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2018 Arts Dean’s Lecture Series Inspires Artists to be Creative Entrepreneurs

According to a National Endowment for the Arts report, students who study art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Yet when it comes to learning how to apply their art-related university degrees towards choosing professional careers, information on how to achieve this is sorely lacking in their curriculum.

Susan Solt, Dean of the Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz is determined to change that.

“Today’s artists should be emboldened to step beyond traditional art spaces and into the wider world, envisioning themselves as critical thinkers, policy makers, idea producers, and social/cultural engineers, not only makers of things,” says Solt.

A key part of her strategy to empower student artists is the upcoming 2018 Arts Deans Lecture Series on Creative Entrepreneurship, which takes place at UCSC starting April 3 and runs through June 5. The series features a distinguished roster of arts practitioners, creative professionals, educators, and advocates who will provide illuminating insights, practical tools, and personal stories on how to shape an artistic or arts-related career.

Consisting of ten weeks of in-classroom lectures with guest speakers from within and beyond the university, discussions will cover a lively range of topics, ranging from the importance of the entrepreneurial mindset to transforming a vision into a for-profit or non-profit enterprise.

Notable professionals who will be speaking include: Stephanie Allain, film producer; Jessica Balboni, director of Lenox Hill Neighborhood House; Sally Jo Fifer, president and CEO of Independent Television Service (ITVS); Meklit Hadero, Ethio-American vocalist, composer, and cultural instigator; Jonathan Foster, content creator at Microsoft; Annie Morhauser, founder of Annieglass; Shannon Scrofano, designer; and Rick Vargas, creative director at Apple.

Along with Dean Solt, UCSC faculty speaking in the series include: T.J. Demos,  History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) professor and founder of the Center for Creative Ecologies; David Dunn, professor of music and renowned bio-acoustic researcher; Newton Harrison, eminent professor and co-founder of The Center for the Study of the Force Majeure; Robin Hunicke, associate professor and director of, respectively, Art & Design: Games & Playable Media and Digital Arts and New Media, and co-founder of Funomena; John Jota Leaños, associate professor, Film and Digital Media, and internationally acclaimed filmmaker and social-art practitioner; and Marianne Weems, professor of Theater Arts and founder of The Builders Association.

The Arts Dean’s Lecture Series will begin with Solt exploring The Da Vinci Mindset, a term she has coined to encourage art students to think as activists about their place in the world. “I want students to think of the artist as an inventor, a content creator, a knowledge producer, a policy influencer, a problem solver, cultural player, and a radical engineer – not only a maker of objects or things,” explains Solt.

During the following weeks, topics will cover art and ecology, funding for artists, for-profit and non-profit arts practices, employee to employer relations, principles for creative work and life, branding, artists in civic enterprise, and artists as enterprise consultants.

“With climate change being the greatest threat facing life on earth today, the Arts – with their powers of creativity, experimental thinking, critical perception, and ability to generate fundamental cultural values – must be integral to any solution,” says Professor Demos, whose talk will cover arts and ecology. “The Arts are not supplemental to climate action; indeed, they are integral to any meaningful and necessary social transformation.”

Professor Weems’ lecture will focus on non-profit opportunities for artists. “One way to realize your vision is to build an organization with the people who are inspired by your work, not by the bottom line,” advises Weems. “Non-profits are an interesting model, you can be more imaginative, more experimental and perhaps more innovative when you’re not always worrying about increasing profits.”

Along with Dean Solt, Nada Miljkovic  will co-instruct the course and guest moderator, Margaret Wolfson, will moderate the lectures. Milijkovic teaches creative and social entrepreneurship at UCSC’s Crown College, and received her MFA at UC Santa Cruz in Digital Arts and New Media. She also hosts KZSC’s Artists on Art. Wolfson is an artist-entrepreneur with a distinguished performance and creative writing practice and is the founder/chief creative of River + Wolf branding company.

The main goals of the Arts Dean’s Lecture Series on Creative Entrepreneurship are to provide essential tools for student artists and creative practitioners to thrive in the professional world. Specifically, students can expect to define what it means to be a creative entrepreneur, discover various career options, and re-envision themselves as powerful change agents in the world.

“Artists are natural entrepreneurs,” observes Solt. “They are creative. They are disruptive. They take in initiative. They implement enduring change.”

The course is a component of Dean Solt’s Artist21, an evolving initiative on creative entrepreneurship housed in the UC Santa Cruz Art’s Division. Artist21 is committed to equipping students with the entrepreneurial spirit and skills needed to more effectively compete as professionals. Distinct from the straightforward business or social entrepreneur, creative entrepreneurs bring their own creativity and/or the creativity of others to market.

The lecture series is open and free to the public. Seating is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with students being given priority seating.

Course Schedule

All lectures will be held on Tuesday afternoons at 5:20 p.m. in the UCSC Second Stage
April 3-June 5, 2018. Complete information about the series can be found here.