How to turn abstract ideas into an executable plan? How to fit academic learning into the intensive dynamics of creative industries? These questions are frequently asked by young cultural entrepreneurs, who find themselves in the world of arts without real life experience. The seminar Applied Cultural Entrepreneurship, offered as a part of the master programme in Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR), aims to equip students who might experience similar challenges in their future practice. It encourages them to recognize their entrepreneurial potential, apply their prior theoretical knowledge in practice, and learn from the real-life experiences.
What does the seminar entail?
During the seminar Cultural Entrepreneurship participants have the opportunity to work with their counterparts from two Universities of Applied Sciences based in the region: the Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKa) specialized in teaching media, art, design and leisure, and Codarts Rotterdam which focuses on training dancers, musicians and circus performers to become dedicated and inspiring artists, leaders and facilitators in an international context. The partnering institutions can also vary depending on the initiatives of the students.
Although the theme of the seminar revolves around entrepreneurship, students do not start their own businesses as an outcome of this course. Instead, the seminar encourages students to take responsibility for designing, launching and running an actual production or an artistic event. Students are active in all steps of producing: performing as economists, planners, managers, marketers, accountants, consultants, fundraisers, etc. Since the seminar is a part of the master programme Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship, students will have to incorporate entrepreneurial theories within their project and critically reflect on these theories within an evaluation report.
What does the seminar bring to the community?
The seminar distinguishes itself with its contribution to the cultural life of the region. During the seminar, students might work on socially relevant events, projects or even write consultancy reports for local cultural organizations such as the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra or the Mauritshuis Museum. Groups of students pitch their project plans to lecturers who will act as ‘a board of trustees’. If the board approves the plan, each group will receive €150,- to realize their project.
To illustrate, in 2017 three groups engaged in different types of activities. One group organized an event called ‘Club Culture’ with electronic music performances, an exhibition, visual arts and films. Another group delivered ‘Project Primavera’ in collaboration with students of Codarts and WdKa. During the event, the student-artists performed micro-performances and dynamic art pieces. The third group wrote a consultancy report for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra on how they could adjust their programmes and strategies in order to meet the quality expectations of all stakeholders. This report proved to be so successful that the orchestra employed the group for another round of consultations, while one of the group members received a permanent job offer. In 2018 the EUR students will get to work with the Mauritshuis Museum, the Dutch Culture Centre for International Cooperation and the Department of Culture of the Swedish Halland County.
What is the added value of the seminar for the students?
The seminar’s ultimate goal is to boost the students’ career prospects though the development of professional competences and skills needed for undertaking entrepreneurship activities in the cultural field. Participating students report to have improved their ability for creative and analytical thinking, leadership skills, project-based working, oral and written communication skills, networking, planning and teamwork and initiative to undertake new and complex activities. Moreover, the seminar allows the students to connect their theoretical academic background with practice.
This article is based on a case study originally written by Anna Silvius (University of Groningen), developed as part of the Erasmus + Knowledge Alliance Project “Integrating Entrepreneurship and Work Experience into Higher Education” (WEXHE). This and other 80 + case studies from across Europe will be made available in the project website by the end of the year 2018. For more information on the project, please visit www.wexhe.eu
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