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Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative (AEI)

Project Incubation: Pitching 101 Workshop

Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative (AEI)

Through its Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative, the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division equips students with the entrepreneurial mindset and skills needed to compete and sustain careers in the creative industries

The Need

The arts and humanities bring meaning, perspective, and understanding to our lives; they carry the very essence of what it means to be human. Yet, to our great loss, in much of today’s world, the emphasis placed on high-earning fields has forced performing, visual, and literary arts to take a back seat to what are considered more practical disciplines, such as STEM -- if they are granted a seat at all.

Those of us who have dedicated ourselves to the arts and arts education must come out aggressively against this skewed, ultimately destructive perspective. Moreover, we must do everything possible to support our students who despite the current arts-hostile environment in our culture are brave enough to consider careers that they are told lack relevancy and market value.

In response to this urgent need, we in in the Arts Division must trust that the guarantee we have for a sustainable future and success in meeting our goal for the arts to not only survive but also thrive is in the exceptionalism of our mission at UC Santa Cruz. But to prevail, we must be resolutely outward-facing and entrepreneurial. We must assert that success should not only be measured in profits but also in the way any enterprise or institution creates cultural and social capital and builds social equity.

The Solution

Young artists today will not have the same built-in opportunities for careers in the arts that past generations have had. Rather, young artists in today’s world are experiencing a decline in opportunity in traditional job markets. What this means is that they must adapt to changing circumstances and make the careers they want for themselves with a support system in place that is flexible and able to sustain their needs. Thus, today’s arts ecologies will rely on artists who can cross boundaries with their knowledge and skills and create their own prospects outside established structures.

The million-dollar question is how do you train arts students for careers for which there are so few outlets? The answer? You train them with the vision to imagine their unique place in the world and provide them with the skillset and the mindset to create their own opportunities. This means preparing artists and creative practitioners for a world that will indeed necessitate creative initiative, risk-taking, and working within--and maybe even creatively intervening in--the given economic framework.

Yet, most current arts training programs are still designed to serve the employment market that no longer exists. Since what drives arts curricula (a product of the 1970’s) is increasingly losing relevancy for artists on the job hunt, the time is ripe for new paradigms that incorporate the latest technologies and cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary practices to advance the arts across all fields. We need to imagine a new pedagogical model that meets the demands of the 21st century arts industry. At the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division we propose a curriculum in creative entrepreneurship as this new pedagogy.

Today, alongside their discipline study, we consider creative entrepreneurship the most efficacious addition a university arts program can offer students of the arts. Why? Because this pedagogy involves a combination of experiential learning (making the work, using the tools, creative problem solving and time-management), along with access to seasoned professionals -- and on the flip side, critical thinking and theoretical problem–solving. In this process student artists must acquire the vocabulary to advance in the world and immerse themselves in environments which allow for fluid networking and career building habits which will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative Components

Creative Entrepreneurship Curriculum (CEC)

In a world where creativity is prized above all else and innovation harnessed through personal agency is the key to success, the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division promotes pedagogy designed to prepare students to develop careers for the creative economies of the 21st Century. The Creative Entrepreneurship Curriculum fosters “The Da Vinci Mindset”, a term that expresses the belief that today’s artists should be emboldened to step beyond traditional art spaces and into the wider world, taking their place at the table as critical thinkers, innovators, and policy makers. 

Considering this, we offer three models for the artist entrepreneur that underscore the diversity and values of the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division. Any one individual can embody as many as all three of these prototypes. We also use “artist” to include arts scholars and creative practitioners (producers, curators, publishers, e.g.).

  • Pure Artists (reinventing traditional outlets to present artistic work and/or discovering and inventing non-traditional outlets to showcase their work or create an arts-related venture -- either for-profit or nonprofit)
  • Applied Artists (using artistic skills and creativity in non-arts professions)
  • Citizen Artists (advancing social missions/strengthening the fabric of society through the arts

Creative Entrepreneurship Internships (CEI)

Sponsored by the UC Office of the President, this internships program creates a diversity pipeline for underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students to work in the creative industries of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, as well as at California cultural institutions.

Arts Dean’s Lecture Series on Creative Entrepreneurship

Over ten encounters with a distinguished roster of arts practitioners, educators, and thought leaders, students are exposed to a range of topics that shed light on how to incubate their creative visions and shape an artistic or arts-related career.