Art for Business' Sake

Workshop and mentoring program at Audencia turns artists into 'artrepreneurs."
Art for Business' Sake
For the last three years, Audencia Business School in Nantes, France, has been offering a mentorship program and incubator for artists. The program’s intention? To make the idea of the “starving artist” obsolete.

The program was designed in partnership with the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, with the help of modern artist Fabrice Hyber. Hyber is shown at right (third from left) with four recent "artrepreneurs" and their three student coaches.

The artists’ workshop is coordinated by Laurent Noel, a professor of strategy who ran his own art gallery for several years. “I have learned that artists are, in fact, full of entrepreneurial spirit without realizing it,” says Noel. “To succeed, they have to follow the same logic as an entrepreneur: An original idea has to be brought to fruition, a public has to be found, and a way of reaching this target audience has to be identified.”

Last spring, three students from Audencia’s major in cultural management worked with four individuals, including a designer, two contemporary artists, and a filmmaker. Each artist developed a business project and met each month with a student mentor, who offered management and entrepreneurial coaching. Over the course of three months, the artists learned to build a business, find financing, and manage projects more effectively—in essence, to view themselves as “artrepreneurs” who can turn their art forms into profitable businesses.

In the first two years of the program, three faculty from Audencia led four courses that covered topics such as the economic world, the corporate world, arts sponsorship, and the market for art. Four faculty from the fine art school provided technological and artistic support as needed.

This is the first year that students pursuing a specialization in cultural management also worked with the artists to get firsthand experience in their field of interest. The school held an exhibition of the students’ artwork throughout the month of May to mark the end of their projects.