On Wednesday September 21st, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE) opened its doors with 15 students ranging in age from 24 to 63 year of age. Our pilot class includes 3 fashion designers, 3 visual artists, 2 actors, 2 dancers, a chef, a musician, a skin care product designer, a recent Illinois International film festival award winner, and a fashion stylist who was just chosen by Clinton Kelly (TV’s What Not to Wear) as a consultant for his new retail venture The Perfect Fit.
Since school opened, IAE students have been working on the development of their emotional intelligence. A clear understanding of oneself, our beliefs and values, is essential to selecting the right idea to develop into a business as well as to be able to authentically communicate to others. For almost a year, my colleague Joyce Thomas, University of Illinois, and myself, along with other IAE faculty, have been working to build a highly interactive learning model for IAE students. Artists learn by doing so it was essential we were on our feet and experiencing the learning as often as possible. Our approach to education has been very challenging to design. Especially because most classes in entrepreneurship, these days, are offered like a series of topic driven workshops and are not designed to deepen individual identity and build on one’s beliefs and values. Before our launch, IAE faculty were a little nervous about how well our students would buy into our learning style. Not to mention our belief that emotional intelligence building is a core building block to success as an entrepreneur. We certainly could envision students being unwilling to trust us, and each other, enough to engage in a very personal, yet highly interactive, learning style right from the start.
Our classroom is also an analog classroom. No cell phone or computers are allowed. Although we use lots of technology as teaching tools, we also worried how well this would be received. In today’s interruption driven world, we felt strongly that going back to a time when we could experience each other and truly listen was critical to creating a space to learn how to develop a shared language with others. As well as would help our students further develop their abilities to speak and write.
Since our launch, I think the biggest shift in our thinking is our renewed belief and understanding of just how hungry our students are for this kind of learning and training. And, ironically, running as an analog class has left students commenting how much they look forward to and value our time together. My only hope is to find the resources we need to continue to build the IAE. I can no longer self fund this project. We must find a few foundations and corporations willing to step up to fuel us into self-sufficiency. And yet, just recently a mid level manager from Chase Bank sat in on one of our classes and thought our artists, and what we were doing with them in the classroom, would help branch employees communicate and work more effectively. She left excited to help us pitch to Chase executives. We also have received interest to expand our school, through video conferencing, into both Princess Taghrid’s Institute for Arts and Crafts and Queen Rania’s Center for Entrepreneurship in Amman Jordan, as well as from someone who sits on a board for an art school in Sweden.
If you know someone who would benefit from our program, please let them know our early bird application deadline is December 15th. We have already received a handful of applications for next fall. And if you know someone from a foundation or corporation that would be interested in funding our program, please share this post with them. It’s time to innovate through artistry. Our world simply needs more creativity infused in everything we do so we can restore America to all she can be. And it’s time for artists to contribute our soft skills to fuel growth and innovation around the world.