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Students 'pave' way to opportunities in the arts

May 17, 2010

It was author and artist Henry Miller who said: “The artist is the opposite of the politically minded individual, the opposite of the reformer, the opposite of the idealist. The artist does not tinker with the universe; he recreates it out of his own experience and understanding of life.”

For many, the artist’s ability to recreate experience is precisely why this field is ripe for entrepreneurship. Rather than “tinker” with existing opportunities, student artists at ASU are creating their own paths to success – following their passions and securing a means to sustain themselves, all at the same time.

“In the art world, more than any discipline, you have to have the skills to support yourself,” said Joshua Hill, creator of the Shonto Artists’ Project and recent recipient of one of six Performing Arts Venture Experience seed grants.

“I suppose this is the nature of being an entrepreneur,” the ASU School of Music graduate student added. “But a lot of times people just don't know what they can do. They may want to start some sort of venture, but they are not aware of the opportunities.”

Supporting students in launching successful careers in the arts is what ASU’s Performing Arts Venture Experience (p.a.v.e.) is designed to do. Grant awards generally range in value of $1,000 to $5,000 and are dependent upon teams’ budgetary needs.

By investing in student innovation and creativity, p.a.v.e. supports arts entrepreneurship education and encourages students to engage in entrepreneurial activities. The development of creative opportunities for artists of all kinds is achieved by focusing on educating students, artists and educators about the principles of entrepreneurship.

“This spring semester round of p.a.v.e. applications was very diverse,” said Linda Essig, director of the Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film, and head of the p.a.v.e. program. “If asked to identify a common theme, I would say that there were more projects that involved the intersection of technology and arts than ever before.”

From a live multi-location variety show to a mobile performance application – webcomics, youth plays, an indigenous artist residency and improv training for Alzheimer’s caregivers – this semester’s p.a.v.e. awardees brought a wide variety of innovative ideas to the program.

“We had students from computer engineering teaming up with student artists, which is exciting for all involved. Several projects are for community arts ventures, either indigenous communities, like the Shonto Artists’ Project, or the care-giving community, like the Improviders Association.”

Previous p.a.v.e. winners include Sustainable Symphony; Radio Healer; and Different from What?, a film festival focused on films by, for and about adults with disabilities. Different from What? was recently featured on Channel 3 "Good Morning Arizona" and National Public Radio’s "Here and Now."

“Artists need to be encouraged to develop and promote their ideas in the same fashion as business people, and ASU offers many opportunities in that area,” said Sara Schwabe, second-year graduate student in ASU’s Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film. “There is a great deal of support for forward-thinking artists to bring something new to the table and impact the whole community – not just the art world.”

For a complete list of projects funded, including interviews with the winners, please visit:


Written by: Samantha L. Miller
Office of University Initiatives