Introducing Artscape Daniels Launchpad. How can it help performing artists?

In her introduction to Choreographing our Future, Metcalf Innovation Fellow Shannon Litzenberger observes that for the performing arts sector, today’s environment is radically different than in decades past. “New pressures to explore alternative funding and revenue sources have given rise to a new generation of collaborative, flexible, and adaptive creative enterprises,” writes Litzenberger. Increasingly, contemporary artists are required to take on the role of entrepreneur — developing arts enterprises that allow them to create, deliver, and market their work.

Artscape Daniels Launchpad is a new facility designed to support artists of all disciplines address this changing landscape. Described as a “one-stop art and design entrepreneurship hub,” Launchpad will provide an integrated platform of spaces, tools, programs, and events that will equip artists with the skills and connections required to launch and sustain business enterprises in their chosen art form.

Metcalf has supported the planning and delivery of Launchpad’s curriculum since 2012. “The Foundation has a long history of investing in new approaches and learning, and we see great promise in developing our next generation of leaders,” says Michael Trent, Metcalf’s Performing Arts Program Director. “Launchpad speaks to both those goals.”

Renderings of the upcoming Artscape Daniels Launchpad facility.

Before Launchpad’s official launch on April 21, we spoke with Artscape CEO Tim Jones about the new facility, Launchpad’s offerings for performing artists, and why the perceived tension between the worlds of art and business lingers.

Do you feel that artists are often reluctant to embrace the “business” side of their craft?

I think it’s fair to say that there’s tension between the values that business schools and private companies espouse, and what creative people want to do in the world. A lot of people in the performing arts aren’t primarily driven by making money and increasing profit margins at any cost.

How are you working to resolve this tension?

With the Launchpad project, we’re trying to examine and unpack the business approaches that are going to work effectively for creative people. Often, we need to adapt and repackage these practices so that their value for artists, designers, and creative people is immediately clear.

What does this look like in practice?

We’ve been working with instructional design consultants to build a creative entrepreneurship program, both a one-on-one version, and a more intensive month-long program. We now have had about five iterations of that program, with over 200 participants. The feedback has been very positive, but I think what everyone finds most valuable are the peer-to-peer connections. The Launchpad project isn’t like going to school. You learn by doing. When you’re in a room, watching other people build their practice or take a business idea to fruition, there’s a lot you can learn from each other.

The performing arts also have unique resource challenges, such as finding performance space. Is this reflected in Launchpad’s offerings?

I do think that like every other creative business, they’re struggling to figure out how to engage an audience, how to build a model that’s sustainable, how to match their resources to their artistic ambition, and what needs to be invested in the business side of things. All of those things require skills that Launchpad will support them to develop.

In terms of providing those resources, Launchpad will have a multidisciplinary creative production studio. There will be shared access to 3D printers and laser cutters, software and audio/visual recording facilities, and costume-making facilities. When you’re in the performing arts, you need all of those things, and it’s hard to afford or access these kinds of technology. There will also be meeting rooms and spaces that can be used for rehearsals and some elements of production.

How will you know if your offerings are being well received by the sector?

Part of what we’re trying to do with Launchpad is provide a central hub where artists can get plugged into what’s available outside of our walls. If we discover that there’s a gap around a particular issue in the performing arts — an area which people could benefit from organizational or professional development — then we’ll develop a programmatic response to address that. This will likely be done in collaboration with other organizations and businesses, so that our offerings aren’t redundant. What we deliver through Launchpad will certainly evolve over time, and in response to feedback from our community.

Registration is open for Artscape Daniels Launchpad’s Creative Business Design Workshop and Creative Entrepreneurship Program.

Metcalf Foundation activities are continuing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about our response here.