By Jordan Smith
There exists an increasing determination, as the Arts Entrepreneurship field gains momentum both in for-profit and nonprofit sectors, to define exactly what is meant by the term “Arts Entrepreneurship.” Dr. Gary Beckman, Director of Entrepreneurial Studies in the Arts at NC State University and pioneer of the first Arts Entrepreneurship Minor in the country, has attempted to do just this in a recently published article entitled “What Arts Entrepreneurship Isn’t”.
In order to define “Arts Entrepreneurship” it would be necessary to have consistent definitions for what “Art” and “Entrepreneurship” are as two different fields of study. No such consensus exists. It is not clear whether “Entrepreneurship” is simply the act of creating a business or a certain attitude or lifestyle; similarly, “Art” is a subjective term. Dr. Beckman concludes that without any such consensus, there can be no definition. Instead, the uncertainty of the meaning of “Arts Entrepreneurship” provides an opportunity for observation and theorizing on what the possibilities of such a field might be.
Perhaps put more simply in a recent interview with Dr. Beckman, “Arts Entrepreneurship” combines “Entrepreneurship” as it known in the business school with “Arts” which has its own diverse meanings and properties. Arts Entrepreneurs are distinguished by what they work with; students that take up the minor are not necessarily producing art but instead they may be impacting the production of art.
Dr. Beckman describes students who mix their love of art, or their desire to work closely with art, and entrepreneurship as a way to “make money with their heart.” As there isn’t an arts major offered at NC State University, students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines take up the Arts Entrepreneurship Minor to indulge in their passion for the arts. The Arts Entrepreneurship Minor responds to concerns that higher education is not preparing students for a profession by turning towards entrepreneurship as it relates to the arts.
Dr. Beckman confirms that 10-20% of students in the minor launch businesses. NC State alumni particularly begin to act in entrepreneurial ways as they get older. Many of their entrepreneurial endeavors are for-profit.
Suzanne Matthews, CEO of Soutenu Dancewear, began her journey while still a student at NC State University. With fourteen years of ballet experience she took her love of dance and matched it with the entrepreneurial knowledge gained in Dr. Beckman’s class and the Entrepreneurship Initiative Garage across campus. Her company, Soutenu Dancewear, innovates new dancewear that helps protect dancers from the risks of injury and pain that are so often a reality of their profession.
A current junior at NC State, Clinton Bowman, has started a nonprofit movement known as Artists Like You, which seeks to promote and preserve North Carolina based folk music through connecting folk artists with their surrounding communities. Their largest event, which took place in the summer of last year, is known as Folk Friday, a free event with seven musicians/groups traveling to Jamestown, Saxaphaw, and Raleigh. All of their events and musicians are paid through sponsors and donations.
Arts Entrepreneurship emphasizes that the arts are about more than just a piece of art or the performance of art; the creativity found in the technology that makes art possible should also be celebrated.
Dr. Beckman is the Executive Editor of the Journal of Arts Entrepreneurship Research and the Journal of Arts Entrepreneurship Education, as well as the founder of and editor for the Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Network.
Jordan Smith is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition at NC State.