Alumnus Matthew van Bruggen graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management in 2020 and is now working on a start-up business for midsize theater companies, does event management and theater arts consulting, and works as a front end supervisor for Cub Foods. We talked to him about how his time at Columbia has impacted each of his positions and the role that the pandemic is playing in his career.
You’re currently working on a start-up that will offer a software package to midsized theater companies. What was your inspiration for this business, what services will it offer, and what impact do you hope it will make in the industry?
Inspiration for this business came from various experiences as an intern within professional performing arts organizations. While I was employed, several colleagues voiced frustrations with existing systems, whether it was needing multiple systems to operate or the limitations. Our single software centralizes all aspects of operating a performing arts organization, including box office, donor development, production operations, marketing operations, and others currently under development. We are hoping to help organizations pull themselves out of the losses seen due to the pandemic, offering a powerful system at an affordable price. Initial market research and testing has revealed that so many organizations are interested in what we offer, and we look forward to our complete launch!
Tell me more about the consulting you do for event management and theater arts.
As organizations navigate operating with COVID-safe protocols, I’ve worked with both high school organizations here in Minneapolis and professional organizations to find ways to reduce contact points. The intention is so the audience can return to what they love the most, which is the feeling of the room when experiencing a live performance. This has been accomplished by transitioning organizations into digital sale points from the more traditional box office which requires more contact. After coursework at Columbia, I utilized those skills to assist local COVID testing sites to determine the best way to get people in and out of a venue in a smooth manner with the least amount of contact. As a student who studied Arts Management, I never would have guessed that I would have been able to use those skills to assist in a healthcare setting.
What did you learn during your time at Columbia that you’ve been able to bring into each of your roles?
One of my primary reasons for transferring to Columbia was for the faculty. Very few higher education settings can proudly state their faculty are working professionals who can provide live insight into our fields. After transitioning our learning environment to Zoom during Spring 2020, my Events Management class successfully experienced converting our live Manifest experience into a virtual format in a fairly short timeframe. That experience taught me to be prepared for anything, and I was ready to jump into consulting with organizations on how they could deliver something to continue engagement with their audience until the pandemic reached a point where in-person experiences were possible again. Every course from my time at Columbia has been utilized post-graduation; for example, my Leadership class prepared me to be the best leader as a grocery store front end supervisor.
How has the pandemic affected your career pursuits?
After we all saw the progression of this pandemic throughout summer of 2020, I quickly realized that a full-time opportunity in the performing arts field would be challenging. I made a personal commitment that this wouldn’t mean that I wouldn’t try each and every day to continue working within the field, even as I continued to work in an unrelated field to remain financially stable. I do remain hopeful, as many individuals have left the industry in pursuit of other careers because they were unable to keep their positions while the pandemic continued. This means that as organizations reopen, they are in need of employees to operate once again. My initial career goals that I have sought out from the beginning of my time at Columbia have still not changed as of today, and I look forward to what the future brings.
Where can people connect with you, get future updates about your start-up, and learn more about your consulting services?
While I do not currently have dedicated platforms to my consulting or start-up, you should follow my social media accounts which will certainly include updates on both!
LinkedIn: Matthew van Bruggen