Robert S. Neuman giving a gallery talk at The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho. Public speaking is why Interpersonal Skills Are Important for Art Professionals in 2013. Photo: Wikimedia

Interpersonal skills are important for art professionals who want to succeed in their field. These top interpersonal skills will help you navigate the complexity of the art profession.


Survival in the art profession requires a lot of skills. Beyond academic qualifications, interpersonal skills are important for art professionals to succeed. Sometimes referred to as people’s skills or soft skills, these abilities are important in every aspect of life. They are even more important in the professional world if you want to succeed.

Whether you are a curator, museum director, artist, production director, artistic director, auctioneer, gallery attendant, photographer, art therapist, or art teacher, interpersonal skills are absolutely necessary for navigating the complexities of the art profession. Artists who what to get their work noticed in the crowded art space need to acquaint themselves with interpersonal skills. So what are interpersonal skills?

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are necessary skills that help you effectively communicate, interact, relate, empathize, and work with others. In the professional world, interpersonal skills are often referred to as employability skills because employers are constantly looking for them in resumes when people apply for jobs or during job interviews. But in general, interpersonal skills are important to functioning well in the arts profession. They are crucial when art professionals engage with clients and other professionals at art exhibitions, art fairs, museums, galleries, and other art institutions.

Why Are Interpersonal Skills Important for Art Professionals?

Like many other professionals, art professionals are constantly interacting with people in the art profession in order to be able to cooperate on projects and execute ideas. Even artists and writers, who work in seclusion or independently, still need interpersonal skills to communicate and collaborate with curators, event organizers, and other artists on projects.  

No matter how exceptional you are at what you do, it will be impossible to make headway in your profession if you do not possess the necessary interpersonal skills to succeed.

Top Interpersonal Skills for Art Professionals

Now that we know the importance of interpersonal skills, let us focus on the different types of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills include verbal and nonverbal communication; the ability to handle conflict; teamwork, empathy, listening, and a positive attitude.  

Well-seasoned art professionals know that flexibility, staying positive, and the ability to communicate effectively is essential to success in the art world.


Communication is one of the most vital interpersonal skills anyone working in the art profession must have to succeed. No matter your area of specialization or career in the art world, you need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with others in your field, verbally and in writing. Artists, for instance, should be able to write press releases, and artist statements, and also explain their work and ideas to an audience. It goes without saying that many emerging artists do not have these skills.

However, many develop these skills over time through constant practice and exposure to the art profession. There is also public speaking. The art profession requires skills in public speaking, which is an important interpersonal skill. It is necessary for artists to be able to talk about their work during art talks and exhibition openings.

Communication Skills

  • Nonverbal Communication: Body Language, expressions, gestures, tone, cadence. In general, nonverbal is what we communicate without words.  It is as important as verbal communication.
  • Verbal communication: What we say. Using our voice and words to communicate.
  • Public Speaking: In public speaking, we use a combination of verbal and nonverbal language to communicate our ideas to people.  

Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution Skills

Working in the art profession involves a lot of collaboration that can only happen through conversations and dialogues. Sometimes, these debates can be heated and rough feathers, causing conflicts. As an art professional, I have been in some of these meetings and I understand how simple issues can devolve into big debates that could send people to their different corners. Some of the points of conflict are often the result of misunderstandings, poor listening skills, ego, and impulsivity. Resolving these issues when they happen is the key to success. Therefore, it is important to have the ability to listen to and resolve conflicts as they come up between you and your colleagues, clients, and company. Conflict resolution skills help make sure that a minor disagreement does not degenerate to the point that a project fails.

Conflict Resolution Skills

  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Constructive criticism
  • Mediating


Many artists today run their studios like factories.  From Jeff Koons to Takashi Murakami and others, the studio is more than a place where artists hide just to work. Studios are now factories. Andy Warhol, for instance, described his New York studio as a factory. The survival of these studios/factories requires a leader with empathy and workers who have empathy for each other.  

The mark of a good leader, employee, or colleague is empathy. The ability to show empathy and understanding for what others are feeling or going through is important. For example, if an artist calls to discuss a problem, it is imperative for the studio leader to listen, and show concern, and compassion for what the artist is going through. If, as a leader or colleague, you have a way to help or know about available resources that can make your colleagues feel better, it behooves you to tell them about it. Empathy is crucial and will help leaders and colleagues function well and get along in your workplace.

Empathy Skills

  • Caring
  • Compassion
  • Diplomacy
  • Diversity
  • Helping others
  • Kindness
  • Patience
  • Respect
  • Sensitivity
  • Sympathy


Curators, museum directors, theater managers, gallery owners, and other leaders in the art profession know that they must exhibit leadership qualities to help their institutions run well. But leadership qualities are not just for leaders, they are also for people who are not managers or directors. Having leadership qualities means you are able to motivate and inspire others and guide them to a successful career.

Leadership Skills

  • Assertive
  • Encouraging
  • Inspiring
  • Reassuring
  • Integrity
  • Give Instructions
  • Manage
  • Mentor
  • Motivate
  • Gratitude


The ability to listen is an interpersonal skill everyone must strive to have. For some people, it is natural, while others have to learn. Listening is interwoven with all other interpersonal skills, like empathy, leadership, conflict resolution, and communication. Listening and communication are particularly integrated. Just as one is able to communicate and express ideas, you must also be able to listen to ideas and innovations. For those in leadership positions and those who have clients and colleagues, the ability to listen and respond is valuable.

Listening Skills:

  • Attentive
  • Curiosity
  • Active Listening
  • Inquiry
  • Focus


Negotiation is an interpersonal skill that we use every day. From going to the store, to bargaining with colleagues and others, interpersonal skills are constantly in use. In the professional world, negotiation skills are even more important. For art professionals, negotiation could involve writing contracts and agreements. Many emerging and professional artists need to constantly sharpen their negotiation skills as they have to talk to art dealers, auctioneers, and others to negotiate prices for their works. But negotiation does not stand alone, it is integrated with other interpersonal skills, including the ability to listen and use creative problem-solving skills to arrive at a satisfactory outcome. A relevant example of why negotiation skills are important is the recent clamoring by museum staff across the country to unionize. One of them is the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where negotiations continue between staff and management on the best outcome for both parties.

Negotiation Skills

  • Value Creation
  • Negotiating
  • Strategy
  • Persuasion
  • Research

Positive Attitude

It will be difficult for an art professional with a bad attitude to succeed. As someone told me several years ago, the art profession is a small circle and people know each other. It is essential for art professionals to always have a positive attitude. Even when stressed and overwhelmed, they always find that last energy to keep going. As an art professional, you have to be friendly, carry yourself well, and develop a positive attitude towards colleagues, clients, and audiences.   

Positive Attitude Skills

  • Behavioral skills
  • Self-believe
  • Developing Rapport
  • Appreciative
  • Friendliness
  • Networking
  • Humor
  • Social skills


The ability to work with others or as part of a team is important for all those in the art profession. By and large, the art profession is a collaborative endeavor that requires the ability to work with others as part of a team.  The ability to communicate effectively, carry on a positive attitude, listen and negotiate are important elements of interpersonal skills that are closely related to teamwork. Important elements of teamwork include the ability to collaborate, facilitate group meetings, team building, and teamwork.

Teamwork Skills

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Time Management
  • Group Facilitating
  • Team building
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is one important skill that is often left out during conversations about interpersonal skills. Also known as emotional quotient (EQ), emotional intelligence is simply the ability to understand, control, and manage one’s emotions in a way that has a positive impact on others’ emotions. The fact is that if you can’t manage your own emotions, it will be difficult to help others manage theirs. So, it is imperative to be able to manage stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, resolve conflicts, and overcome challenges.

Emotional Intelligence Skills

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Regulation
  • Manage Stress
  • Control Emotions
  • Active Listening
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Teamwork Skills
  • Empathy

Interpersonal Skills In-Demand

There is no doubt that interpersonal skills are important for art professionals. Whether you are a curator, museum director, artist, production director, artistic director, auctioneer, or gallery attendant, these skills will come in handy when doing business. For young art graduates who are looking for jobs, it is imperative to highlight these in-demand skills in your resumes because employers are constantly looking out for them. So remember to include the following interpersonal skills:

Interpersonal Skills For Resume

  • Communication
  • Caring
  • Active Listening
  • Teamwork
  • Friendly
  • Conflict resolution
  • Flexibility

Are you in the art profession? Do you think interpersonal skills are important for art professionals? Share your thoughts. Leave a comment


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