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Spotlight on FACE Class (First-year Arts Community Experience)

Dean José Bowen introduces first-year arts students to artistic entrepreneurship, collaboration and elevator pitches.

by Andrew Kaufmann

First-year students at universities everywhere spend hour after hour in orientation sessions: how to survive life in a dorm; how to make healthy living choices; how to pick classes and start down an academic path.

Meadows students in art, dance, film, music and theatre also have a semester-long orientation developed specifically for today’s artist, a mandatory pass/fail course called MSA 1001/1101: First-Year Arts Community Experience (FACE).

Launched in fall 2010, this orientation class doesn’t spend time explaining how critical it is to spend days and nights in the practice room, in the drawing studio, or in front of the mirror practicing mono- logues. Instead, Meadows Dean José Bowen, who serves as lead instructor in the team-taught class, teaches students the fine art of navigating the art world as an entrepreneur and collaborator.

“Artists have to think about more than just the ‘attraction’ – what content audiences see and hear – and become the head of marketing, the head of legal, the head of payroll, the CEO, the head of sales,” says Bowen.

To drive home the concept, the class features guest speakers with real-world experience at promoting ideas, skills and talent. The message to the students is clear: being a skilled artist does not necessarily equate with being a successful artist, regardless of how you measure success. Audiences have to attach value to your art. Messages have to be delivered. Real strategy and effort must be put into ensuring that there are audiences and resources supporting the arts.

As a capstone project, each student in the course creates an elevator pitch that differentiates and encapsulates his or her artistic vision. In April, the students will have the opportunity to informally present their pitches to influential leaders in the Dallas arts community at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in downtown Dallas, before the 2012 Meadows at the Meyerson performance.

Chris Westfall, Meadows theatre graduate (’87) and National Elevator Pitch Champion, spoke to the students in September and gave guidance on the creation of elevator pitches.

“Being a painter, being a musician, being a sculptor – so what? What does that mean you can do with, through, or for someone else?” he told them. “Knowing your story is knowing how to tell it.”

Speakers from a variety of disciplines spoke to the first-year students, including the following that are featured on the Meadows Creative Community:

- The Art of the Elevator Pitch – Chris Westfall, National Elevator Pitch Champion

- Packaging the Multi-Faceted Artist – Jamal Story, national dance performer

- The Characteristics of an Entrepreneur – Trey Bowles, technology entrepreneur

- Framing: Art as an Experience – José Bowen, Dean, SMU Meadows School of the Arts 

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