What’s the Art School Version of Entrepreneurship Training?

In “Not a dirty word: Arts entrepreneurship and higher education” Ruth Bridgstock of Queensland University of Technology raises the point that a large percentage of creatives are self-employed, yet most are formally unprepared to be so. She proposes a curriculum shift that may reflexively send shivers down the spines of artists and arts educators: incorporating principles of entrepreneurship into artistic training.

Although people often equate entrepreneurship with prioritizing profit first and foremost – which is the very antithesis of “art for art’s sake” – Bridgstock explains that this is an oversimplification. She points out that the objectives of artists are usually multi-faceted, which allows room for economic success to be a motivation for artistic creation without being the motivation. Especially given the fact that two common objectives held by artists are to 1) share their work with the world and 2) ascribe to it some “value,” both of these can be facilitated by employing entrepreneurial techniques.

In developing a plan of action Bridgstock emphasizes that, because of the unique qualities of artists and the art world, business school curricula cannot simply be imported to art schools. Rather, she suggests a plan that tailors entrepreneurial lessons to the proclivities and goals of the artistic constituency. Her proposed additions to standard arts education and training are trifold.

First, she stresses the importance of incorporating into the curriculum a “career identity building phase” in which students reflect upon their personal strengths and goals, and have the opportunity to learn about different facets of the labor market that may align or conflict with these. This, Bridgstock argues, helps students craft purposeful and adaptive artistic identities. Second, she advocates for courses that will help students identify potential entrepreneurial ventures and seize upon these successfully. The final “experiential” phase involves actually “doing” entrepreneurship – dreaming up and carrying out projects of their own in a safe and nurturing environment of academic peers and mentors – in order to build entrepreneurial self-confidence.

Reminding artists and educators that it is now widely accepted that creative industries spur economic growth, Bridgstock is an advocate for broadening art school curricula to allow room for such growth.

Bridgstock, Ruth. 2013. "Not a Dirty Word: Arts Entrepreneurship and Higher Education." Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 12(2-3):122-137. doi: 10.1177/1474022212465725

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