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Are artists entrepreneurs?


I'm not sure that I would call myself an entrepreneur but I guess, thinking about it, perhaps I am entrepreneurial. That just depends on how we view it.

I for one (like most artists I know) have winced at the word, entrepreneurial. It sets off alarm bells in our ears, as we hurry back to our studios where we feel far more at ease behind our easels. "This is what we are meant to do...we make and we are not entrepreneurs ..."

That's because, for many, their view of an entrepreneur is a businessman, suited up, watching their profits soar. And of course, an artist is poor and lives for and by his brush. But both the wealthy businessman and the poverty stricken artist are just ideological stereotypes. Living by my brush is ideological but - as for many artists - totally illogical. Even those who can make art for a living, would have to be enterprising to be able to do so. There is more to this game than just raw talent.

So, I suppose it might seem odd that a recent Fine Art graduate is now working part-time for the Centre for Student Entrepreneurship. In some ways it probably is but I am positive that the strengthening partnership between Cardiff School of Art and Design and the Centre of Student Entrepreneurship, is one of mutual benefit and learning. Whilst the school develops new modules that are designed to help students realise their natural entrepreneurial ability, the Centre recognises the potential in the students in a refreshing and energising way.

You only need to take a glance at CSAD's Research and Enterprise newsletters, to see just how much enterprise is going on within the Fine Art field. Best of all, many projects are student initiated and student led. A few recent successes that spring to mind include: the set up and running of The Modern Alchemist Gallery; B I T collective's artist-led studios on Fox Lane, from which a growing number of projects are developing; student, Georgia Hall, recently selected as a nominee for the Wales International Young Artist Award (even featuring on BBC Wales); and a further group of recent graduates developing a project at Llandough hospital. This is just a small proportion of the successes of the CSAD Fine Art students and graduates, not to mention national and international exhibiting, project grants, awards etc.

Equally, entrepreneurial achievements can be witnessed across the wider context of the art school. An example being a recent enterprise module, where individuals from Graphic Communication, Product Design and Textiles, were given the challenge of starting a business in just five weeks! Each individual was allocated team members and seed funded with a small sum of money. Within this tiny time frame, each group had a business, hand-made, high quality products and made a profit.

I believe it true that for most artists, there is no intention of becoming exceedingly wealthy 'entrepreneurs', in the stereotypical sense. Nonetheless, it is evident that artists thrive on making projects happen and this would not be possible without our enterprising and entrepreneurial ability...whether we are aware of it or not!  

Blog post by Lydia Meehan, Graduate Entrepreneurship Ambassador
April 2014