Turning Artists into Businesspeople/Interview with MICA Dean David Gracyalny

by Carolyn Edlund

David Gracyalny

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.


  1. This sounds like a great program. I wish there were more programs just like it across the county. Perhaps they will consider doing it all online so people can do it remotely.

    • Kathy,
      I believe you can. David mentioned to me that they have a student applicant from China. Obviously it wouldn’t be practical to fly to the U.S. for a long weekend! I think there are ways to work it out.

  2. Kathy,

    Yes, the program is available online. If you are not near Baltimore you can do the program remotely. However, the residencies (three long weekends at the beginning, middle, and end of the program) are required.

    Best regards,


  3. I love that this program has been created! Every artist needs a business mind to bridge with their creative mind. Hats off to David and MICA for forging the way.

    As artists, we have to align our authentic voice with our values and our value in the marketplace – then forge ahead through marketing and perseverance. Keeping our spirit flowing, our creativity growing and making a deal with reality all at the same time.

    As they say, education is knowledge is power. As vision-makers we need to get out there in strategic ways.

  4. This is awesome! I’m seriously thinking of attending. I’m always trying to bridge the two ART+BUSINESS .

  5. Alton, MICA is one of the best programs in the country. I’m sure you would love it!

  6. Dear Alton, I am glad that our program is of interest to you. If you like I will add you to our mailing list.


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