Baylor – The Business of Artists

Click for the complete syllabus.

Click for a class flyer.

The Business of Artists
Wednesdays, 2:30-3:20pm – HSFAC 128

What is this class? And what does it have to do with Vincent van Gogh?

Instructor: Luann Jennings or

Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:00-2:15pm in the lobby of Moody Library; after class; and by appointment.

Course description:

Through this course, you will:

  • Discuss theories on the value of the arts.
  • Describe the arts economy and how it works.
  • Understand basic principles of money and marketing for the commercial and not-for-profit sectors.
  • Investigate and critique models of arts businesses like the one you might create.

Texts (no purchased texts required) include provided selections from:

  •  “Understanding the value of arts & culture” – Report of the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s Cultural Value Project
  • Blog posts by Diane Ragsdale (Jumper) and Doug Borwick (Engaging Matters)
  • Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the United States – by Doug Borwick
  • The Social Impact of the Arts: An Intellectual History – by Eleonora Belfiore and Oliver Bennett
  • Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts – by Hans Abbing
  • And What Do You Do? 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career – by Barrie Hopson and Katie Ledger
  • The Gig Economy – by Diane Mulcahy
  • The Art of Relevance – by Nina Simon

Units and assignments:

Each unit will consist of reading, discussion, case studies, and guest speakers (in person or virtual); and will have one or more processing assignments.

Unit 1 – The Value of the Arts

What “products” or “services” do the arts provide to society? We’ll look at many perspectives on these questions, including how they’re being answered in Waco and other small, medium, and large communities.

Readings: May include selections from “Understanding the value of arts & culture”; The Social Impact of the Arts, Building Communities Not Audiences, and The Art of Relevance; Jumper and Engaging Matters blogs; and elsewhere.

Assignment: Rationale report – Choose an arts organization or artist to be your “focus arts business” through the semester. It may be more valuable to you if you choose a focus business that is doing something like what you might want to do. For this assignment, explain in a brief presentation to the class how and what that organization/artist contributes to society, using concepts we’ve studied and discussed.

Unit 2 – The arts economy

Is the “starving artist” a myth or reality? We’ll loop back around to “the value of the arts,” only this time we’ll be talking about the economic value of the arts, and how the arts are monetized in our cultural climate. We’ll talk at length about “the gig economy” and how artists are making ends meet.

Readings: Readings may include selections from Why Are Artists Poor?, The Gig Economy, and And What Do You Do? and elsewhere.

Assignment: Financial report: Research how your focus arts business makes money, and give a brief presentation to the class.

Unit 3 – Foundations of arts businesses

Do I need to be good at business to succeed in my arts business? No, but you do need to know some basic concepts. We’ll divide them into two areas: Money (budgeting, accounting, taxes, law, etc.) and Marketing (websites, networking, social media, branding, PR, etc.); then we’ll talk about how money and marketing come together in Fundraising.

Readings: Readings TBD as suggested by guest speakers and others.


  1. Interview report – Interview an artist or leader in an arts organization (from your focus business or another one). Find out what they didn’t know about “business” when they started out and how they learned it, and give a brief presentation to the class.
  2. Fundraising or Marketing plan – For your focus business choose one of the following:
    • Research funding available for the business, and write portions of the application TBD,
    • Create a marketing plan for the business or a project it’s working on,
    • Create a crowdfunding campaign for a project the business is developing, or could develop.
    • You will submit the plan in writing, and present it to the class.

Final project:

Case study –  Research, write and present a case study on your focus arts business, focusing on a challenge they faced with an issue we’ve studied during the semester. It will follow the case study model that we’ll use for class discussions.


Reading quizzes – We will have 6-8 unannounced quizzes over reading assignments during the semester. Your two lowest grades will be dropped (including 0 grades for reading quizzes missed due to absence or lateness) and the remaining grades will be averaged together for 40% of your final grade.

Final grade:

Reading quizzes: 40% (average of grades after lowest two grades are dropped)
In-class report presentations: 30% (10% each for the first three oral presentations)
Fundraising or marketing plan: 15% (10% written and 5% oral)
Case study: 15% (5% written and 10% oral)

For more information on class and Baylor policies, and a course schedule, click here.