SFU undergrad Annie Therrien Boulos, a fourth-year theatre performance major in the fine arts program, is hopeful that she can turn her passion for art into a career after taking this new course (photo by Paula Viitanen).

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SFU Creative Entrepreneurship: arming artists with business acumen

October 11, 2016
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By Justin Wong

Not knowing the next step after graduation is a scary thought for many arts students.

But Simon Fraser University undergrad Annie Therrien Boulos, a fourth-year theatre performance major in the fine arts program, does know the next step, thanks to a new course, Creative Entrepreneurship.

“The job market for arts students is a different experience,” says Therrien Boulos. “Jobs out there are scarce and a lot of times if you can’t land one of those few opportunities. You have to create one yourself. Arts students aren’t taught these skills, which leaves many of us feeling lost entering the job market.”

That’s about to change. SFU contemporary arts professor Howard Jang launched a new course last fall to help third- and fourth-year art students and creative thinkers hone their craft and develop the skills for building a successful career as artists.

Students taking Creative Entrepreneurship learn everything from how to develop financial models to understanding intellectual property, marketing and strategic planning.

Jang says many arts graduates take jobs that are unrelated to their degrees because they are unsure of how they can turn their craft into a career.

“We are helping students take a more strategic approach to building experiences and relationships that advance their careers and fuel their passion for their art,” says Jang. “I’m really hoping that what we are doing is helping artists themselves with what they want to do, so that their career can get off to the right start.”

Robert Azevedo, Iris Lau, and Annie Therrien Boulos (middle) are rehearsesing Death Rides the Mess of a Lost Horse, non-choreographed performance, by Elysse Cheadle (photo by Sheng Ho).

Therrien Boulos, who took the course when it was first offered in 2015, says the guest speakers who visited the class to share their own career paths were invaluable to the course experience.

“Speakers like Charles Barber, artistic director of City Opera Vancouver, came to visit our class. Their stories remind us that career paths aren’t linear and that it’s okay if something doesn’t go as planned, as long as you have one.”

In the course, she says she gained an understanding of the different resources that are available in our city, such as government grants, to help fund art projects.

Robert Azevedo, Iris Lau, and Annie Therrien Boulos (middle) are rehearsesing Death Rides the Mess of a Lost Horse, non-choreographed performance, by Elysse Cheadle (photo by Sheng Ho).

“One of the strengths of this course is that it doesn’t try to change your work as an artist,” she says. “ You develop skills that allow you to think more clearly about how to define the art you are creating and how to better communicate those ideas to help get your projects funded.”

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