St(Art) Up Entrepreneurship

(This full article appears in the Americans for the Arts’ ARTSblog.)

Over the past several years in Atlanta, the startup entrepreneurial community has grown as many aspiring moguls have put their creative and technical capital to work to secure funds and buzz around their latest digital products. This energy has been fueled by Atlanta’s unique characteristics has a hub for transportation, education, and culture, not to mention the comfortable climate and affordable cost of living.

Similarly, there’s been tremendous growth in emerging Arts organizations that have begun to impact how Atlanta’s citizens view the role of art in their daily lives–everything from appreciating “art for the sake of art” to realizing how the arts serve as a platform to address other aspects of society (e.g. Transportation, Politics, Sports, etc.). Again, the same characteristics of education, culture, and comfort have played a role in attracting art talent to the city in a similar fashion to the entrepreneurship community.

There are several issues that confront emerging Arts Administrators and Entrepreneurs alike, everything from securing the right type of office space to social media outreach and relationship development. Additionally, the competition for funding in both groups is always fierce. In the Arts, there’s the competition for public and/or private grants; for Entrepreneurs it’s investors of the angel, private equity, or venture capital variety.

The similarities don’t end there. Aside from the all-important challenge of funding the enterprise, there’s always the issue of attracting customers. In the case of Arts Administrators that may mean enticing programming customers or attracting the general public to events or raising social media awareness; meanwhile Startup Entrepreneurs of this digital age are often obsessed with scaling their customer base as fast as possible to help demonstrate the viability of their product.

However, for all of the similarities I’ve observed among both segments of this creative class, I see one major difference between emerging Arts Administrators and emerging Entrepreneurs–a roadmap–that might enable the former to pick up some insight from the latter. This isn’t to say that the Arts Administrators lack direction – far from it. But what I am stressing is that for emerging Arts Administrators or Arts Entrepreneurs, there often isn’t an established methodology on how to build programming and organizational stability that supports the mission, vision, and values that the enterprise was founded upon.

Read the rest of this post here.

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