Grant program is latest initiative establishing UNCSA as an incubator for arts-based innovation

When Lindsay Bierman first visited the campus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, he saw untapped potential. Three years later, as the eighth chancellor of the nation’s first state-supported arts conservatory, he has channeled the school’s human creative capital, establishing the university as an incubator for arts-based innovation and entrepreneurship.

His efforts culminated earlier this month with the announcement of a new grant program for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to accelerate creative ventures.

“I came here because this school unleashes creativity, beauty, passion, and joy with such unfettered abandon,” said Bierman, who came to higher education after a career in publishing with Time Inc., including several years as editor in chief of Southern Living magazine. Trained as an architect, he began his career in New York City as a designer, researcher, and writer for one of the world’s most renowned architects, Robert A.M. Stern.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman

Architecture is a discipline that leans heavily on imagination, Bierman said. “It becomes a way of seeing the world as it exists and envisioning what it can become. I felt the boundless creativity and passion, dedication, and grit that defines this campus, and I knew we could become catalysts for transformational and disruptive arts-based enterprises.”

Bierman has applied his own conviction toward fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. He pushed forward the adoption of a new strategic action plan, entitled Creative Momentum, which includes initiatives to launch groundbreaking programs and curricula, drive creative incubation, and catalyze arts-based community and economic development.

I felt the boundless creativity and passion, dedication, and grit that defines this campus, and I knew we could become catalysts for transformational and disruptive arts-based enterprises.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman

Adopted in 2015, the plan has sparked new courses in entrepreneurship as well as the Choreographic Institute, premiering this summer to support established and emerging choreographers in researching and creating new dance works. It has led to new and stronger strategic partnerships both locally and nationally with organizations like Oculus, EmcArts, Cirque du Soleil, and Disney Imagineering. And it has provided momentum for securing millions of dollars in private funding to establish programs like the Institute for Performance Innovation, set to launch in 2018.

The grant program is the latest initiative, offering up to $75,000 a year for three years to ventures that support Winston-Salem’s burgeoning creative economy. The grants were announced at the recent launch of Winston-Salem, known as “the City of Arts and Innovation,” as the fifth site in the world for Venture Café (alongside Cambridge, Mass.; St. Louis, Mo.; Miami, Fla.; and Rotterdam, Netherlands).

“Our community is investing heavily in entrepreneurship, and UNCSA is helping launch arts-based ventures,” Bierman said. “Our accelerator begins here, but its reach will extend far beyond our campus, city and state.”

Studies show that the production of arts and cultural goods and services contributes more than $700 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

Every artist is an entrepreneur. The same approach we take to producing a play or a film can be applied to starting a business. The creative process that we use to tell a story can help solve problems in every sector of the economy.”

Corey Madden, executive director of Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts

The Chancellor’s Grants invite every student, alumnus, faculty and staff of UNCSA to unleash their potential, Bierman said. “We must nurture creative entrepreneurship by investing in scalable ideas and breakthrough works and by growing the local creative community.”

To be administered by UNCSA’s Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts, the grants will provide up to $50,000 in seed funding and/or finishing funds for UNCSA-affiliated creative enterprises, and up to an additional $25,000 from the Kenan Institute in support and shared services for a UNCSA-affiliated creative business operating in Winston-Salem that is accepted and participates in the Center for the Creative Economy’s (CCE) Creative Startups Accelerator.

Alumna Corey Madden, executive director of the Kenan Institute, expects to begin accepting proposals in fall 2017 for ventures that will illuminate a fundamental truth about artists and enterprise. “Every artist is an entrepreneur,” she said. “The same approach we take to producing a play or a film can be applied to starting a business. The creative process that we use to tell a story can help solve problems in every sector of the economy.”

The Kenan Institute also has adopted a strategic initiative to develop leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators in the arts through projects like its Community Innovation Lab, which engages artists to address tough social challenges; its Arts Enterprise Lab that partners with the CCE to encourage the creative community to collaborate, develop, and grow their ideas; and its Creative Community Lab, offering programmatic, office, and meeting space for arts innovators.

Another vehicle for stimulating creative enterprise is the Center for Design Innovation (CDI), a research center for UNCSA, Winston Salem State University, and Forsyth Technical Community College and an incubator that transforms leading-edge ideas into prototypes. It recently announced a partnership with Flywheel, a community of 142 members, representing more than 80 companies and a mixture of startups, consultants, freelancers, and independent knowledge workers. Flywheel recently moved into the CDI facility located in the city’s Innovation Quarter and has extended its membership benefits to the UNCSA community.

At UNCSA, we’re dream builders and idea generators, project incubators and problem solvers, catalysts for change but also keepers of all that inspires. We’re creators of  artists, leaders and pioneers.”

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman

“By leveraging all our energy and resources, we can shape the future of the arts and creative industries,” Bierman said.  

“At UNCSA, we’re dream builders and idea generators, project incubators and problem solvers, catalysts for change but also keepers of all that inspires,” he said. “We’re creators of artists, leaders and pioneers.”

Beginning his fourth year as chancellor, Bierman has found his purpose. “My job as chief executive is to embolden my campus, my city, and my state with a renewed sense of imagination about the world and the way we shape it.”

by Lauren Whitaker

May 24, 2017