This is the public blog for Linda Essig’s graduate seminar in arts entrepreneurship at ASU. Students will blog here weekly about their venture launch process and/or their reactions to material that they have read or viewed.

Here are the details from the syllabus:

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 that keeps art at its center. 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 as well as theory frameworks for firm formation.  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. You will be learning an adaptable process for arts entrepreneurship 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 “The Business Model Canvas” while deploying effectual decision-making strategies.

Required Texts:

  • Read, Sarasvathy et al: Effectual Entrepreneurship
  • Osterwalder and Pigneur: Business Model Generation
  • Other required reading as assigned following. Note that if reading is readily available from the library journal database, you are expected to retrieve it from there.
    • “Barry’s Blog” arts entrepreneurship blog salon. On BB
    • Essig (2015) “Means and Ends: A Theory Framework for Understanding Entrepreneurship in the US Arts and Culture Sector”, The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 45:4, 227-246, DOI: 10.1080/10632921.2015.1103673
    • Schumpeter (1961) “The Fundamental Phenomenon of Economic Development,” from THE THEORY OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business cycle. Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press. On BB
    • Kirzner, I. M. (1999). “Creativity and/or alertness: A reconsideration of the Schumpeterian entrepreneur.” The Review of Austrian Economics, 11(1-2), 5-17.
    • Ward, T. B. (2004). “Cognition, creativity, and entrepreneurship.” Journal of Business Venturing, 19(2), 173-188.
    • DiMaggio, P. (1982). “Cultural entrepreneurship in nineteenth-century Boston: The creation of an organizational base for high culture in America”. Media, Culture & Society, 4(1), 33-50.
    • Baron, R. A. (2006). “Opportunity recognition as pattern recognition: How entrepreneurs “connect the dots” to identify new business opportunities.” The Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(1), 104-119.
    • Adorno, T. W., & Rabinbach, A. G. (1975). “Culture industry reconsidered.” New German Critique, (6), 12-19.
  • Required viewing: UDACITY Course materials: How to Build a Start-up (this is free, but you need to register as an observer)
  • ASU Pave Program, The Arizona Arts Entrepreneur Toolkit [for reference]. You were invited to download this resource; please be sure to do so.
  • Optional: Excerpts from Linda Essig’s book in development, on BB

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 to maximize financial return; 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 some 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, the output of your work in the course is unknown, although the learning outcomes are.

This is not a course in arts entrepreneurship theory, although we will read some theoretical texts at the beginning of the semester. 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 arts entrepreneurship.  The core activities of entrepreneurship include recognizing opportunity, discovering needs/wants, creating, innovating, and actuating to achieve a desirable end.

“Profit” can take many forms: financial, social, cultural, personal or collective well-being, among others. Many of us have “grown up” in a nonprofit arts environment and may have a complex relationship with the notion of capitalism, especially as capital appears to accumulate or concentrate in smaller and smaller segments of the arts and the economy as a whole.  Historical and neoclassical views of entrepreneurship focus on entrepreneurship as the means by which capital is invested, grown, and harvested.  This may or may not be of interest to you.  By shifting the means/end relationship from “product-for-profit” to “revenue-for-art” we can reconcile our need to make art with our need to make money.

Structure and translation

There is some substantial reading (in terms of page count) in the first three weeks of the semester. This reading will help provide some overall theoretical and practical 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 also 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 and, perhaps, creative well-being. This latter is a construct I am just now beginning to explore and so look forward to being on the learning journey with you.



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.

Requirements and grading

You are required to:

  1. attend all class meetings (it’s a flipped class so your classmates will be depending on you)
  2. fully participate in the collaborate process of creating a start-up arts-based venture, including, but not limited to:
    1. weekly presentation of field testing results (week four and later),
    2. field work to test the hypotheses of your collaboratively developed business model
    3. collaboratively develop and submit a three-year financial projection
    4. collaborate on the execution and launch of an arts-based venture or a minimum viable product
    5. collaboratively develop and present an operational plan for the venture
  3. publish individual weekly blog posts on the class blog[1],
  4. discuss and submit a final reflection paper.

All reading or viewing as listed is expected to be completed before the listed class.

Take a deep breath in. Now breath out and relax. EVERYONE IN THE CLASS HAS AN A. That A is yours to lose.  Do all that is expected to the best of your ability and you maintain that grade. You will receive a warning if your grade is in danger of dropping below an A.  Failure to submit the final reflection paper will result in a grade of E for the course.

[1] Each week, you are required to blog about the experience. This is a public blog and serves multiple purposes, including building public communication skills, self-reflection, and marketing your new venture. There is a national community of arts entrepreneurship educators watching our progress via the blog.