The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

New opportunity at Meadows allows students to create their own jobs

Students in the Attracting Capital class brainstorm ideas. (Courtesy of Jim Hart)

James Hart got his Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama in 1999. He learned about acting and directing in the program and how to compete artistically with others, but not how to make a living.

Hart said he saw his talented colleagues surviving on unemployment checks between gigs and said to himself: “There has to be another way.”

In 2004, Hart decided to go to work for himself and founded The International Theatre Academy Norway – a conservatory for theater entrepreneurship in Oslo, Norway. His goal was to build the school he wished he had gone to with classes that focused on entrepreneurship.

Today, he’s director of arts entrepreneurship and assistant professor of practice in the Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. He wants to make sure that other arts graduates do not encounter the same difficulties that he did.

Arts graduates know how to create art.

“But they don’t know how to survive or thrive. It’s just not addressed,” Hart said.

The four-year-old program – offered as a minor – provides students an array of business-oriented courses that emphasize arts budgeting and financial management, attracting capital and developing an arts venture plan, with the vision of providing students the necessary tools to ensure a successful career after graduation.

“Arts entrepreneurship not only teaches me that creating opportunities is possible and fulfilling, it also equips me with skills to realize those opportunities,” said senior Ryan-Patrick McLaughlin, a major in theatre with minors in arts entrepreneurship and arts management.

McLaughlin hopes to someday start his own theater company.

A 2010-11 Georgetown report cited a 10 percent unemployment rate for people graduating with a major in fine arts. But junior Allison Beck, a music major with a minor in arts management and arts entrepreneurship, is confident she will find a job and feels the arts entrepreneurship program has prepared her to open her own business.

“Being able to create a new market for your business or even lay out your elevator pitch to a venture capitalist can be what separates you from the rest,” she said.

Meadows Dean ad interim Sam Holland said that the school is expecting a visit from the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in October to take a look at the arts entrepreneurship program.

“We are perceived as thought leaders in the area,” he said. “We have one of the most well thought-out, fully realized undergraduate arts entrepreneurship programs here at SMU.”

The NEA is an independent federal agency that financially awards individuals and organizations for excellence in the arts.

The arts entrepreneurship program offers its 40 students from many different arts disciplines, a wide range of resources including an arts entrepreneur’s blog and a YouTube channel, which features interviews with successful arts entrepreneurs, students and legal professionals.

The faculty have backgrounds in law, business, theater and accounting.

“I would say one of your best resources would be the professors themselves,” said senior Marquelle Power.

Power, who majors in guitar performance, would like to someday own a music and arts organization.

Starting with the class of 2016, students enrolled in the arts entrepreneurship program must have an active web presence meant to showcase their work through social media and other sharing sites to market themselves to employers.

“You’re going to have to go to the world and make yourself relevant before the world comes to you,” said Holland.

Power said he’s learned the importance of taking risks and effective communication. He said he was drawn to the program because he wanted a strong understanding of the business side of fine arts.

In addition to teaching students about the business side of the arts, the curriculum also is designed to provide students an opportunity to cultivate unique ideas.

Students may to take advantage of this opportunity in different ways: Meadows Exploration Grants; the Big iDeas program, a three-tier process with an award of up to $11,000; and Accelerating Your Startup, a course under development in which students are given $5,000 to start their project and receive mentoring at the Dallas Entrepreneurship Center.

Leaders of the entrepreneurship program say their students enjoy a unique advantage: they are taught to know and grow their customer base and “to serve heroically as they create.

Holland explained that an element of heroism is present in any artistic discipline. The artist is “swimming upstream against powerful downstream currents,” he said. “One who is calling out the world as they see it and trying to make it a better place.”

Junior Chase Harker relates the courage and bravery seen in heroic stories to the uncertainty a person faces in being an entrepreneur. Harker said to be a hero one must serve their community.

“You’re changing the world in a way that only you can think of to better serve those around you,” he added.

More to Discover