested in getting a wider grasp of what the Kennedy Center does all over the country.”

As a development intern, Mandler’s job description was not an easy one. Her office is responsible for raising $50 million annually for the Kennedy Center and the National Symphony Orchestra. Mandler’s everyday duties immersed her in the process.

“I had to solicit corporations for gifts to meet our budget,” Mandler said. “It involved sending letters to organizations and doing follow-up work. Once the gifts came in, we would process the gifts and send acknowledgements.”

She also helped draft proposals and reports for other special events and projects, as well as helping staff in programming, finance, education and press departments.

So who is supporting the Kennedy Center’s 33rd season of operas, symphonies, and dance?

“Target, Boeing, Sony, ALCOA – I’ve written grant proposals to pretty much any major corporation in the USA,” Mandler said. “There are over 100 in the corporate fund alone.”

Mandler said the most challenging part of her job is to simply keep the process moving along and the money coming in. She also had to adapt to the individual nuances of each company.

“I realized how much goes into all of it. You can’t just send out a letter without knowing anything about the company, so we have to research to find the right companies,” she said. “We need to know a lot about the people, and which board members know each other. There are tons of details that make it successful.”

Once the curtain has closed on Mandler’s summer job, she said she plans to attend graduate school and study theater or arts administration. Until her December graduation, she will continue to enjoy the spotlight at GW before pursuing her dreams behind the scenes.

The Kennedy Center has many opportunities for college students through internships and volunteer programs. Go to for more information.

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