Submitted by: Gary Beckman
Institution: The University of Texas at Austin
Course Title: "Entrepreneurship in the Arts"
Division Offered: College of Fine Arts - Fall 2006
Demographic: Undergraduates [Fine Arts, Liberal Arts & Business] & Graduates [Fine Arts]
Type of Activity: Small Group Discussion & Research (45 minutes)
1) To assess various geographical areas for suitability of an arts venture.
2) To demonstrate that different regions of the country have differing strengths and weaknesses in their support of an arts economy.
3) To explore the concept regional "entrepreneurial ecologies."
Student Evaluation Method: None
Description: The class is divided into small groups of 5-6 students with one student to lead the research trajectory, one to present results of the research and one who catalogs the findings of the group. Using the only the internet, each group researches the following topics focused on a specific region or city: Arts venues, state support for the arts & entrepreneurship, regionally focused private foundations who support the arts in this area, regional arts culture, cultural tourism efforts, regional economy and economic development efforts, large and small scale arts NPO's, etc.
Allowing roughly 35 minutes for group research, five minutes of research assessment and colation culminates in a five minute presentation of the results to the class. Each group decides wether the research region is a suitable area for launching an arts venture, which ventures are more likely to succeed, the arts needs for the area, opportunities for the enterprising arts entrepreneur, sustainability of new arts ventures, etc.
Instructor Comments: Here in Austin, there is a perception that we have a thriving arts community. Given this perception, many students believe there are plenty of opportunities in the city and want to start arts ventures here. However, the arts scene in Austin may not be as vibrant for certain arts businesses.
The purpose of this exersize is to give students the opportunity to investigate the "entrepreneurial ecology" of different regions in the country and determine where their ventures would be better placed - either here in "The Live Music Capital of the World" or in other locales.
A perfect example is the "classical" music scene in Austin. Finding a non-university sponsored string quartet concert on any given Friday night is tougher than one might think. So, if I have a budding string player in my class who wants to professionalize a quartet and play the majority of gigs in Austin, they can explore the string quartet "scene" both here and surrounding areas. However, when confronted with the market realities for string quartet music in central Texas, they may change their mind and think about either the Dallas or Houston area as a "home-base".
On the other hand, I've had some students who desperately wanted to develop arts venues in Nashville. After completing this exercise, almost all see Austin as much better place to accomplish this goal for more business, cultural and aesthetic reasons than I can mention.
A note about "entrepreneurial ecology." Students are mostly unaware of this concept, even though it has received some attention in the arts policy arena. I've found that this concept is a great way to demonstrate the intersection of economic development efforts, the broader cultural impact of the arts in a specific region, competition evaluation, proof of concept and opportunity recognition among other topics.