This is the blog for Linda Essig’s graduate seminar in Arts Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, course #THP552. We are excited to share publicly this experiment in new venture creation in the arts and in arts entrepreneurship pedagogy. Each week, students will be blogging their reflections on their new venture creation process, successes and failures, theoretical readings (only in the first three weeks), and the translation of “lean launchpad” methodology for an arts context. To provide some perspective on the approach we are taking, the syllabus is excerpted here, with the full syllabus available on the “Syllabus” page:

Course Description and objectives:

This class takes an experiential approach to learning effectual entrepreneurship. Effectual entrepreneurship is a decision-making strategy that exploits the existing resources of a team and its environment to launch a venture. Along the way, we will also explore economic theories of entrepreneurship, specifically the “Creative Destruction” of Joseph Schumpeter and the neoclassical profit maximizing approach of Ira Kirzner. By actually DOING entrepreneurship (yes – the class will be launching an arts-based business), you will learn about opportunity recognition, customer/audience development, business planning, legal issues, entrepreneurial finance, and other topics.

Teaching/learning philosophy:

The class adopts John Dewey’s “learning by doing” approach and Steve Blank’s directive to “get out of the building.” Rather than acquiring fixed fact-based knowledge, you will experience entrepreneurial action so that you can learn about entrepreneurship in a way that enables you to transfer that learning to different situations, recognizing entrepreneurial opportunity when it arises and creating your own opportunities for artistic endeavors. To facilitate our experience of entrepreneurship, we will be using (and adapting for the arts context) a business planning strategy developed by Alexander Osterwalder called “Lean Launchpad.”

Point of View:

I approach arts entrepreneurship from a specific point of view. This perspective puts the art at the center of the entrepreneurial action. From this perspective, the desired “end” of arts entrepreneurial action is “art.” This viewpoint is shared by many, but not all, who teach in the arts entrepreneurship space. Others view arts entrepreneurship as similar to other sectors of entrepreneurship in which the entrepreneur is bringing a product to market; what makes arts entrepreneurship distinctive in this view is that the product is an aesthetic one exclusively. Despite the fact that I (and this class) will keep art and artmaking opportunity central to our activities, we will be using materials developed for for-profit, sometimes tech-oriented, products. I am form neutral – meaning that arts entrepreneurship can result in for-profit or nonprofit corporations (yes, nonprofits are corporations) or in no corporation at all. Entrepreneurship, according to Steve Blank, is the discovery of a business model that is not known at the starting point. In other words, although the learning outcomes are known, the specific output of your work  (what Saravasvathy calls the “artifact”) is unknown.

This is not a course in arts entrepreneurship theory. Such a course would provide a comprehensive overview of the various formative theories of arts entrepreneurship or entrepreneurship in the arts. Rather, this is a course in doing (or simulating) arts entrepreneurship. The core activity of entrepreneurship is comprised of the entrepreneurial actions of recognizing opportunity, discovering needs/wants, creating, innovating, and actuating.

Structure and translation

There is quite a lot of reading (in terms of page count) in the first three weeks of the semester. This reading will help provide some overall context for the field (the pre-class reading) and some of the foundational thinking (especially Schumpeter) from which much contemporary arts entrepreneurship practice and inquiry is derived. In those first three weeks you will learn about each other so that you can recognize the opportunities that exist in the room with us.

After that segment of knowledge building, we will switch to a somewhat “flipped” classroom – you will view video material on the UDACITY site. Classroom time will be devoted to translating the UDACITY material for an arts context and applying that material to your collaborative entrepreneurial action. You will – as a group – test the hypotheses you develop in the classroom by going out of the building and asking the people who are the audience for your arts-based venture. The translation of the video material will often involve translating “customer” into “audience” or “community” and “revenue and profit” into “revenue and creative opportunity.” In other words, the “profit” in arts entrepreneurship is MORE ART.



Because a lot of the focus on the UDACITY material is about teaching a “customer development” process, it’s really important to always hear “audience” when Steve Blank says “customer.” Entrepreneurial artists DEVELOP THEIR AUDIENCE.

Further, and finally, Blank’s teaching style is NOT mine. I don’t want to spend time in class critiquing the video presentations but acknowledge that one could teach an entire course deconstructing the social constructs (especially vis a vis gender and class) embedded in the videos.


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