No Starving Artists Here

Vincent Van Gogh as a starving artist (The Bedroom 1888)

Vincent Van Gogh as a starving artist (The Bedroom 1888)

One of my pet peeves centers on the common misbelief that most artists are starving artists. I say Bah Humbug to that notion!

The reality is that artists can live – and thrive – if they’re got the right tools. Colleges and universities across the country have received the message that artists need to learn about the business of their passions, and are incorporating the appropriate courses into their curricula. Makes sense to me.

Accounting, intellectual property, and marketing are just some of the key tools necessary to create and sell your art successfully. The details include understanding how to best price your work, what your copyright and licensing rights are, and how to promote yourself.

My local paper, The Columbus Dispatch, recently addressed the subject in “Artists Learn How Financial Side of Business Works.” It delivers some good tips and a variety of viewpoints on the subject.

If art is your passion, make sure you take these words to heart: you will benefit greatly from learning about and understanding how to manage the business side of your creativity.
“Like” us and find related articles on Facebook; and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

Design and Business: Together At Last

Take note: Ringling College of Art and Design offers a Bachelor of Arts in the Business of Art & Design.  In fact, they’re currently the only art and design college with a combined art and business program for undergraduates.

In 2008 college president Dr. Larry Thompson acted on the need to combine business and art under one roof. He brought Wanda Chaves to campus with the simple goal to “help students understand the business side of creative industries.” Since then the college’s unique program has taught students the immeasurable value gained from integrating art and business. Through courses, companies eagerly wanting to be a part of the program, and the resulting graduates employed in creative positions, there is proof that Thompson and Chaves have hit onto something successful. The school is leading the way, by building an environment where students acquire business skills in a creative context.

logoInnovative giants Hasbro, Microsoft Game Studio, Disney Imagineering, and Cirque du Soleil have each dedicated a year to give Ringling students real-life challenges and experiences that require combining their knowledge of the creative world with the real world of business. This coming fall Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Studio will take their turn.

Coursework is competitive with that at other business schools, and all faculty members are PhDs who have taught in other business programs. Yet the curriculum is balanced. It begins with one business class the first semester and builds to a total of 18 throughout the program, combined with studio and liberal arts classes. Accounting principles, managerial statistics, and marketing coexist with art history, drawing, math, and writing for designers. Specific business classes include Introduction to the Business of Fine Art, Leadership in Creative Environments, and Organizational and Management of Art and Design Businesses, providing students with the ability to explore a variety of career options.

As Wanda explained it to me, “students team up on projects across disciplines;” interior designers with animators, graphic designers and illustrators. One culminating experience is the Senior International Management class. When a Disney Imagineer came to campus students were challenged to design a resort or a mixed use retail and entertainment space. Design and business decisions affected every aspect of their projects. What role does location play in the experience? How do tourism and different cultural values affect the layout of a resort? How does design impact the experience? How do you successfully set up a business and manage people internationally? Students are taught to think strategically and incorporate newly gained business knowledge into the creative process.

The implications of this type of education are almost endless; internships and jobs follow graduation. But what I find most interesting are the students who now have the creativity and understanding of art and design, alongside the business skills and confidence to create their own opportunities. Whether working independently, for a museum, or as a creative asset in a large company these students have a more comprehensive – and complex – set of tools to bring along on their career paths.

Wanda Chaves said it best, ““Opportunities for our students are wide open.”  I hope students and other schools are taking note.

Design & Business: Moving in the Right Direction

I’m frustrated by the minimal attention given to the study of business in art schools across the country. It seems that too few schools value the mix of art and business. However, four programs that understand the benefits of intertwining the two caught my attention. Here’s the dirt I dug up on three of them:

CCAD - logoCCAD is undergoing a structural change in how they integrate business courses into their curriculum. Currently working from a professional practices model, students now gain business knowledge as it relates to their major – learning what it takes to be successful within that discipline. An example is Studio Professions for Fine Arts majors. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs, focusing on the business of making and selling art. Courses such as Professional Practice for Interior Designers, and Advertising Portfolio and Professional Practice follow a similar path.

The future looks quite different – and better from my perspective – as the school shifts to an institutional model where the curriculum will include key business courses. Business professionals have already joined the faculty, and individual classes in Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Business Law are now available as electives. As the school refocuses its educational model these five will become the rule, not the exception.

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kevin Conlon, wants students to be prepared for careers as independent artists as well as careers outside of the creative community. To help integrate them into the larger marketplace, the school is on track to offer a “Business and Entrepreneurship” minor beginning in the fall of 2014.

logoOTIS has very few universal courses. “They’re very specific to the major,” stated Brooke Randolph, Assistant Dean of Admissions. “However, business and professional practice is built into everything we do here. Students aren’t entrenched in the theoretical; they’re engaged with practical creative challenges, producing work that prepares them for real jobs.”

When searching through their course listings I found proof to her statements, along with some very interesting requirements. Economics in the Product Market is required for all Product Design majors. The course is a survey of microeconomic principles like supply and demand, consumer preferences and costs – essential considerations to those creating new products. Toy Design majors are required to sign up for Business Practices, where they receive an overview of business strategy, economics, finance, and marketing, and then apply lessons learned to writing their own business plans.

A Professional Practice course is required for all Communication Arts majors, while those studying Digital Media acquire practical business concepts from accounting and personal finances to business communications and networking in Career Planning & Personal Management. Each course presents issues relevant to that particular marketplace, integrating business practices into the design process.

scad logoSCAD‘s mission states that the school “exists to prepare talented students for professional careers,” and I believe they do. At first I struggled to locate the business courses on their website, but I took advantage of the school’s online chat offering, and connected up with Joanna, an admissions representative, who pointed me in the right direction. The college follows the professional practice model, with a minimum of one business course associated with each discipline; some are required courses, and others are electives. An added benefit; some business classes are offered online.

Commercial Practices for Industrial Design, Business Practices for Photography, and Animation Professional Development are just a few of the courses I found for applied art majors. Fine artists will also get support and direction with the Illustration Self-Promotion course, Professional Practices for Fine Art Photography, and Fibers Portfolio Preparation.

And the kicker, SCAD offers a Business Management and Entrepreneurship minor, providing students with the fundamental lessons of art in the business world. Students not wanting to complete the full minor have a whole host of courses they can take individually.

CCAD, OTIS and SCAD provide a great representation of the varying type of business and professional practice courses available to art students. Each is serious about creating artists and designers who can successfully apply their crafts in the real world. I think they’re proof that we are moving in the right direction. Ringling College of Art & Design has taken it one step further. I’ll give you the low down next week.

Art and Business at a Liberal Arts College

smart car 2

Smart Car

It’s difficult to find a school that combines the study of art and business for you.  It can be done, but requires time and dedication. I’ve been researching art programs at both large and small colleges across the country for a while now, and am still surprised to find how few opportunities exist for art students who want to enhance their studies with business courses.  As I referenced in an earlier post, we live in the age of iPhones, Smart Cars and ergonomic seating; the intrinsic value of combining design and business seems like it should be obvious. If you’re looking to merge the two in college, there are two paths to choose from; an art school or liberal arts institution.

The decision to attend a private liberal arts college or state university might seem like the easier road to combining art and business, but buyer beware. General studies institutions are typically larger, and offer a wider variety of introductory and even advanced business classes to integrate into your schedule. However – and this is important – attending a larger school doesn’t always solve the problem.  Here’s why. Even though a university offers business courses, that doesn’t mean they’ll be easily accessible to you. When signing up for classes, wherever you attend college, priority is always given to upperclassmen and to those majoring in that subject area, i.e. students who need the course to graduate. Some schools will open business classes to students who are non-business majors, but due to popularity the classes often fill up fast and you’ll have limited time to take them. The take away: even though a university may offer more business classes, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get into the ones you want. Unfortunately, that’s the hard truth.

Don’t get me wrong, studying art at a liberal arts institution is an excellent place to gain an arts education. That’s where I did it! Yet, unless you’re seriously considering double majoring, I wouldn’t choose one based on their business listings alone.

So, how do you overcome being locked out of those classes you want to take? Do your homework now. Talk with the admissions representatives and ask the difficult questions; “how realistic is it that I can seriously integrate business courses with my art degree?” And “what classes will be open to me?” Then, once enrolled, work with your college advisor to ensure you’ll get the classes you want. There are no guarantees, but doing your homework before you’ve committed to a school will give you a clearer picture of the environment before classes even begin.

Art schools are a different story all together. They don’t offer a lot of business courses. Some list general marketing and business overview classes while others provide professional practice classes specific to each major. Once again, each school is different, so you’ll need to do some digging to find out how each one is set up.

I’ve found some winning offerings at four art schools across the country; CCAD, OTIS, SCAD and Ringling. I don’t want my posts to go on too long, so I’ll give you the details of what makes them stand out over the next two weeks.

The Business of Art & Design

Embody Chair by Herman Miller

Embody Chair by Herman Miller

I have a pet peeve.

When I was in college I was interested in both the arts and business.  Given the opportunity to study one or the other I decided to opt for the arts, and so earned a degree in textile design.  It was the right choice for me at the time. I love textiles and all they represent; their history, their tactileness, the processes used to create them, and their cultural implications. However, as much as I love textiles, I also love marketing, and in hindsight I wish that I had included more business courses in the mix. Even though I attended a large liberal arts university, (Go Dawgs!) combining courses – let alone degrees – from such diverse fields mostly wasn’t done then.

art and business need each otherStudents today have more opportunities to mix things up a bit – and I think they should. Through my years of work experience one of the important things I’ve learned is that art and business need each other. Artists need business to promote, sell and financially succeed at their craft.  Businesses need art to graphically depict their messages; to tell their stories.

How does this affect you? Well, if you’re looking to create a career that is directly related to your artistic passions then business or professional courses will help you build that successful path.  I recommend that you take a serious look at the business and professional options available to you as you consider which college to attend.  If for no other reason, do it so you can tell mom and dad you’re planning not to become a starving artist.  (wink, wink)

Let’s consider some details.  Obtaining a degree in a fine art is different than getting one in an applied art.  What does that even mean? Applied arts are mostly those with a direct connection to a specific function.  Think fashion design and advertising.  Stereotypically speaking, fine art is mainly created for its pure beauty.  Think painting and illustration. Does that mean if you study an applied art you’ll have an easier time finding a job and building a career?  Probably yes.  Whichever path you choose, business and professional courses should boost your understanding of how art and business affect, and even rely on each other, which in the long run could help you land a coveted job.

It’s been years since I studied my craft in college, and I have to say I’m still frustrated with the limited number of business courses available for art students wanting to augment their studies.  So, how do you research what business and professional courses are available at varying colleges and universities?  Unfortunately there is no one answer to that question.  But I’ve done some research into the subject, and will share what I’ve learned next week.

The Embody Chair is copyrighted by the Herman Miller Company.