What's in a Name?
Typifying Artist Entrepreneurship in Community Based Training
This article deploys the term “artist-producer” to respond to Gary D. Beckman's (2007) call for an effective definition for artist entrepreneurship, one that illustrates the productive work that artists do and counters longstanding romantic notions of artists as creative geniuses who are unconcerned with commerce. Unpacking the term entrepreneur historically and focusing on its troubling relationship to class, race, and gender, even among entrepreneurship scholars, I illustrate how and why many artists still resist the de facto entrepreneur label even as they take what many identify as entrepreneurial approaches. Returning to Beckman's domain of training, though outside of the university setting, I show how a number of contemporary community-based artist training and professional development programs across the U.S. reflect, even nurture, the longstanding artist ambivalence to entrepreneurship even as they fulfill some of its key dynamics; moreover, I note how these programs are creating a very specific approach to entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurs, by training what I call “artist-producers”—artists capable of balancing both their expressive ambitions with their material concerns in strategic ways. Ultimately, the artist-producer designation illustrates what many scholars, artists and arts organizers talk about when we talk about artist entrepreneurship; it defines a type of entrepreneurship that by its very structure acknowledges the nation's weak cultural infrastructure and offers a collaborative, productive, even sustainable way of working for artists.