"So you're an actor?" goes an old joke in both Manhattan and Hollywood. "Which restaurant?"
The image of the starving artist may be romantic, but that's about it. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is combating uncertainty for people contemplating arts careers with a groundbreaking program called Arts Enterprise. It includes a public lecture series.
"Arts Enterprise is dedicated to helping artists create viable, lifelong career strategies," says organizer Stephanie Jutt, of the UW School of Music.
This semester Arts Enterprise is offering a class, "Art as Business as Art." Almost every arts and performing arts department or program is taking part. Jutt and Andrew Taylor, director of the UW's Bolz Center for Arts Administration, co-teach with a dozen guests.
It's one of few such courses in the nation. "The class is a bit of a grand experiment, and we're not sure exactly where it will take us," says Taylor. "But there seems to be fertile opportunity to connect artistic expression and innovative business practice."
John Schaffer, director of the School of Music, believes Arts Enterprise is vitally important. The UW is great at making students the best artists they can be, he says, "but we never show the students how to pull together all of these resources, such that the student can actually walk out the door with a degree and have at least a fighting chance of success as an artist."
There are few easy or guaranteed ways for artists to succeed, so "the ability to be creative in one's entrepreneurship, as well as one's artistry, is of paramount importance," says Schaffer. "Our mission is to train future artists, and we have been remiss in not offering such an important component of what is needed. We are taking our first successful step, hopefully, at filling that gap."
On Sept. 23, the public lecture series begins in Overture Center's Promenade Hall. Elizabeth Streb, founder of the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics in Brooklyn, will discuss "Where Art and Audience Collide: Smashing Assumptions About Arts Venues."
The series continues Nov. 12 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, as arts public-policy expert Bill Ivey, National Endowment for the Arts chair under President Bill Clinton, speaks about "Arts, Inc.: Greed, Neglect and Our Cultural Rights." The series concludes Dec. 3 in Promenade Hall with arts journalist Douglas McLennan. He will speak on "Arts Journalism 2.0: The Next Wave in Arts Conversations."
All the public lectures begin at 7 p.m. For more information on the program visit artsenterprise.wisc.edu.