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Fine Arts Programs Prepare Students for Real World

Indianapolis Business Journal

Most fine arts students used to exist in a bubble – running to class in paint-splattered clothing and practically living in their studios, channeling their muse and honing their craft. Once they graduated, those who were driven enough to try to make a living off their talent still had a lot to learn about running a business.

But now many universities are doing more to make sure art students graduate with the business skills they need.

Local photographer Ginny Taylor Rosner graduated from IUPUI’s Herron School of Art & Design in 1991, when the "school was just beginning to offer business classes – but only to students studying painting.

“Herron helped me polish the craft and content of my art,” she said. But “I felt like I was reinventing the wheel most of the time when I was setting up my business.”

Offering business-of-art classes is part of a broader trend that began about 15 years ago when universities began taking a closer look at how classes related to the real world, said Herron Dean Valerie Eickmeier. After getting feedback from alumni, Herron incorporated those topics in its curriculum.

Now, presentation and marketing skills are covered in classes freshmen take and all art students must take a separate “practical concerns” course in order to graduate. For that class, gallery owners come in to coach students on how to present their work, attorneys lecture on copyright issues, and accountants offer advice on how to establish a small business.

And with its Basile Center for Art, Design and Public Life, Herron is stepping efforts up to get students some real world exposure before they graduate. The center lines up local companies who want to commission artwork, and both students and faculty members can compete to land the paying gigs.

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