James Hart is Director of Arts Entrepreneurship, Professor of Practice at the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University. He teaches workshops in arts entrepreneurship as part of the MMIAM program. He is also the author of the recently published Classroom Exercises for Entrepreneurship: A Cross-disciplinary Approach (Edward Elgar Publishing, Ltd.). Laura Adlers interviewed Professor Hart recently to discuss what it takes to be a successful arts entrepreneur.
Which courses do you teach for the MMIAM program at Southern Methodist University?
At Southern Methodist University, I don’t teach full-term classes for the MMIAM program at present, but I do for the undergraduates. However, I do deliver workshops in arts entrepreneurship for MMIAM students each year. This past summer, I taught a few days of intensive workshops in Delhi, India, which is a new campus abroad. Students learned about a wide range of topics on the subject of entrepreneurship by using experiential exercises I have created. These exercises give students an experiential understanding of the entrepreneurial process and the tools needed, should they wish to pursue entrepreneurship. The skills also aid students who may wish to start their own organizations upon graduation and help them act in an “intrapreneurial” fashion, which means to behave entrepreneurially within an existing organization.
In India, we focused on team-based activities, since entrepreneurship is not a solo sport, but a team-based endeavor. We also worked a lot on pitching ideas to inspire potential funders and worked to articulate ideas and the intrinsic and extrinsic values students wish to offer. A big part of our work is also primary and secondary research – providing self-derived and others’ data to support entrepreneurial ideas.
At Southern Methodist University and in India, we did a lot of ideation exercises, which is a crucial part of entrepreneurship, as entrepreneurship begins with an idea. Students worked together to generate as many ideas as possible through various exercises, attempting to land on one they were truly passionate about that was simultaneously viable.
Part of this process is also identifying the target market and people you want to work with, what their “pain points” are and how we can attend to others’ needs. I place a big emphasis on the need for one to differentiate how their idea stands out in a sea of similar ideas with similar audiences. The workshops are intensive and delivered over a short time, which is often representative of a real-life process for entrepreneurs.
I was very proud of the students’ accomplishments over this intensive time in India. The students rose to the challenge and came up with some great pitches and ideas. More importantly, they developed skills that can only improve their chances of success as arts managers and entrepreneurially-minded professionals.
Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the cultural sector?
I think having different cultural perspectives is essential for many reasons. First of all, it’s so important to have a world view. Secondly, it’s good to see the kinds of projects and ideas generated in the cultural sectors of different countries around the world. It’s valuable to see how others are leading their organizations in other countries, what value they’re offering their communities. Experiencing and observing all of this serves to fill the well, so to speak, to feed creative, entrepreneurial minds and help generate new ideas. No one creates on an island. We learn, in part, from the stimuli we encounter. Through the MMIAM program, students encounter so much stimuli during their intensive year of study. They will then bring these observations, these ideas to other organizations or found organizations with this global perspective in mind.
What trends in innovation and entrepreneurship are you seeing in the cultural sector in America right now?
When I started teaching arts entrepreneurship in 2004, I could count on one hand how many arts schools around the world were earnestly addressing arts entrepreneurship. Now, in America alone, there are over one hundred schools in higher education doing so. I’ve personally identified over thirty master’s degree programs in cultural, creative, or arts entrepreneurship in countries around the world.
Artists, educators, arts organizations, and government entities (like the National Endowment for the Arts) are recognizing the importance of artists having entrepreneurial skills. Such skills lead to opportunity recognition, unconventional ways of operating, an ability to quickly adapt and persevere as economies change. These skills can help artists identify new customer segments and develop innovative programming and business models.
Entrepreneurial skills serve solo artists, their schools, cultural organizations, and the economy. Artists benefit, as they come to work. Schools benefit, as they can market their graduates’ success. Cultural organizations benefit from having entrepreneurially-minded professionals create new opportunities, and governments benefit as their respective economies are stimulated.
TEDxSMU talk on teaching arts entrepreneurship through games
Interview with Hart on Creative Disturbance podcast
 Hart, James D. 2018. Classroom Exercises for Entrepreneurship: A Cross-disciplinary Approach. Edward Elgar Publishing, Ltd.