Arts Entrepreneurship — The Class

Last weekend I attended the annual conference of the Association of Arts Administration Educators.  There I heard that the arts entrepreneurship “movement” is spreading rapidly in higher education.  This has to be of concern, as the “it” is so poorly defined, — and understood.  Note my own previous misunderstanding of the term, social entrepreneurship. 

Nonetheless, a number of my colleagues at the conference are readers here, and told me they were eager to hear about how my class was going.  And now that the class is 3 weeks into the 10 week term, I believe I can give a progress report.

Now remember that I chose to go down 2 paths at the same time:  one, traditional entrepreneurship; and two, what I call not-for-profit entrepreneurship.  In additional to weekly readings, lectures and discussion, students have 2 major projects. 

The first of these is a group project divided by arts focus (dance, literary arts, music, theatre, visual arts).  These groups have the assignment to research and choose an arts organization in the local environment, analyze its mission, goals, activities, then propose one new program and the expansion of an existing one.  In their PP presentation they will need to detail: program descriptions and rationales; who the clients will be; what the competition is/will be; how trends, if identifiable, might affect the programs; a brief marketing plan; and how resources will be found and applied. 

 The other project asks students to develop a new idea for an enterprise.  Students may work in teams, but only if they recruit each other to their idea, and if the recruited person (s) may add value to the enterprise idea.  For this project students will write a business plan.  We’re drawing, among others, on an article by William A. Sahlman, How to Write a Great Business Plan (HBR). In addition to a written plan, students will make (sales) presentations to the class, who will act as venture capitalists, each having a certain amount of money to allocate to the presented ventures. 

To date I am very pleased with students’ work on the not-for-profit exercise.  Because they have “lived” in the not-for-profit world, they take easily to the idea of entrepreneurship within an organization.  The Brinckerhoff text that we’re using is particularly strong in this regard.  For the venture exercise, only last night did we begin to delve into ideas, and I have some concerns.  More on this in future blogs!  

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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