Arts Entrepreneurship

There are many different types of entrepreneurship. From traditional startups to business ownership to today’s popular side hustles. There are also many more in between including entrepreneurship involving personal artistic and creative skills such as being an author or artist whose sole business is to create and then sell their books and paintings.

Some might argue that being an author or an artist is nowhere near being an entrepreneur. I’d argue that they’re mistaken. If the individual with a creative talent uses that talent to earn income, and over time develops a business from his or her efforts, they’ve then become entrepreneurs. In fact, part of the Wikipedia explanation of an entrepreneur’s purpose states:

“An entrepreneur uses their time, energy, and resources into creating value for others. They are rewarded for this effort monetarily and therefore both the consumer of the value created and the entrepreneur are benefitted.”

Artist Entrepreneur

One such Artist Entrepreneur was Leonid Afremov. He was a Mexican–Israeli modern impressionistic artist who used to work mainly with a palette knife and oils. He had developed his own unique technique and style which is unmistakable and cannot be confused with other artists.

His paintings were mainly landscape, city scenes, seascapes, flowers and portraits. Most of his work is considered very colorful and politically neutral.

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Afremov was mainly known as being a self-representing artist who used to promote and sell his work exclusively over the internet with very little exhibitions and involvement of dealers and galleries.

Before the advancement of online sales and eBay, Afremov was a struggling artist. He was born in Vitebsk, Belarus, and lived there until 1990. Between 1990 and 2002 he lived in Israel, and from 2002 to 2010 in Boca Raton, Florida.

According to the Leonid Afremov website, during the cold Russian winter, Afremov stayed at home painting. He was not allowed to participate in government exhibitions because of his Jewish roots and was not allowed to be a member of the local art associations.

His early work was sold privately via family and friends and was not seen by many people. A lot of his work in the 1980’s was just given away for free. He did not keep records of his work then and not much of it survived. The family currently has only one painting that was made before 1990.

In 1986 the Chernobyl disaster happened. Vitebsk was only a few hundred kilometers from Chernobyl, close enough for radiation to travel with the wind and rain. The ecological situation in the area worsened, local crops and water becoming contaminated with radioactive fallout. Small children were affected strongly, including Afremov’s two year old son.

At the same time Leonid Afremov was experiencing serious discrimination and insults for his Jewish heritage. The liberal politics of Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Jewish soviet citizens to migrate to Israel in the late 1980s. After being fed up with anti-semitism and problems caused by radiation, Leonid decided to move to Israel without hesitation as soon as the doors were opened.

On 14 May 1990 the Afremov family left by train from Minsk to Warsaw where they stayed in a hostel for 3 days. Then on 17 May 1990 they took a flight to Israel provided by the Israeli immigration authorities. The Afremov family was among the first to migrate from USSR in the Russian–Jewish immigration wave of the 1990s.

Today, original oil paintings, original recreations, studio recreations, prints, giclees and much more can be purchased directly from the family of the world renowned Leonid Afremov at

Author Entrepreneur

Another creative entrepreneur is author, Joanne (Jo) Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. However, one might wonder how Rowling, the author, could possibly be considered an entrepreneur. Yet, considering the tremendous value of the Harry Potter franchise of books and movies, it’d be difficult to dispute.

We often learn about an entrepreneur’s humble beginnings such as Steve Jobs dropping out of college, living on friends’ couches, and sneaking into classes that he enjoyed despite not being enrolled.

Or, the early beginnings of Hewlett-Packard as Bill Hewlett and David Packard started the business out of a garage in Palo Alto, California. And the list goes on from Walt Disney to Daymond John, founder of the Hip Hop apparel company, FUBU.

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In the case of J.K. Rowling, how is this for a humble beginning as described in an article at

After her mother’s death, Rowling moved to northern Portugal for a fresh start and taught English as a foreign language. She started dating a man named Jorge Arantes, became pregnant, and moved into a small two-bedroom apartment with Arantes’ mother.

The couple miscarried, but they married in October 1992. Rowling later gave birth to a daughter, Jessica, in July 1993.

The rocky marriage lasted a mere 13 months, and Rowling and Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, not long after. She carried three chapters of “Harry Potter” in her suitcase with her.

Living in a cramped apartment with her daughter, jobless and penniless, Rowling fell into a deep depression and admits she even considered suicide. She was forced to rely on state benefits and spent much of her time writing “Harry Potter” in cafés with Jessica sleeping in the pram next to her.

“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless… By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” Rowling said during a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech.

Today, Harry Potter is a global brand worth more than $15 billion dollars.

Arts Entrepreneurship

According to, Arts Entrepreneurship is nothing new. It is fair to assume that artists have always been entrepreneurial. Educators in higher education have been earnestly addressing this topic as early as the 1970s, first at the Eastman School of Music.

However, what is new is a formalized system of education that teaches artists how to, specifically, act entrepreneurially. Today, there are over one hundred colleges and universities addressing the topic, and at least 33 Master’s programs around the world focused on arts, creative, or cultural entrepreneurship.

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In academic literature, there is absolutely no consensus as to what “entrepreneurship” means, much less “arts entrepreneurship.” Similarly, there are no agreed-upon definitions for “creativity,” “imagination,” or “art.” These phenomena are complex and subjective.

Regardless, at Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (SMU), in a course, Arts Entrepreneurship, students are taught that entrepreneurship is defined as follows: 

“The creation of opportunity and value with intent to profit financially, socially or otherwise through the assumption of risk and effort.”

In the context of arts entrepreneurship, the value created is art.

Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!