Preparing the cultural entrepreneur

James Undercofler in his State of the Art blog suggests that the current training, support, and authorizing systems we use to advance the nonprofit and public arts are not prepared to engage the cultural entrepreneur. And boy, does he have a point.

The essential elements of successful entrepreneurship — chief among them seed capital and hands-on support — are almost impossible to find among charitable foundations or traditional funders. Although there are a few bright lights in the system helping to lead the way.

Artist-focused initiatives like Creative Capital, the Center for Cultural Innovation, Fractured Atlas, Springboard for the Arts, and others have long been supporting innovation and creative enterprise, including training and specialized funding. But traditional support institutions like foundations, government arts agencies, and higher education have a long way to go to catch up.

Like Undercofler’s students, I’m seeing a broader palette of interest among each incoming class to our MBA in Arts Administration. While we began our degree over 40 years ago with a specific focus on corporate professional leadership in arts and culture institutions, incoming students are almost entirely ‘tax status agnostic.’ They have powerful creative or community visions, and want to get them realized. If nonprofit or public status is the way to get there, fine. If not, they’re open to a full range of other business options — which is why many come to an MBA.

It’s increasingly clear that the professional nonprofit we’ve come to know as a standard in the past decades will continue to be an essential part of the arts and culture system. But it’s also clear that those structures are NOT appropriate to every artistic or creative endeavor. Glad to know that James and others are following this thread.


  1. says

    Hi Andrew. Just discovered your blog and I am happy to read that there are Arts Administrators publicly speaking about the issue of entrepreneurial training for artists.
    I’m currently getting ready to launch a members-only training program for selling Art online and I’ve heard from a lot of artists that there’s nothing like it around.
    It’s my firm belief that teaching individual artists to have more business skills, and develop a for-profit mindset, is the best way to raise the Art world as a whole.