Arts Entrepreneurship — Third Dimension

After digesting the many superb responses, both published here and private, to last week’s blog entry, I spent a lot of time pondering what is really bothering me about the arts entrepreneurship “movement.”  I realized that I have been hoping for and imagining a third dimension.  Let me explain.

The first discernable dimension of arts entrepreneurship appears in higher education and in post-education career counseling.  It consists of how to make yourself more marketable for identified positions.  It’s a hyper-charged version of former models.

The second discernable dimension consists of the many creative adaptations and extensions of one’s artistic expertise.  These range from education programming for people of all ages and conditions to product extensions, e.g. oboe reeds or specialized visual or media arts supplies or equipment.  Most of the higher education programs focus on these extensions.  And yes, these exercises broaden students’ perspectives and give them expanded skills in human relations, management techniques and fund-raising, but for the most part they do not give them career opportunities.  Of the many projects I spawned and oversaw when I was at Eastman, only a handful continues to thrive.  This said: those who tried to succeed with these extension projects and programs have in many cases transferred the skills they acquired to other apparently successful ventures in their arts fields.

The third dimension is that place where whole systems are rethought and reconstructed, where fundamental changes, both in substance and thought take place.  I’m convinced that unless we encourage each other and our students to think in the third dimension, the arts will continue to bang up against societal walls and stagnate.  I think I began to hope for activity in this third dimension when I was doing research on innovative and alternative organizational designs.  I thought (perhaps naively) that I would find something out there that would liberate the arts from their organizational entrapment.  Yes I found the L3C and the B Corporation, as many others, including my good friend, Andrew Taylor did, but after fleshing them out, they didn’t, in my opinion, provide the spark or the grist for artistic liberation. 

Now the third dimension should not be restricted to organizational design thinking.  I’m only using this as an example, one that I’m familiar with.  All aspects of the arts and how they connect to people must be re-imagined, rethought and recast.  Here is where our efforts in arts entrepreneurship should be focused

About the author

James Undercofler

Jim has been a Professor at Drexel University since May, 2009. His previous appointment - since August, 2007 - was as the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jim was Dean of the Eastman School of Music from 1997 to 2007. He has played a prominent role in musical arts and music education throughout his career. Before joining Eastman in 1995 as associate director for academic affairs and professor of music education, he was an active, performing chamber musician as well as first horn in the New Haven Symphony. Jim serves as board president, American Music Center; advisory board member, Arts Education Policy Review; board member, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York State Association of College Music Programs and American Symphony Orchestra League, and is a founding member, NETWORK of Performing and Visual Arts Schools and Mercury Opera of Rochester.

Read James Undercofler's blog [l=]here[/l].

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