2011-03-01

Arts Entrepreneurship -- Lack of Imagination, Lack of Chutzpah?

I will soon be teaching a new course called Arts Entrepreneurship here at Drexel. I've been preparing for this on and off since last summer. In addition to reviewing literature and current thinking on the topic I have been looking at offerings in various higher education locations, especially those with a music focus.

There appears to be some confusion regarding just what arts entrepreneurship means. Some researchers have been able to identify 2 distinct tracks, or types of entrepreneurship. One relates to enhanced student preparation for careers or potential careers after graduation. The other mirrors "true" entrepreneurship, the creation of new ventures and enterprises. It appears to me that too much emphasis is being placed on the former definition here, not the latter.
Let's call the first track the professional development track. In it the student imagines how h/she can adapt h/her skill area to the existing marketplace. Yes, this is entrepreneurial thinking, but it appears to result in a type of masquerade exercise. In other words, how can I form my own chamber ensemble (or continue one that I began with in college) and dress it up so that it can survive in a particular location. All sorts of adaptations are tried, from repertoire to presentations off the stage, to programming for specialized populations.

Some colleges include enhanced career services as part of an entrepreneurship definition. Among these are how to construct a portfolio, how to better prepare oneself for auditions, how to write cover letters, resumes, grants, etc. This is not entrepreneurship, but good professional development.

James Undercofler, Professor of Arts Administration in Drexel University's Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, in: Arts Journal, February 2011