Friday, May 25, 2012

Entrepreneurship and the Arts

After taking a hiatus that lasted a little over a year, I am returning to this blog with a renewed enthusiasm about the power of private initiative and its impact on innovation within established industries. During the last 14 months, I focused exclusively on entrepreneurship within the creative professions, the industries that are usually dismissed from the prevalent discussions on the subject and who seem to be revolutionizing our lives.

Think of fashion, for example, a discipline that demands creativity and vision but which without the backing of a commercial enterprise is not sustainable. The frocks that a designer has sketched cannot make it to our closet without some fundamental knowledge of retailing. But also think of the exclusive world of visual arts and the system that powers artists to stardom. Does its prohibitive exclusivity allow for other systems to develop? Is there opportunity to enrich the market with alternative business solutions that allow more people to participate in the art market and for more views to be represented? How about publishing? Admittedly at the intersection of intellectual/artistic production and commerce, publishing is coming out of the era of digitization having transformed itself thanks to processes that make content easily available. But to think that quality publishing is about to disappear would rest on the erroneous view of equating publishing with its distribution channels.

I discussed these and other related fields in a course I taught last May at New York University. By the end of the term, ten undergraduates came up with fresh and exciting ideas on how to combine their knowledge of the visual arts to offer solutions to life problems they had identified.   The success of the experiment reinforced my own view on the benefits of combining fields that have been mis-labeled as “exclusively artistic,” a connotation that robs them from their potential.  This, if correctly examined, may result in new products, businesses, and markets offering solutions to problems of “supply and demand” that have been left undisturbed for the longest time. I spent the rest of the year researching these very ideas and now I am repeating my course on “Entrepreneurship in the Arts” for the second term at New York University. With five sessions behind me, I am confident that this year’s crop will come up with imaginative projects that combine knowledge from two distinct fields (the arts and entrepreneurship) and that offer solutions to problems these 20-year olds have identified.

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