Hidden E Competencies

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Hidden E Competencies

Post  Admin on Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:26 am

Hidden E Competencies
Jake Allee
Colorado Mesa University

Concept:

Modify existing pedagogy to include concepts of entrepreneurship so that students focus on it as art practice instead of business practice.

Application:

Self employment in the field of fine art and craft requires vision beyond just making artwork and selling it. I personally have found much success in taking a diversified approach to engaging in making money through art. In fact, in the last few years, I have made more money speaking at schools, constructing facilities for making art for other people, consulting, and writing magazine articles than I have selling my artwork. This all comes directly from utilizing opportunity recognition and considering how engaging in other activities outside the studio can benefit the sales of my art. As I am presenting the regular curriculum associated with my classes, I have injected new ‘mini-lessons’ that expose students to diversified possibilities in employment in art. These ‘mini lessons’ focus on the opportunity recognition aspect of entrepreneurship as well as self promotion in the field of art. In each of these lessons I demonstrate something that relates directly to what students are doing in coursework and connect it to some logistic aspect of making a living as an artist outside of the actual production of art. The idea is to get students to see opportunity recognition and self promotion as a natural act of a career artist.

Mini Lessons for Opportunity Recognition:

I use a series of mini lessons in my studio art courses to not only introduce opportunity recognition, but to break up the normal schedule of demonstrations, assignment explanations, work days, and critiques. These mini lessons not only add interest to the topic of the course for the students, but keep me interested as a teacher because I’m digging into the nuts and bolts of making a living as an artist. One example would be the packing and shipment of ceramic work to send off to an exhibition. I demonstrate how to construct and pack a double walled box designed for shipment of fragile art that is insurable by established shipping companies as well as use online shipping tools to ease the act of shipping. After the demonstration, I also take the time to explain how a person can become employed in the fields of art handling, museum preparator, and art transit. Another example would be a quick a talk that I give to my students on the types of kilns used to fire ceramic work. At the end of this talk I discuss how one can make money constructing kilns for other people such as private studios, schools, art centers, and co-ops. I also talk about how knowledge in the field of kiln building can be applied to other fields that use boilers, grain dryers, and burner systems. Just recently I had a person contact me to see if I could identify and possibly appraise some pre Columbian ceramic pieces for them. I took advantage of this by extending an invitation to share the pieces with one of my classes. The students where then exposed to a historical aspect to the field of ceramics and I discussed the possibilities posed by seeking employment in art identification, conservation, restoration, and appraisal. You never know where you may find an opportunity to share new information with your students that applies to self employment in an art related field, so it pays to constantly think in terms of opportunity recognition as a teacher of entrepreneurship.

Specific Course Modifications Using Technology for Self Promotion:

Many of my course modifications have been made in an effort to focus on self promotion of personal artwork for exposure of students to self employment through art making. All beginning through advanced courses that I teach have been modified to include a digital portfolio system required for the final grading. All assignments made in class must be represented on a compact disc and photographed using the standardized format of photography associated with professional publication of 3-dimensional artwork. In the beginning courses the photography is taught and continual documentation in this format is required in the advanced courses. In the advanced courses, I have now incorporated a blog construction component that utilizes the photographs the students have made of their work for self promotion on the internet. These blogs include resumes, artist statements, and biographies of the students as any professional artist would have. In a final effort to ‘close the loop’ in the process of teaching self promotion, students are taught concepts for utilizing social media for self promotion and assigned to actively use face book for directing traffic to their respective web sites. I also give a self promotion assignment to each student that requires conversion of their blog or web site URL into the conversion of a QR code.

Throwing in some risk:

Another self promotion based assignment in studio art is having students enter juried exhibitions. I often add this assignment because it incorporates the element of risk by having to pay a fee to enter. This risk can be calculated to some extent by having the students look closely at the person who is the juror and evaluating whether they may like your work based on the work they make, as well as their background and involvement in the field. The chances of student work being accepted are also increased by entering the best work they have available photographed to the best of their ability. Juried exhibitions are great for self promotion because they generally use the photos entered for the show as images for advertisement in newspapers, post cards, and on the internet. That’s free advertisement if your photo is selected. Physical juried exhibitions also have the potential to expose your art to other regions as well as countries in person. I also explain the basic procedure for paying taxes if the piece is sold.

Effective Social Concepts for Self Promotion:

The last thing I like to do is tie all of these ideas together in an effort to show students how they can benefit from a diversified approach to being an artist entrepreneur through social interaction. The act of promoting one’s self can be a touchy endeavor. You want people to be aware of what you have to offer, but you don’t want to be over bearing. There is nothing worse than an artist so consumed with selling his or her self that they can’t see the big picture. If you try to sell your art like a drug pusher, people will view you like a drug pusher that happens to make art. At this point I like to discuss the benefits of being engaged as a member of your local community. There are many ways to do this, but it’s important to understand that the benefits of this take time. The following are things I like to suggest to artists in line of social interaction and community service that can be combined with the course modifications implemented:

-Show up to art openings in your area often. Don’t just be seen, but get to know the people in your art community. This gives you a social base to make connections and know what is happening in your area as well as potential for opportunities. Back these connections up by using social media to stay in contact with these people. Remember, social media is your opportunity to do the same thing across the globe, but if you are not active in live social interaction, you may never get the full benefit that it has to offer when an opportunity arises.

-Always donate a piece of artwork whenever asked. The people that buy art from art auctions to benefit charitable organizations are people that will recognize your work in other sales contexts AND they will know that you are a like minded person with regard to helping other people. People that buy your work in this context are introduced to your work in a positive context and will remember that when they see it again.

-Whenever possible, donate your time in the form of conducting a demonstration to your local K-12 schools. The more experience you have on your resume in this area, the more likely you are to be payed for the same activity down the road. Even more important is the reality that one of those kids at the demonstration could be positively impacted by your efforts. Who do you think their parents are more likely to buy art from? A random person at an art fair, or the guy that changed his kid’s life in a positive manner?

Experiential Learning:

All of this comes together every semester in practice when they conduct the end of the semester ceramics sale. This is where they see the effects of energy put forth in the areas of opportunity recognition as well as social self promotion paying off. Before going into the sale I discuss the concept of overhead cost and explain how state and local income tax work. This closes the loop completes the self employment experience creating a better understanding of not only the possibilities in art opportunities that make money, but how to turn them into a legitimate business

Challenge:

What are some ways of introducing other E competencies into the classroom by presenting them as art practice instead of business practice?

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Response

Post  B.J. on Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:36 pm

I like the way you are reframing the conversation from business practice to simply being part of the art practice. When working with artists, we often state that you must "wear two hats," rather than describing the role of the artist as including business. I'd be curious to hear the response you've noticed from students and if it varies from the traditional "two hats," response. I often find that the students I work with prefer to keep the two worlds separate and often schedule one time for studio exploration and the other for business.

In response to your mini lessons, do you have them look at the costs associated with activities? For instance, knowing how to package is important, but do they realize how much it actually costs to ship and insure their work? You may have them weigh & measure the package and then compare shipping costs from multiple vendors. I'd also be curious if they consider how much they could be paid for delivering services like rebuilding a kiln or appraising artwork.

Books you may enjoy:
"Building Communities: Not Audiences." We're piloting it in our BA capstone. It was published this May and talks about the "effective social concepts" you listed.
David Cutler is writing a new book on "The Outward Artist." Based on your comments, you may be interested in the book when it comes out.

Challenges Response (just some ideas of the top of my head):
One way you may add in "tenacity/perseverance" is to require that students be selected for a juried exhibition, catalogue, or other event that you might suggest. You have a nice element of risk, because of the fee, but do they continue past the first "no"?
Do you have them plan the ceramic sale or do you provide the space and they sell? To "leverage their resources/bootstrap," they could find the location, supplies, etc and also use "guerrilla skills" to promote the event and get patrons there. Do the students get to keep the profits from the ceramic sale? You may already be doing some of these.

Good stuff!
B.J.

B.J.
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Re: Hidden E Competencies

Post  Admin on Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:20 pm

Jake-
I like the way you have tied in the core E competencies into your ceramics course.
Another method to engage risk is to possibly have each student work with a company, organization, group as a genuine 3rd party stakeholder, i.e. working with a community organization and having the artist "step outside" of his/her comfort zone in order to tailor their artwork and the organization's mission/event.......
Lyle.

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