Happy Anniversary Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative!

The Arts Extension Service is excited to celebrate five years of its Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative devoted to supporting the careers of working artists and providing students with opportunity locally, regionally, and nationally. The development of new programs happens for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it is inspiration that propels a new service offering into being. Just such a conversation between two people from different creative disciplines gave rise to the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Director of the Arts Extension Service Dee Boyle-Clapp and retired UMass Music Department Chair Jeff Cox regularly discussed challenges artists face. “We were talking about preparing student artists of all types, including painters, writers and musicians for their post-graduation world. In an academic setting, students and professional are vigorously trained in the craft of their artform or instrument - but we were concerned that the students were not learning how to make a living or fulfill their dreams to work in their field of choice."

"The Arts Extension Service and the Alumni Office oversaw UMass’ participation in the Strategic National Art Alumni Project (SNAAP), which asked Arts and Humanities alumni to answer in-depth questions about their post college careers. In the comment area, their own words underscored that we were right about the need for career development skills. Students said that they loved UMass and what they learned, but almost every person asked, "Why didn’t you teach me how to make a living?" Feedback from the survey drove the development of the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative.”

It is important to Dee that the Initiative serves artists and creatives both within and outside the UMass campus. "The Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative is the portion of the Arts Extension Service dedicated to addressing the career needs of arts and humanities students on campus, in the Pioneer Valley, and beyond. In speaking with Pioneer Valley-based artists, we learned that UMass seemed like an impenetrable wall. Artists wanted to know how to access trainings and resources, including interns and the creative communities on campus. We built the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative to provide a way in.”

Said Dee, “Information sharing and providing opportunities are at the core of this Initiative. Working with the College of Humanities Advising and Career Center and Art Department, we launched biannual internship fairs. Students' energy and desire to learn new skills and grow their resumes were clear, but where would we find the recommended three internship opportunities for 2000-some arts and humanities students? Fortunately, student needs dovetailed with the needs of individual artists and New England based arts and cultural nonprofit organizations. We now host several workshops a year in the Valley and invite creatives and nonprofits to learn what it takes to have an intern, stay compliant with the law, and how to design a successful internship opportunity. Art History, History, BDIC, and other departments in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts joined the team of partners getting the word out to students. We have had over one hundred and twenty internship providers join us for the fairs and we’re always looking for more.” Through the Initiative, the Arts Extension Service interacts supports both students and the creative economy in the greater Pioneer Valley.

In addition to internship fairs, the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative serves as the umbrella for AES’ Arts Entrepreneurship classes, consulting, and workshops and trainings for individual artists. AES’s trainings vary from a few hours in an evening to one, two, or five days long. Artist-in-Business trainings include business planning, marketing, pricing, and more. Public art trainings teach artists how to transform their work for public spaces and how to apply for and manage a public art project. Community Engagement is a deeper form of public art that focuses on working with a community to address its needs and broadens the scope of what is possible. All of these trainings are taught by Arts Extension Service staff who are also artists and are able to bring both research and first-hand experience to the trainings.

The Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative has been a collaborative venture since the first conversation between Dee Boyle-Clapp and Jeff Cox. As a program within the Arts Extension Service, the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative serves working artists and students by providing skills that build a road map and confidence for a sustainable career.

“I’ve been working with artists for decades, and given the right skills they are excellent at business. We teach them to be authentic and to tap their creativity to live a life that is both what they dreamed and pays the bills. Unfortunately, like those in the SNAAP survey, those people who did not receive training or obtain the skills to sustain their art making career or arts-based business give up making art, and many say they then feel like failures. By leading the Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative we have the opportunity to turn that around.”