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Exercises in Arts Entrepreneurship

Here are two strategies that I have used to assist emerging arts entrepreneurs in the development of their ideas – into rich and promising ventures.


Students are given the assignment to find a promising area, out of which can emerge an opportunity. They are instructed to primarily look at those areas where they have the most expertise, and/or experience. For example, a pianist might be instructed to study the many innovations that have occurred in the life of the piano, and then brainstorm what works and doesn’t work in its present iteration, and then brainstorm possible improvements. Or a student who regularly attends certain types of concerts or galleries could be asked to critique the experience from top to bottom, and then identify what works well and doesn’t work well, then brainstorm possible improvements. This exercise can go in many directions – clothing, electronic devices, transportation, living conditions, etc. What’s important is that the “ideas” come from experience and expertise.

First Exercise

Students share their idea (s) with their classmates. They are asked to present their idea (s) in 2 formats, an elevator speech (a short paragraph) and a full description (approximately 5 minutes). Students are then divided into small groups (3-5) and are instructed to spend 15-20 minutes expanding on the idea, with the initiator silent, taking notes. The group then is asked to critique the idea for 15-20 minutes, again with the initiator listening and taking notes. The groups come back together and the initiators are asked to report back on how their idea and their thinking about it have been transformed.

Second Exercise

Students randomly give their ideas to another student in the class. The pairs meet for 20-30 minutes for the purpose of clarifying the ideas to the other person. The process as outlined in the First Exercise proceeds.

This Second Exercise has the potential to significantly change, and improve the initial idea. What’s important is to keep the focus of the overall activity be the formation of a venture, not ‘simply’ a great idea. Additionally, the teacher should regularly visit each critique group to insure that they are focusing as instructed, and to encourage their work. In the large group the teacher should encourage expansive thinking – challenging the class to think about larger market applications and possibilities.


  1. This is so refreshing and an important reminder of what real learning looks like. I love your posts Jim and they enhance the idea that learning is not necessarily sitting in silence taking notes about received wisdom, but rather is interactive, discursive and carries a sense of community. Thank you.
    If I may be so bold also to encourage people to help arts educators in the UK where the government is threatening to remove arts from the core curriculum, in what could seem like a return to the Dark Ages of education. Perhaps some international voices could help out. You can sign the petition and send a letter online via;

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