Entrepreneurship in the Arts



\\ An introduction \\

Thoughts on Entrepreneurship in the Arts

Entrepreneurship has become a keyword for (economic) success and is highly valued in today´s society. Today, we are expected to act entrepreneurially as individuals and are educated as early as primary school to become entrepreneurial citizens of today’s society. But, what is considered an entrepreneurial behavior? How is it defined? What possibilities and limitations are inherent in current definitions? How does that affect views on entrepreneurship within the field of arts?


An entrepreneurial language

How we perceive the world is determined by the current language used. Language, as the means by which we think, serves as the bridge between the contemplative mind and the world. Hannah Arendt, as well as many others, identifies the role of language in knowledge production while attempting to demonstrate how our use of language and its concepts affects our thinking (Arendt 1978). Today, the language used for describing the citizen or the individual in society is dominated by their place as an entrepreneur and an economic subject. This imbues one´s perception of oneself and others with expectations as to how one should act. But what does it mean to act entrepreneurially in different fields or industries today? How does the artist act as an entrepreneur?


The artistic profession

The realization of artistic work involves a number of funding models through which income is generated by mixing different forms of employment and financial support or grants. Long-term employment opportunities in which educated artists practice their profession are few. A combination of temporary project employment, teaching positions, commissions, scholarships, and temporary side jobs are often ways of making a living as an artist. Is it possible that the freelance lifestyle of the artist can be defined as entrepreneurial? Is the artist an entrepreneur when he creates his own reality by being creative and innovative when producing artistic work and making a living through limited resources? As current views on entrepreneurship is connected to thoughts on economic success, does this then render most artists un-entrepreneurial?

Entrepreneurship is a controversial subject within art education. The concept brings forth, as appears in interviews for the TaideART project, negative associations due to its perceived connection to capitalism and profit-seeking. Many artists today do not see themselves as entrepreneurs even though their actions and way of life can be viewed as entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is and has been a natural part of the artistic profession, as there are not and have not been many employment opportunities in the field. As such, many artists have been forced into being innovative in finding ways of making a living. The problem is current views on entrepreneurship and its connection to an economic discourse. To be an entrepreneur today, many believe, is to run a business successfully. From this point of view, most artists cannot be considered entrepreneurs.


Entrepreneurship education

Entrepreneurship education within the arts is seldom adapted to the field. In many surveys and studies a lack of preparatory working-life experience is evident. One reason may be that art students have difficulty addressing employment issues during their studies. But, more likely, the problem could be that an overly narrow view of entrepreneurship is being presented in art education. Chris Steyaert and Daniel Hjorth et al. try to broaden views of and create new movements in entrepreneurship by approaching entrepreneurship not only as an economic phenomenon but as something that involves the whole of society, not merely the economy ( Steyaert and Hjorth 2003; 2004; 2006; 2009). While the dominant narrow view is based on identifying and exploiting opportunities for creating a change in the market, the broad view is focused on an ongoing creative process, one driven not by personal gain but by an idea that must be realized within, and with the help of, society. With the aim of strengthening the links between entrepreneurship and society, we invite others to take part, others that are excluded by the current language used in describing entrepreneurial behavior. With a broadening, we open the way for production of different kinds of knowledge and begin to recognize it as important. We create new narratives, outside of the dominant ones, by interpreting social, cultural, ecological, and artistic aspects and identifying them as entrepreneurial. According to Hjorth and Björn Bjerke, “entrepreneurship is about the everyday, daily life; the civic practices of living, rather than an extraordinary accomplishment” (Hjorth and Bjerke 2006, 100).


Public entrepreneurship

As part of the research done for the TaideART project, Novia UAS suggests using Hjorth´s and Bjerke´s concept of “public entrepreneurship” (Hjorth and Bjerke 2006) when describing artistic actions in society rather than using the concept “cultural entrepreneurship”, as it reduces the agency of the artist to a producer of market-based products. While the “social entrepreneur,” as a product of an enterprising society, approaches social problems as economic ones, solvable by business logic, the “public entrepreneur” does not try to make such corrections, rather attempting to get people in a community to share and feel participation.

Many self-organized models within the arts are entrepreneurial. The self-organized and the public entrepreneurial have much in common. They are both project-based, often small-scale, and have a connection to physical, virtual, discursive, and emotional places and spaces. Both take on projects that engage others in paying attention to marginalized thinking and phenomena, and making them more central. Hjorth, Bjerke, and Steyaert makes us aware of the language used in an entrepreneurial discourse, as they attempt to adapt the vocabulary in order to enable others that are excluded (for example, artists) to talk about their practice in an entrepreneurial context. 


The concept of freedom

The independence and autonomy the that the artist seeks has been “kidnapped,” as some artists see it, into something else by the entrepreneurial language. Many do not relate to a “freedom as potential” within the entrepreneurship discourse, wherein the individual is free to exploit the numerous opportunities and chances offered by the world. Christian Maravelias, separates a “freedom as autonomy” that entails a liberation from power, from “freedom as potential” that requires power, according to Maravelias, “... power to act and seize on opportunities” (Maravelias 2009, 16).


In order to maintain the freedom so central to the arts, we must broaden the contemporary view of entrepreneurship, to become something involving the whole of society and not merely the economy. A broadening enables artist to talk about their practice in an entrepreneurial context. At the same time, we open the way for the production of various types of knowledge and begin to recognize artistic aspects as important. The educational material developed by Novia UAS, that can be used in entrepreneurship studies in art education is based on the research conducted on artistic entrepreneurship in the TaideART project.

Arendt, H. 1978. The Life of the Mind, vol. 1, Thinking. New York: Harcourt.

Hjorth, D & Bjerke, B. 2006. Public Entrepreneurship: Moving from Social/Consumer to Public/Citizen. In D. Hjorth & C. Steyaert (eds.) Entrepreneurship as Social Change: A Third Movements in Entrepreneurship Book. Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Eglar, 79-102. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4337/9781847204424 

Maravelias, C. 2009. Freedom, Opportunism and Entrepreneurialism in Post-Bureaucratic Organizations. In D. Hjorth & C. Steyaert (eds.) The Politics and Aesthetics of Entrepreneurship: A Fourth Movements in Entrepreneurship Book. Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Eglar, 13-30.

Steyaert, C & Hjorth, D (eds.) 2003. Movements in Entrepreneurship: New Movements in Entrepreneurship. 

Steyaert, C & Hjorth, D (eds.) 2004. Narrative and Discursive Approaches in Entrepreneurship: A Second Movements in Entrepreneurship Book. 

Steyaert, C & Hjorth, D (eds.) 2006. Entrepreneurship as Social Change: A Third Movements in Entrepreneurship Book. 

Steyaert, C & Hjorth, D (eds.) 2009. The Politics and Aesthetics of Entrepreneurship: A Fourth Movements in Entrepreneurship Book. 



is a joint project of six Finnish universities of applied sciences, working together to research methods for creating alternative business models in the field of artistic production. Based on the knowledge gained from previous research on the professional challenges faced by artists (for instance Kuvataiteilijan ammattirooli ja osaamistarpeet tulevaisuuden työelämässä, Cupore Publications 2013), one of the main objectives of the project is to develop the teaching of professional skills within UAS art education programs in Finland.

The project partners (Turku UAS, Lapland UAS, Saimaa UAS, Satakunta UAS, Tampere UAS, and Novia UAS) are responsible for different areas of development. While most of the participating universities in the project are working on pilots in affiliation with the professional field, working with businesses, municipalities, and NGOs, Novia UAS is trying to create a deeper understanding of entrepreneurial activity in the arts. The project takes a broader view on the subject by approaching entrepreneurship not only as an economic phenomenon, but as something that involves the whole of society. By adapting the vocabulary of entrepreneurial behaviour, the project creates new ways for artists to talk about their practice in an entrepreneurial way. The project also highlights client based approaches within the field of arts. The client or the customer is studied in different contexts, which lets artists discuss how to use language to describe different relations, as well as how switch between vocabularies when needed.

This website, as part of Novia’s participation in the TaideART project, presents different approaches to the concept of entrepreneurship, as well as various perspectives on the relationship between the producer and consumer in the arts.


\\ An introduction to customer relations i the arts\\

Co-creating consumer relations in the arts

Changes in the relationship between the producer and the consumer occur at the same rate as the development of society and the economy. A shift has occurred in the relationship, where clear opposition between the concepts is no longer dominant. The view of the consumer as a passive object has been reevaluated alongside changes in consumer behavior and lifestyle, where the customer or user has taken on an increasingly active role.

As individuals, we are assumed to participate in society as "customers." Today, students, patients, residents, and many more, are discussed from a customer perspective, which creates new opportunities for influence, as well as new challenges in the relationship between the individual and society, particularly in cases where economic tightening and streamlining guide relationships.

In interviews that Novia University of Applied Sciences carried out through the project TaideART, attitudes toward the concept of the customer have been examined, with the intention of making attitudes and changes in the relations between the producer and the consumer clear. Questions concerning the customer in both an economic and artistic/cultural context have been discussed, resulting in both the similarities and differences in vocabulary being illustrated in the collected interview material. Among the interviewees, Ralf Blomqvist, an expert on customer driven strategies, has left an impression on the educational material that the project has developed. Other interviewees mentioned in this text are Nora Sternfeld, professor in curating and mediating art; Kira Sjöberg, consultant in cultural leadership and development; and Cesare Pietroiusti, artist.


The customer from a global perspective

Macro factors such as globalization and technological development have had, and still have, a significant influence on changes in user and customer relations. Among other things, these factors contribute to an abundance of both information and choices for the customer. A subjectivation of the customer has taken shape due to the media society. Today, the customer actively participates in the creation of customer experiences. Ralf Blomqvist emphasizes the customer as a co-creator in processes where the producer and consumer together create the value of a product or service. He also refers to sociologist Anthony Elliot in the use of the expression "new individualism" when describing the consumer, as well as the individual, in today's society and his or her constant strive for, and need of, renewal. Today's identity and lifestyle consumption is constructed around a shortsighted attitude toward, and hasty decisions concerning, change. Through choice of consumption, as well as the choice of no consumption, the individual shapes his or her identity and conveys changes socially via different networks. According to Blomqvist, we will see the development of an increasingly aware consumer. With time being a scarce resource, and with an abundance of choices, the consumer instead starts choosing not to consume or participate in activities.


The customer in an artistic and cultural context

Primarily, art is produced in and for an artistic and cultural context. The direct target group for art production is "friends of art," people that the artist most often knows personally. The secondary target group is a larger audience that is often tied to social networks, that does not participate in cultural experiences physically, but takes part via the information about cultural events that is spread through social media. Both target groups, as consumers of artistic and cultural experiences, participate and invest in cultural contexts by dedicating time. Within the art market, both private and more or less public interests invest in art. These are often defined as customers or buyers of art, and can, for instance, be private collectors, companies, and institutions within or adjacent to art and culture. Transactions on the art market often take place in connection to gallery services and the trade in artistic products at art fairs. In addition, there are so-called "orderers of art," where the artist creates unique products, often connected to architectural solutions and infrastructure, at the behest of a customer or commissioner. In these commissions the relationship between financier, orderer, customer, user, consumer, and others can vary. The financier does not necessarily need to be the orderer, and neither does the customer need to be the user. Finally, a second-hand market can be noted, where the customer bargains for artistic products as a bidder.


Within art, among artists and academically active people, the concepts of customer and consumer are rarely used, which shows in the interviews undertaken during the project. Both the concept of customer and consumer are considered to have a strong connection to an economic discourse, where generation of economic capital characterizes production. The relationship between consumer and producer is, in this respect, based on the relationship between buyer and seller, or sender and receiver of an essentially finished product. Instead, collaboration is emphasized as a relevant concept in the discussion, where the viewer or audience serve as co-creators in a process. Nora Sternfeld defines collaboration as co-operation between people which contributes to new knowledge, in contrast to an exchange based on already existing knowledge. She makes a difference between economized relations and relationships based on solidarity, equality, and freedom, which she emphasizes as important aspects in a collaborative relationship. Cesare Pietroiusti stresses collaboration as being one of the artist's most important tools. According to him, the artist promotes and initiates collaborations. He or she takes the liberty of bringing together professionals from different fields, and challenges collaborators to work together using methods they normally do not practice.


The co-creative art consumer

Blomqvist holds up art and culture as paragons in the use of collaboration and co-creative methods regarding audiences and chosen target groups. Art as a generator of meetings, between individuals, situations and art productions, creates more or less temporary relationships to places, times, contexts, and people. From the (art) museum having been a place for the production of exhibits where the audience and viewer serve as the receivers of information, the museum as an institution has increasingly developed into a place for physical and virtual meetings, where the consumer or visitor serves as a co-creator in processes. The co-creating art consumer does not merely participate in the production and communication of cultural experiences, but also in the creation of artistic products and projects. Today, there are similarities in vocabulary and attitudes toward the individual as a co-creator in an artistic context and the customer in a business context. However, the values tied to the different discourses differ. The former relationship builds on collaboration in the knowledge process, and the latter on a knowledge process with an economized relationship to the development of services and products. In both processes, values are defined and developed through dialogue with the co-creating art consumer or customer, a concept we select in situations where we emphasize an economic relationship with the individual. In cases where no space is given for a dialogue between producer and consumer, wherein the artist or the company view themselves as creating a certain value, a forced value that the co-creating consumer or customer does not share nor has had the chance to define collaboratively, confidence in the artist, product, service, or company is often lost.


Artistic freedom

In the discussion about the value of products and services, economic advantages are often emphasized ahead of others. At the moment when the value of an artistic product is measured, the product is ascribed an economic value, and, according to Sternfeld, becomes a commodity. In a market where products are produced and valued based on the economic capital they generate, the artist is, according to tradition among the artistic multitude, considered to be renouncing his or her artistic freedom by producing products that satisfy the market and customer. Freedom, according to the European philosophical tradition, positions the artist in a context independent from the rest of society, where he or she from this position can obtain a level of self-assuredness and maintain distance between the self and the world. Artistic freedom is also viewed as the ability and right to question, examine, and express ideas and thoughts publicly. Sternfeld questions a clear division between a so called autonomous and heteronomous position within the arts. Sometimes the artist must renounce his or her freedom and place his or her artistic work in the service of something else. Both the fine arts and the applied arts can be commercialized, one within the art market and the other in service to society. Kira Sjöberg points out that the right to "freedom" often emphasized in the arts derives from the early 1900's, an era with different circumstances, which are no longer applicable to today's Western democracy. The artist often approaches the concept of freedom from an exposed position, as something the artist can be deprived of. In contrast, Pietroiusti illustrated artistic freedom as a privilege, the privilege to examine the concept of freedom through artistic production.


Values and language use

As an individual, consumer, and customer in today's society, we identify with different values. Values, attitudes to, and language use concering urgent questions differs, and differentiates us. A reluctance to participating in an economic discourse exists in the arts and culture. The cultural worker rarely identifies with language use that he or she considers to be connected to rational, economic thinking. Thus, this text as a part of the TaideART project deals with a "sensitive" subject, an area where different values and language uses meet. The project chooses to, along with Blomqvist, participate in language conflicts, in the hope of being influenced by, and influencing, the view of the customer. The individual in today's society does not relate differently to experiences from various fields. Instead, experiences are compared across and between fields and lines of business. When I, as a consumer of culture at an exhibit at Kiasma, on the same day purchase a new version of the iPhone, buy organic, locally produced food from one of the large grocery stores in Finland, and order my Nike exercise clothing online, I do not separate the different customer experiences, but rather compare them to each other. As a by-product of the fusion of experiences, we today see the integration of different vocabularies and language uses. More or less unconsciously, we take the liberty of "borrowing" expressions and bringing them into new contexts. The TaideART project approaches the customer concept from different perspectives, and contributes to an understanding of the concept from different vocabularies and discourses. At the same time, the project contributes to a "mix" of language uses in the educational material that is developed within the project.


Educational material on arts entrepreneurship

How do we look at education in a time of rapid changes, where the future is seen as uncertain? We can’t know exactly which demands are made of the individual in their future working life, but we can predict which skills are going to be important. The entrepreneurial skills of the independent, responsible and critically thinking individual are certainly going to become more and more important.


Questions about arts entrepreneurship

As part of the TaideArt project, Novia University of Applied Sciences has developed educational material aimed at young artists and art students in the final stretch of their art studies. The material consists of six video interviews with corresponding assignments, and raises questions about the role of the artist in society, and the role of entrepreneurship in a creative context. The interviewees are Nora Sternfelt, professor of Curating and Mediating Art, Kira Sjöberg, consultant on cultural leadership and development, Cesare Pietroiusti, artist, Marcus Lerviks, artist, and Timothy Persons, adjunct professor in International Photography Studies and gallery owner. The interviews present a sometimes contradictory set of answers to the questions. A financialised way of relating to artistic production is presented along with a more ideological way of looking at the creation of art. The purpose of this material is to create a greater understanding of the contemporary world, the art world, and the art market by going into the sometimes “uncomfortable” questions about the producer and the consumer of cultural experiences.

The educational material looks at questions about arts entrepreneurship from a broader perspective, and can be seen as a first step in the development of individual strategies. The material doesn’t go into the development of concrete practical skills such as digital presence, social media, financing and business skills etc, and focuses instead on the discussion and problematisation of the question of artistic entrepreneurship. The student or the young artist explores their identity as an artist, and places themselves and their creative work in a societal context.


Using the material

The questions that are considered important have varied between different time periods and different cultures. Which questions are at the forefront today? How do we, in the field of art and culture, relate to the current questions about entrepreneurial skills? Which of the questions about artistic creations are seen as relevant? The material looks at different ways of relating to the artist as an individual and as a participant in society, and seeks to illuminate and discuss questions about artistic creations. By asking questions about art education, arts entrepreneurship, artistic freedom, the art world and the art market, as well as how art and culture are consumed, we are looking for answers in many directions. Students, alumni and other interested parties can use of the interviews and the written material as the basis for group discussions about their own view on the topics presented in the material, as well as discussions about how others may view these issues. The material can be used as a whole or partially, based on the needs of the participants and the themes that are being discussed. The video interviews are divided by subheadings, which makes it easy to navigate the material and follow a certain line of discussion based on the chosen topic. Keywords for discussion are presented in connection to the different interviews. The educational material has been created in the context of Nordic arts and culture, and was produced during the course of the project, from November 2015 to December 2017. The lifetime of the project is limited and sensitive to changes in society and economy. 



Which questions about the individual in society are at the forefront today?

Which questions about artistic works are considered relevant?

How do we relate to the idea of freedom in an artistic and cultural context?

How do you look at the current discussion about entrepreneurial skills? How would you describe your own personal entrepreneurship? Which skills do you value? Which skills do you need or want to develop? What’s your experience of self-organising spaces? Would you like to act in a more self-organised way, and if so, why? What does your network mean to you as an artist? Which contacts make up your own personal network?

How do you look at yourself as a consumer of culture? How do you relate to the concept of the customer? For whom do you produce art? What does co-operation mean to you? Which values do you identify with? Are these values visible in your work as an artist? What does education mean to you? Would you like to change the current art education, and if so, how?


creating change

Consultant with an expertise in cultural management and development

Key words: change, entrepreneurship, skills, network, values, attitudes, freedom, education in Finland


Nora Sternfeld
the beautiful moment of learning together

Professor, curating and mediating art

Key words: entrepreneurial society, play the game, network, self-organization, learning, values, freedom, client, collaborator


Timothy Persons
an understanding of the art world

Adjunct professor, international photography studies and gallery owner

Key words: art world, location, gallery, network, art education, entrepreneurship, skills, freedom


Ralf Blomqvist
co-creation, collaboration and new individualism

Management consultant with an expertise in relationship marketing and customer driven strategy

Key words: customer, relationships, co-creation, collaboration, new individualism, values, skills, freedom



Visual artist

Key words: concept, work, success, collaboration, self-organization, artist in Finland, art education


Cesare pietroiusti
a circular model of knowledge production


Key words: circular, horizontal, knowledge production, self-organization, collective, education, exchange, research, entrepreneurship, client, collaborator, network, audience, privilege


Summary, conclusions and further development

By analysing the interview material about arts entrepreneurship, some conclusions can be made about the development of alternative learning environments within arts education. Institutional art education is already experiencing difficulties keeping up with the changes in society and economy, and will continue to do so in the future. By creating an experimental “space between” education and society, students can explore alternative methods for artistic production. The concept of “Fluxus Spaces”, defined by Adina Manta as alternative and ever-changing spaces for culture, physical as well as virtual, can be used as a way to describe these places (Manta 2016). “Fluxus Spaces” are self-organised spaces, which are continually being renewed in step with the rest of society. In these spaces, a creative friction between people and skills is created. Here, the young artist is not limited by the art world and its regulations, and is free to explore new connections and relationships. The activities in these spaces seek to explore, make use of and develop alternative socio-economic models for cultural and artistic production.   Here, a do-it-yourself methodology that can be called “Bricolage” or “DIY” is used as an entrepreneurial method for finding individual solutions. “Fluxus Spaces” as learning environments for students can serve as experimental spaces, where young artists develop entrepreneurial skills and take on challenges together. Students can build infrastructures around their ideas, and create new narratives around arts entrepreneurship. What is needed in order to develop the potential that is inherent in these environments is a better understanding of alternative economic solutions, and the experimental use of technology. The learning material that has been produced by Novia UAS within the TaideART project creates an understanding for alternative learning environments, discusses the potential that they offer, and contributes to the development of spaces where artistic entrepreneurship is investigated.

Manta, A. 2016. Fluxus spaces as alternative cultural spaces: a social cartography of the urban cultural scenery. International Review of Social Research 6 No 2, 80-90. Accessed 15.8.2017 https://doi.org/10.1515/irsr-2016-0011