Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘intellectual entrepreneur’

Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I built a school in Oslo, Norway called The International Theatre Academy Norway, which begins its 6th year of operation this year. The school is entrepreneurial arts training for Theatre Artists.

One of the unique components of the school, and which I will incorporate into the new curriculum at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), which opens in Austin in August of 2010, is that students build original projects, which they implement in the community, outside of the school environment. We push the students into the market and the develop a professional network, while still in school.Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

I would give students the assignment that they must create a one-person show. The stipulation? They could use NONE of the school’s resources and had to produce the work in a professional or semi-professional space, outside of the school and in the community. They would then have to:

•    Write it
•    Direct it
•    Produce it
•    Act in it
•    Budget
•    Fundraise
•    Allocate funds
•    Generate all resources necessary
•    Negotiate and sign contracts for space, technical needs, etc.
•    Market their show
•    Generate press via radio, papers or TV
•    And finally put butts in seats (who paid to view their show) and profit.

In brief, they had to be largely self-sufficient and had to stand on their own legs, creatively and professionally. They had to be the engines for their own creativity. You can imagine this assignment was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I would tell the students, “The point is not to be as brilliant as Ibsen, though that would be great if you are, though it is improbable that you will be. Genius comes with time. The point of this exercise is to complete it”.

Some excelled in their process. They not only went through it, but generated large audiences, a good deal of press and made a profit.

Others fell squarely on their faces.  They felt the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. In conventional thinking, they “failed”.

But did they?

The failure of these students was equal as a learning experience as those who succeeded. In fact, in some cases, I think those who failed, learned more than those who “succeeded”.  Experience is comprised not only from our success, but our character-building failures.

For most of us, our fear of failure and judgment is what most impedes our action.

We must accept that we cannot always win and that failure is inevitable.

If we don’t try with all of our effort, wits and energy, we will never know what our potential might be. If we allow ourselves to fail before we complete our effort—to fail at, “I am not as brilliant as Ibsen” or “I am going to look stupid” or “I can’t do this…because I have never done it before”, then we are destined for a different kind of failure. This kind of failure is a failure of spirit. It is a failure of imagination. It is a failure of not heeding the call to adventure. In this type of failure, the world will never know what potential we posses, for we have not allowed ourselves to discover and express it. This type of failure is worst kind of all, as it is a failure towards our selves, rather than a failure of accomplishment.

Failure towards our selves can eat at our confidence, spirit, and sense of self. It is a weakening failure.

Failure of accomplishment—of having tried our hardest and of coming up short, can serve as a foundation for learning. This type of failure is a positive failure and is a stepping-stone, upon which to stand, as we build our next endeavor.

The hero’s journey is not one of following paths; it is one of making paths. Sometimes the hero stumbles. If they give up on their adventure at hardship and go home, the direction from which they came, they are no heroes, in fact. To quote from myth and Joseph Campbell, “Where you stumble, there your treasure is”.

We must learn from our failures. We must use our failures and we must expect failure, to some degree.

The exercise I gave my students, of being more self-sufficient, of being the engines of their own creativity, had a far-reaching effect for most. The effect was the realization, the illumination of, “I did that. I can do that”. This is a hugely empowering realization, for when they realize that they can, they do.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA).  Jim Hart (James) can be contacted at jim@harttechnique.com  or http://www.harttechnique.com

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Leaving the Program, Finding the Vision

In Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution on April 27, 2009 at 9:38 am

It has been almost a year since I left the University of Texas and the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. Leaving, that is. IE has become, as Tommy Darwin so compellingly argued a couple of weeks ago right here on ETA, a life force at one of the nation’s largest public universities. What began as bold initiative by professor Rick Cherwitz in the late 1990s is now a nationally recognized maverick—that’s right, I’m reclaiming the word!—in the herd mentality of university administration. IE supports and challenges faculty, staff, and students at all levels to think like entrepreneurs, to be innovative inventors and thinkers, to tolerate ambiguity, to seek allies, and to make bold moves. It is inspiring to see, and it was exciting to a part of.

 

Starting in August of 2005 I served as director of one of IE’s successful “programs”: the Pre-Graduate School Internship. (I place “program” in quotations marks to indicate the difference between traditional academic silo-mentality programming and new initiatives that grow from the IE platform. But that’s another post for another time). My primary responsibility as director was to oversee and advise about 80 undergraduate interns each semester. I lead regular meetings wherein the interns addressed those concerns that transcend disciplinary lines (e.g. application processes, funding, academic versus professional careers, life-work balance, etc.). Between meetings, I facilitated communication with interns and graduate student mentors, allowing them to share reflections on their works in progress.

 

The nuts ‘n bolts: The Pre-Graduate School Internship enables undergraduate students to earn academic credit working closely with a “faculty supervisor” and/or “graduate student mentor” to explore their chosen field of study. Interns learn about the unique aspects of graduate study that make it distinct from their undergraduate experience. Examples of internship activities include: attending graduate school classes, shadowing graduate student teaching and research assistants, attending seminars and departmental colloquia, interviewing faculty, collaborating with mentors on research projects, traveling to meetings of graduate and professional organizations, working in research labs and discussing graduate study and career development with faculty, professionals and graduate students.  Additionally, all IE students keep a personal journal and attend workshops/meetings where they reflect on their experiences and exchange insights about themselves and the culture of academia.

 

The Big Picture: Pre-Graduate School Internship and its sister programs are sponsored by the University of Texas Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement. Each semester, 50% of participants are underrepresented minorities (African American, Latino or Native American) and/or first-generation (neither parent graduated from college) students. Almost 70% are female. The philosophy of intellectual entrepreneurship—empowering students to design and own a learning experience that unites their passions and academic interests—accounts for much of this effect. For example, rather than focusing exclusively on students already interested in graduate study and helping them navigate the application process, the Pre-Graduate School Internship provides an opportunity for students to discover their personal aspirations and explore the value of academic disciplines. The program’s mechanism for increasing diversity inheres in its capacity to help students discover otherwise unobserved connections between academia and personal and professional commitments. Interns become “intellectual entrepreneurs,” identifying their personal and professional goals, and discovering how advanced education can bring them to fruition; this includes acquiring an understanding of how graduate education equips students for meaningful civic or community engagement.

 

Leaving wasn’t easy. During my tenure as director, the Internship grew from fifteen students in the first semester to nearly one hundred in the spring of 2008, and now over a hundred. That’s not my being boastful; the Internship’s success attests not to one person’s creativity or organizational skills, but to an exigency in the academy. It is telling us that a need exists, for students as well as faculty. Just as some faculty seek new ways of being innovative problem solvers, engaging with the community around them in ways other than service delivery, so do students want to approach their college careers in less mechanistic ways than are currently the norm. “Entrepreneurial” doesn’t mean “corporate.” Let us use the term for its best possible potential: entrepreneurship is the realization of creative energy. And if that’s too touchy-feely for you, think of it as wielding power—intellectual, political, social, economic, artistic, collaborative.

 

While leaving a good thing is never easy, it often leads to other good things. In my current position as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL I am realizing that, while IE is continually challenged at UT, things are in motion there; on many other campuses, the fundamental philosophy that sustains IE as a “program” has yet to be introduced. That is the thrill of a new phase. And that will likely be the trajectory of my future postings.