Creative intersections at Arts & Entrepreneurship Day

Tuesday, Mar 3, 2020
by Wright Seneres

Whether you think of yourself as an artist or entrepreneur – or even both – there is a mindset and a skillset in common, even if different words are used for different spaces. At Arts & Entrepreneurship Day, spearheaded by Princeton Entrepreneurship Council and the Lewis Center for the Arts, students, alumni and friends explored this intersection through a number of sessions on film and entertainment, visual arts, career explorations, live performance, and social impact. “This conference is specifically for artists who don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs, even though they do many of the same things that entrepreneurs do: they create something novel, find funding, find the right market, acquire customers, and make an impact,” said Anne-Marie Maman ’84, Executive Director at the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.

The myth that arts and entrepreneurship are separate from each other was dispelled right away in “Myth of the Artist/Myth of the Entrepreneur,” the first panel of the day-long conference held at the Lewis Arts Complex. “Embracing the part of us that can put scaffolding around the truly wild minds that we bring into the world through entrepreneurial skills, professional skills, political skills, mission-driven skills, I think busts the myth implicitly, of who we are as artists,” said moderator Aaron Landsman, visiting lecturer at the Lewis Center. Broadway and national touring actor and producer Adam Hyndman ’12 said of the panel, “Incredible facilitation. Honest and diverse insights across the table.”

Halcyon Person '10 speaking during the Myths panel

Halcyon Person '10 speaking during the Myths panel at Arts & Entrepreneurship Day. (Photo by Wright Seneres)

Arts & Entrepreneurship Day is a direct expansion of a successful 2019 collaboration at the Bay Area Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference between PEC and the Lewis Center. At the April conference, Ted Gagliano ’82, president of feature post-production at Twentieth Century Fox (now Disney) and management consultant Loic Bailly led an entrepreneurial workshop on careers in film and entertainment. The outstanding attendance at the workshop led PEC and the Lewis Center to expand on the concept and create A&E Day.

“Our students use their artistic practices to engage with every facet of life, from scholarship to citizenship and beyond,” said Tracy K. Smith, Chair, Lewis Center, Roger Berlind ’52 Professor of the Humanities, and Professor of Creative Writing. “Considering the arts as they speak to entrepreneurship brings new attention to the practical and enterprising skills all artists possess.” A series of hands-on career workshops and dynamic roundtable discussions on the creative arts ensued after the Myths panel.

Highlights from the conference: 

The “Myths” panel, which included NXTHVN’s Malik Lewis and NXTHVN executive director Nico Wheadon, founding member of Sō Percussion Jason Treuting, and Emmy-nominated writer, director and producer Halcyon Person ’10, also tackled the myths around hustle and starving artists, the stigmas of “selling out” and artists thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs, and spreading yourself too thin. (Watch video of panel)

With Netflix spending $17.3 billion on content in 2020, and streaming service Disney+ tripling its subscriber base to 28 million in only a few months, the landscape is wide open for people seeking careers in television and film content creation. Gagliano and Bailly reprised their workshop from the Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference to help attendees navigate this landscape. “The content that they discussed was immensely more in-depth and informative than I expected,” said Adia Weaver ’21. “I feel very educated on the state of the industry now and feel vastly more prepared to dive into a career of my own!”

Ted Gagliano '82 speaking during Arts & Entrepreneurship Day

Ted Gagliano '82 speaking during the film and entertainment career discussion at Arts & Entrepreneurship Day. (Photo by Wright Seneres)

Keller Center lecturer Sheila Pontis led a design thinking workshop to help attendees identify their ideal career paths in the arts. In small teams, the attendees focused on dreamed career goals in the arts, envisioned ideal jobs, and outlined steps to make that vision a reality. Career goals workshopped from these teams included becoming a theater director and establishing a travel photography enterprise. 

When first approached to speak on the visual arts entrepreneurship roundtable at A&E Day, Isometric Studio co-founder Andy Chen ’09 asked, “Are they really doing this?” Reframing the perceptions around entrepreneurship and the arts, and how they can be considered together instead of traditionally separate, was a major theme of the roundtable discussion. Chen was joined by Waqas Jawaid ’10, his partner at Isometric, along with Ben Denzer ’15, illustrator and graphic designer; Mark Best ’00, founder of art and tech startup Authenticate.ai; Jordan Shue, Program Director for Entrepreneurship in the Arts at Purchase College; and moderator Lucy Partman, Ph.D. candidate in Art & Archaeology.

Tai Yee Ho, Associate Director at Princeton’s Center for Career Development, led a lively and informal roundtable discussion among featured alumni, faculty and fellows on breaking into creative fields and advice they wish they knew when they were preparing for their careers. Jose Pablo Fernandez Garcia ’23 said, “It was valuable just to hear from people’s personal experience and about new things that I hadn’t heard about yet.” Fellow students and alumni joined breakout groups on film careers, visual arts careers, and performing arts.

Lucy Partman speaks during Arts & Entrepreneurship Day

Lucy Partman (center) speaks during a roundtable discussion of visual arts careers at Arts & Entrepreneurship Day. (Photo by Wright Seneres)

Landsman and Pilar Castro Kiltz ’10, founder of More Canvas Consulting and Princeton Arts Alumni, guided attendees through a career workshop on performing arts. The duo provided a framework to understand artistic practice as entrepreneurship, a method for evaluating the business landscape in which art exists, and an approach to create strategies for effective action, communication, and positioning within the arts and business ecosystem. (Watch video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

Keller Center James Wei visiting professor Mauricio Miller and Straight Up Films Co-CEO Marisa Polvino engaged in a conversation on the power of storytelling and its influence on social impact. (Watch video: Part 1, Part 2)

A lively networking reception closed out the day in the Lewis Arts Complex Forum, sponsored by Princeton Arts Alumni. 

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Arts & Entrepreneurship Day is a collaboration between Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, Lewis Center for the Arts, Keller Center, The Graduate School, Center for Career Development, Department of Art & Archaeology, and Princeton Arts Alumni.

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