Elizabeth Carlin Metz, Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor and Chair of Theatre, and John Spittell, Wagner Distinguished Chair in Business, provided students with opportunities to collaborate with real-world nonprofit arts organizations through their new arts administration course, Strategic Principles, taught during the 2020 spring term.
Students built on what they’ve learned in introductory courses: working together in teams, studying organizational structures, and researching and developing a business plan. In Strategic Principles, much of the focus was on economic theory, financial management, and marketing/fundraising. The students' culminating project involved connecting with an existing nonprofit arts entity and writing a grant for it.
Knox's minor in arts administration combines liberal arts values with practical considerations. Arts administration has room for advancement, is portable across multiple areas of application throughout the arts and in a variety of settings and communities, and is transferable to other arenas of business and entrepreneurship. The Strategic Principles class offers students the ability to engage with the community through the value of art and local business.
“This is actually a new avenue of experiential learning from Knox,” said Spittell. The class behaves similarly to immersive programs like Business and Management’s StartUp Term and Theatre’s Repertory Term, and students completely devote themselves to their grant-writing projects.
“It's been a powerful thing to watch,” added Spittell.
During classes, professors regularly checked in with each of the eight individual students, giving specialized advice and answering questions on a personal basis. Another component of the course was the group workshop, where students would present their drafts and get critiqued by their peers. Individuals' different academic backgrounds contributed to unique, in-depth points of view.
Student Eliza Dehlin '20, a history major, worked with alumna Ronnah Metz '87 on a grant to create a mural at the Spence School in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. “Because Liz Carlin Metz has ties to my area of Wisconsin, she put me in touch with a relation of hers who has been working on a grant with the school district,” Dehlin said.
Carlin Metz and Spittell explained that the remote spring term didn't hinder the work students were able to do in this course.
“We have had some epiphanies about what this modality can do for us,” said Carlin Metz. “I think we've leveraged it. I mean, we're not the only ones. And I think the reality is that an instance like this, a pandemic or war, it’s a moment when the wheel turns in society.”
“This has been inspirational because what we were able to do on campus is geographically limited. As soon as we lost geography, this became opportunistic,” added Spittell. “It's also taught students about how we really motivate ourselves to move forward.”
“And the cool thing," said Carlin Metz, "is that every one of these entities has invited their students to intern over the summer.”
All students who participated and their project details are listed below.