Arts Entrepreneur Course, part 1

This post is part one of a series on my participation in the Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course, specifically the application process and pre-workshop activities.

“The Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course… assists artists and arts entrepreneurs to develop sustainable, secure careers, and/or businesses in the province of Saskatchewan. By the end of the program, participants will have developed a career or business model, a long-term plan to activate the model, and a business-to-business/peer-to-peer network.”
~Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course Program Information Application Package.

I’d seen application deadlines advertised for the Arts Entrepreneurship Course for a few years, but each year convinced myself I wasn’t ready to apply, “Next year, after I’ve [insert excuse here] I’ll submit an application.” However, this year I noticed that the XXX and XX* had extended their application deadline. In my day job there is really only one reason to extend a deadline: Because there hasn’t been sufficient number of applications. I made up my mind to submit my application.

For the most part, the application was relatively straightforward: describe my work, goals, challenges, and experience and training. I’m hardly a “fine art” snob, but I did find it somewhat unnerving to think of my art in terms of a “creative venture”. The application was followed up by a telephone interview with one of the facilitators, XXX. And success! I was accepted.

To prepare for the first workshop of the course, I received a package of pre-workshop activities  designed to “introduce you to the course, help you identify what you want to take away from the course, and allow you to consider your entrepreneurial characteristics”. Reading the course overview was eye-opening because, although I grasped the commitment in terms of time, seeing all we were to cover and learn was both exciting and daunting. The package also walked me through a few exercises to help me better describe myself and my work, and to self-assess my strengths and weakness as an entrepreneur. For that exercise I ran through the questions and then asked my husband to answer the same questions about me as a sort of reality check. Of 20 questions we differed by one mark on only four questions and we chose the same three characteristics as my particular strengths. So I either answered my questions realistically or my husband and I are very well-suited. Either way, I was pleased with the results.

But the pre-workshop activity that I found at the same time the most insightful and challenging was the “Start with Why” based on the work of Simon Sinek, enthnographer and author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. According to Sinek, individuals and businesses alike find it easy to define what they do and how they do it, but few clearly define why they do what they do. And according to Sinek, those who do define their why find it much easier to connect with others who may be interested in their work.

After much emotional backing and forthing, I’ve come to realise that what drives me is the process of taking plain materials and turning them into something wonderful, beautiful even. In the words of author and lecturer, Ellen Dissanayake, “Art transforms the ordinary into the extra-ordinary.”

*Please note: The Arts Entrepreneurship and Business Development Course was offered by two provincial programs that are in a media blackout (including “goodwill marketing”) until after the Saskatchewan provincial election (on April 4th), therefore I can’t include the names of the organizations or facilitators at this time. However, after the provincial election is over I will edit this and the other AEBDC posts to include this information.

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