Schools in the US and Norway teach artists to make money with their artistic endeavors
Some time ago I was in a World Café type of meeting with art entrepreneurs and more ordinary starters. One of the findings was that art entrepreneurs start a business to make money. The business entrepreneur wants to realize his business plan. A painter or other artists know how to create works of art but not necessarily how to make a living from their art. This means unemployment for many artists. We have all heard about the starving artist. To feed them, entrepreneurial training should be a central part of arts education.
The University in Agder offers a bachelor course on entrepreneurship for art students. It is tailored so that they can develop their own ideas and create art-based business in the future. The students are presented some tools from the business side of their art focus so they can market and sell themselves effectively in a business environment. It allows them to create a business plan that is based on their own ideas. They work in small groups to create this business plan and present it to fellow students and investors for real-world experience.
Many schools are currently developing new arts entrepreneurship programs. There is no knowledge gained like experiencing something, and entrepreneurship is best learned by doing. James Hart, now director of Arts Entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas (SMU), served prior to that as Rektor (Dean) at the International Theatre Academy Norway, the first of its kind in Europe. This is a two-year accredited conservatory that he founded in Oslo. The principle of the school is to let the students produce quality and make more money than they spend. The process is much like the entrepreneurial process of trial by fire. Some students learn that they can make money from their art. Other students are not able to generate an audience of any considerable size and lose money.
At SMU they have a different structure. The arts entrepreneurship program serves as a cross-disciplinary minor. Here students play games in the classroom, which simulate the entrepreneurial process. This affords the valuable lessons of experience. James Hart also serves as co-chair for the special interest group Entrepreneurship in the Arts for the United Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and is cofounder of the Society for Arts Entrepreneurship Education.
Some will argue that the majority of such courses are really career preparation and professional practice initiatives helping students craft their resumes, polish their interview skills, and understand the basic business issues required of a life in the field in a way that is far from true entrepreneurship. However, entrepreneurship and life as a working artist seem to be growing toward each other.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 26, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.