Business as Art
by Cara Reeves
Think of business in Cincinnati and suchicons as Ivory soap and Chiquita bananas come to mind. Surprising? Not really. Like virtually every other major city, Cincinnati is well known for its big corporations. But like virtually every other major city, there’s also a particular business segment that often goes unnoticed—the impressive array of arts organizations.
That’s just one of the reasons professor of management Tom Clark created a new offering within the entrepreneurship program last fall that focuses specifically on the operation of non-profit businesses. Social Entrepreneurship: Arts Management is the first course in what Clark is aiming to be a complete program on social entrepreneurship.
So, what actually is social entrepreneurship? Unlike a business entrepreneur who measures success by profit and return, a social entrepreneur measures success by the impact an organization has on society and the public good. They’re people like Kathy Wade, jazz singer and founder of Learning Through Art (LTA). She co-founded the nonprofit arts education organization whose goal is to provide quality performing art programs in support of art education.
Wade spoke with the students—a mix of business as well as arts and sciences majors—about what it took to get LTA off the ground and the work it took to continue to fund it. Unlike a for-profit business, managing a nonprofit is a whole different kind of act.
“With nonprofits, you have a variety of stakeholders to appease, such as donors, but you’re also dealing with special constraints,” says Clark.
For example, a theater has to set ticket prices low enough to attract an audience base, but high enough to help cover operational costs and pay an often low-wage staff. Make too much, and there will be some eyebrows raised.
“There are just a lot of particular issues that make running an arts organization unique compared to any other type of business,” Clark says.
The students heard stories firsthand from other art executives, including Scott Provancher from the Fine Arts Fund, Ken Goode of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Buzz Ward of the Playhouse in the Park and Chris Milligan from the Cincinnati Opera. Speaking in Clark’s class became a hot ticket.
“I started receiving calls from others in the industry who heard about the class and wanted to come and speak with the students,” says Clark.
Adam Leonard, a junior management major, jumped on the chance to enroll in the class. “I was immediately interested,” says Leonard. “I thought this was a great opportunity to learn about the nonprofit world.”
As part of the course, students were required to conduct individual interviews with local arts executives or performers. Leonard decided to interview Jay Kalagayan, a Xavier graduate and founder of The Know Theatre, a popular alternative theater in Cincinnati. Leonard was immediately drawn to Kalagayan’s dedication and passion.
“After learning about the Know Theatre’s mission, I asked Jay if there was a way I could help further his cause,” Leonard says. Kalagayan offered him an internship in the development office and inspired him to take a new career path.
“Before, I would have never considered a career in the nonprofit industry,” says Leonard. “Now I see if you are passionate about the mission of a company, you can derive a sense of fulfillment that can make up for the lack of salary.”
Clark hopes other students will be inspired to pursue a career working in the arts. In fact, his goal is to have every freshman attend at least one art event. “There are so many wonderful art organizations that are unique to Cincinnati,” he says, “I think it’s something every student must experience at least once.”