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Meadows is in the Business of Creating Artrepreneurs

With New Director Jim Hart at The Helm, Meadows is Leading The Way in This New And Critical Field By Showing Students How to Turn Their Artistic Dreams Into Bankable Business Plans

Story by Victoria Winkleman, Photos by Kim Ritzenthaler

Art meets Entrepreneurship

In the first national survey of performing and visual arts alumni from more than 50 colleges, conducted last year by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, the majority of respondents said that while they got very good training in their craft, they received little or no training in financial and business management skills or entrepreneurial skills. Yet, when asked how important entrepreneurial skills were in their profession, the vast majority said they were important – with about half of respondents saying they were very important. These findings were not unique to SMU – the statistics were similar at all the private and public universities used as benchmarks in the survey.

Led by Dean José Bowen, SMU Meadows is at the forefront of U.S. colleges in addressing the need to help artists learn to make a living with their art after graduation. Multiple initiatives are under way. For example, all incoming first-years in music, film and media arts, theatre, dance and art are required to create and maintain a website that showcases the skills and talents that make them unique artists – a key starting point in marketing themselves and their art. These students must also take the FACE class – First-Year Arts Community Experience – taught by Bowen and faculty from a variety of disciplines as well as local and national guest speakers. Launched in 2010, the class teaches students how to navigate the art world as entrepreneurs and collaborators. The newly renamed Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship now offers classes for undergraduates and is expanding its graduate offerings to include a first-of-its-kind Master of Management in International Arts Management degree, in partnership with universities in Montreal and Milan.

One of the most significant curricular initiatives is the establishment of a new minor in arts entrepreneurship – one of only a handful of such programs in the U.S. This fall, award-winning actor, director and producer James Hart joins the Meadows School as the first director of arts entrepreneurship/ assistant professor of practice in the Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship. Hart, who earned a B.F.A. in theatre from Meadows in 1996 as well as an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama, successfully founded, operated and then sold TITAN Teaterskole (The International Theatre Academy Norway) – a full-time professional theatre training program and the first school in Europe to offer intensive training in arts entrepreneurship at the professional conservatory level.

Hart is teaching three courses – Attracting Capital, Creating an Arts Venture Plan, and Entrepreneurship and the Hero Journey – while developing plans to grow the arts entrepreneurship program.

MPRINT talked to Jim Hart about his new role:

●Q Arts entrepreneurship is an emerging field. Why now?

●A Entrepreneurship in the arts has always existed, as long as artists have sold their work. But we are now seeing programs across the world simultaneously popping up. There are many reasons for this. The economy is one. Fewer foundations are giving out money. Competition has become more fierce. The market’s as over-saturated as it’s ever been – markets like New York and L.A.– there are just too many players. So I think students are looking to have a competitive edge.

●Q What are your goals for the program?

●A The current standard for arts training in this country is antiquated, as it leads to underemployment and unemployment for a majority of our artists. We need to rethink the model of how we educate artists and start teaching more than technique. I want to establish SMU as the leader of this burgeoning discipline and help create the new standard of arts education for the coming decade.

●Q Why is entrepreneurship important for today’s students?

●A They have to be able to make a living and overcome the stereotype of the starving artist. Arts entrepreneurship training teaches leadership skills, collaboration skills, an understanding of how the market functions, where there are gaps in the market, how one can create a niche and how to understand finance. When artists create work for themselves, if they structure their pursuits as a business – and they can think of their own artistic pursuits as a business of one – they will increase their chances of making a living.

●Q What are some of the key considerations for students who want to build a career with their art?

●A I ask most artists, do you want to specifically do this one type of work for the bulk of your career, or do you really want to make a living from your creativity and find your voice as an artist? Perhaps the most powerful tool an artist can gain is finding their voice. Entrepreneurship is very much about separating yourself in the market and being able to define what makes you unique. Student artists need to be able to answer two questions. The first: 

what makes you different from the competition? That’s about market research, and easy to answer. The second: what makes you necessary? That’s a lot harder. In my view, service to your community or others is the key – it’s the only way to become necessary as an artist. One of the best things an artist can do today is start building an audience. Whom do you want to serve? Who IS your audience? Many artists will say, “Everyone,” but that is never the case. You have to get very specific. No matter what your artistic ideas are, I guarantee there’s an audience somewhere for them – but you have to find that audience and then attract them. What’s important is, instead of focusing on what you want, your desires, fears, hopes and needs, you focus on the audience and their hopes, needs, etc. – then you are truly serving your audience, and they in turn will likely support you. If you can understand what other people’s needs are, based on research or communication, and then appeal to those needs, you have a greater chance of realizing your own needs simultaneously. Networking is also extremely important, because people like to help those they know, like and trust. Students at Meadows have the potential of gaining a very large network while still in school – from fellow students, who will be the big fish of tomorrow, and from faculty. Artists also have to be able to adapt to change. We try to keep students in a constant stage of engagement and working, and in doing so they’re interacting with their network.

●Q Are there initiatives you plan to undertake?

●A Since I’m brand new, I want to first understand what exists on campus in terms of resources, teaching, faculty experience and other entrepreneurial programs and set up collaborations both inside and outside Meadows. I also really want to create a “vision incubator” to work with students who already have ideas and who desire to change the world and turn their visions into reality. My hope is we will mentor them and help them develop their concepts all the way through to graduation, then help launch them into the market.

●Q What are some of the training techniques you used at TITAN Teaterskole that you want to apply to SMU Meadows?

●A The biggest one is experiential learning – learning by doing as often as possible. The SMU initiative of “Engaged Learning” is fantastic – it’s very exciting to have a push at the University level to engage students in hands-on, creative ways. At TITAN, we put students in pairs and required them to come up with an original theatrical production without using any school resources. They had to write it, find a professional or quasi-professional performing space, negotiate contracts, fundraise, market (including generating press stories) and do social networking. The goal was to create completely original, high quality art that would earn the students more money than they spent.

●Q So, do you think arts entrepreneurship is going to remain important?

●A I think arts entrepreneurship is destined to become a new standard in arts education, and it needs to. We know that the current standard of arts training is inadequate, and we as educators have a moral imperative to address the problem and offer solutions. The best solution we have is arts entrepreneurship.

For more information on arts entrepreneurship initiatives at SMU, visit

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