There have been several blog posts recently that assert that there is no such thing as arts entrepreneurship or that artists are artists not entrepreneurs, as if those two roles are mutually exclusive. It is not surprising to read that I disagree (as my comments on those posts attest). I started a new semester teaching arts entrepreneurship last week. My students certainly seem to think that arts entrepreneurship exists. In this first week, students are asked to read the introduction to Anne Bogart’s “And Then, You Act” and Barry Hessenius’s interview with Aaron Dworkin and then respond to this prompt:
In our first class session, we discussed the nature of entrepreneurial action. In the first week’s reading, Anne Bogart discusses the artist as a cultural actor (i.e. one who undertakes “action”) and Aaron Dworkin serves as an example of such a cultural actor. Combine these two concepts to describe what it means to be an “arts entrepreneur.”
Despite the fact that some may argue that arts entrepreneurship is indefinable or that it is somehow a false construct, my students came up with some pretty great descriptions and definitions. Anonymized and with the class’s permission, I excerpt from a few of the responses here:
- Both artists make it clear that being an entrepreneur means to take action. No matter how you define your art or what you will bring to the table you must make it stand out, not only as your own creation but also by figuring out a way to show the world that it is a necessity. They also make a point of connecting their art to the community.
- An arts entrepreneur does not solely rely upon emotion or personal conviction. Rather, the arts entrepreneur utilizes her creativity, skills, and passion to take action and create change.
- To quote Krog’s recollection out of Bogart’s book, “the job of the poet… is to remember where the water holes are.” To me, this sums up what it means to be an arts entrepreneur. It is somebody who uses the arts to construct humanities future narratives in a way that is both relevant and important to helping that society grow. Having an ability to recognize and seize a moment in our culture that requires examination, is tremendously important in helping us define good and bad as a whole.
- Without the passion, why persevere to effect real change through the arts–but without a clear, direct, refined focus on a common problem that has real-life, concrete solutions, any arts entrepreneurial effort is unsustainable
- What it takes to be an entrepreneur is passion, ideas, ability to adapt and take action, create, willingness to try and try again, focus along side the nurturing of creativity…. Art Entrepreneurs take the shared experience that we have throughout our lives, and combine that with artistic vision and inspire, challenge, and fulfill a need. Enjoying the arts in today’s world often isn’t enough; artwork also needs to . . . innovate, which inspires.
- Taking action, being well prepared, and seeing true value in one’s own work/art is what it means to be an Arts Entrepreneur. In order to engage in an art you first must love what you are doing and put it at the center of your life.
- Can’t an arts entrepreneur find a way to make their work and passion relevant? I feel like that is probably the ultimate challenge for the arts entrepreneur and can often lead to failure if the market need is truly not there.
- The direction a person needs to go in order to be an art entrepreneur would be to act on…personal, social, or ethical values. “You act from a direct experience of the environment,” stated by Anne Bogart in And Then, You Act. Believing in what you’re creating is only the first step. You must then market yourself for the economical and social situation you find yourself in; you must put in the effort and the time to either fail or succeed.
- In order to be a successful arts entrepreneur, one needs to have three essential abilities: the ability to create passionate, impressive art, the ability to sense the needs of a market, and the ability to take action and risk on those needs.
I am feeling pretty lucky that I get to have these 24 smart, creative people in the room with me twice a week!