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Arts Entrepreneurship — Two Curricular Tracks

So I’m in the final planning stages for my course in Arts Entrepreneurship (starts March 30), and I have come to the conclusion that I will teach and present materials and activities in 2 different tracks: those for the social entrepreneur, and those for the traditional one. 

I’m particularly taken with Peter C. Brinckerhoff’s definitions of these 2 categories.  “Social entrepreneurs are people who take risk on behalf of the people their organization serves.  Traditional entrepreneurs take risk on their own behalf, or on behalf of their company’s stockholders.”  (Social Entrepreneurship, The Art of Mission-Based Venture Development, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000)

My sense, in talking to my students is that they are thinking along the lines of Brinckerhoff’s social entrepreneur.  (I, myself, had to clear up confusion between social entrepreneur and cultural entrepreneur, which I found has a different connotation).  But of course some of them envision creating new ventures. 

I look forward to processing these new ventures, as my ongoing concern is that these ideas are highly personalized and not in the slightest market-driven. 

In addition to Brinckerhoff’s book (which also includes extensive material about new venture creation), I will be using Entrepreneurship, 2nd ed.,  by William Bygrave and Andrew Zacharackis, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011.  I reviewed just about every text-like book out there and found this one accessible and directly useful.  There is considerable overlap between the 2 books, but the explanations in 2 different “languages” will be useful.

And understandably my first thoughts regarding a final project were to create a new venture with a soup-to-nuts business plan, but I am now reconsidering this as a blanket project.  Gary Beckman’s thoughts about what arts students need in regard to entrepreneurial thinking have stuck with me.  He recommends expansive exercises, e.g. (my words, not his) exploration into arts areas outside of one’s experience, deep dives into the arts and culture policy worlds, testing one’s ideas in multiple venues, etc. 

It may just be that my very talented student who wants to start his own dance company will benefit more from these exercises that hunkering down and creating a business plan for his dream entity. 




  1. Bruce Brubaker says:

    It helps very much to understand art as a series of transactions between people. These transactions involve communication. “Entre” is a crucial part of entrepreneurship.

  2. Hello James
    A propos this posting, you might be interested to know that Robert Hewison and I have co-authored a book that will be published in July by Gower.
    It’s titled Cultural Leadership: How to run a creative organisation. We agree strongly with your entrepreneurship theme, and here is something we say in the introduction: ‘this book is not just about how to be a capable arts administrator; it is about how to use your creative talents to become a cultural entrepreneur. It is about making ‘not-for-profit’ turn a true profit, which is the cultural value that you generate.’
    We are hoping that the book will be helpful to the arts community well beyond the UK
    best wishes

  3. I am interested in your post and in John ‘s book, because I am teaching a sesion on Social Entrepreneurship, as part of a Cultural Entrepreneurship module (which includes Leadership).
    One of the criticisms of recent policy (the last 30yrs or so) is of the enterprise agenda, and culture, which has seeped into cultural activities and cultural practice. Whilst I think some of the concerns are important to discuss, I also see a range of innovative practice, ethical and socially biaised from many of my students and from cultural entrepreneurs.
    You are right, entrepreneurship does tend to be highly personalised, but usually, it still meets a need, even if it does not always appear to me as a result of traditional market research, but more of a ‘gut feeling’ or a result of personal experience.

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