by Carolyn Edlund
Are you an artist with the desire to make a career in your field, but feel that you don’t have the business knowledge to be successfully self-employed? This is a common problem, which has been exacerbated by a general lack of business education at the undergraduate level in many art schools and university art programs.
I had the opportunity to speak with the Dean of Continuing Studies at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) , David Gracyalny, about this need, and a new graduate degree that the school is offering to educate and prepare artists for the challenging business world.
The past few decades have been a time of immense change in the way artists do business. Gracyalny speaks about “returning distribution of creative product to the creator,” or giving control of art business and sales to the artists themselves, a trend which started back in the 1970’s and 80’s and is rapidly becoming a new business model.
The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree at MICA is a 14-month program, alternating brief “residencies” (which are actually long weekends) where the students meet with faculty and each other, with intensive online courses lasting eight weeks. This degree is described as “small business administration for artists and designers.” Structured to be convenient for students in the work world, it can actually accommodate international attendance.
MICA is an art school with a superb reputation in the United States, and their MPS in the Business of Art and Design program is the first of its kind in this country. Course selection includes Financial Management, Marketing (including social networking), Art Licensing, Human Resources, Contracts, Taxes, Intellectual Property, and Public Speaking, among other subjects. These are specifically tailored to relate to the creative community rather than general businesspeople.
Gracyalny cites a statistic from the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the lifespan of small businesses: Sixty percent will fail within the first four years. Eighty-five percent of the surviving businesses are run by people with business training. This makes it essential for artists planning to become self-employed to learn the art of business.
Interested? The application deadline is rapidly approaching. Check out MICA’s website for more information.
Oh, and about those of us who are still disappointed that we didn’t get enough business know-how as undergrads? Thomas James of Escape from Illustration Island has written an “Open Letter to Art Students Everywhere”. I think he makes some excellent points.