By Pernille Skov
Director at CAKI – Center for Applied Artistic Innovation, Copenhagen, Denmark
CAKI – Center for Applied Artistic Innovation: Helping students unfold their artistic talents through entrepreneurship and interdisciplinarity
I have been back in the office for almost two weeks after 10 months of maternity leave. I look at my work with eyes that have a slightly changed focus, a heart that is slightly expanded, and an intellect yearning to be challenged again. And being here, a late afternoon in the office at Kgs. Nytorv, it strikes me how lucky I am, once again to have the opportunity to strive to develop and strengthen a matter which I sincerely believe is one of the most important elements in our society: the arts educations. Society – the people, the system, the industries – need artistic and aesthetic contribution of the highest quality; contributions that do not suffer from weak artistic ambitions, degraded integrity, and an impaired quality of the aesthetic elements and the artistic craftsmanship. The highest artistic quality should always be the ambition. It is CAKIs foremost task to contribute to maintaining this high level and ambition in the arts educations and to help release it in our society. I am excited to get started with my work again and rejoice in how privileged I am, to be allowed to just that.
Where did CAKI come from?
CAKI – Center for Applied Artistic Innovation was launched in May 2011. It was a strategic reorientation of a project called Workshopscenen, which had existed since 1992. Workshopscenen had been a place where students (and to a certain degree teachers) from the creative and artistic educations in Copenhagen could meet and realize collaborative projects. But because the structure of the schools’ curricula was changing, mainly due to the Bologna Declaration, there was no longer sufficient free space in the teaching plans for neither students nor teachers to realize projects on their own initiative, which was not directly related to a specific part of the curricula. As a consequence the raison d’être of Workshopscenen had outlived itself, and a strategic development was called for.
It took two and a half years from the decision to reinvent Workshopscenen was made until CAKI was launched. Workshopscenen had its own paragraph in the Danish Finance Act, outlining the purpose to be developing and facilitating inter-artistic projects in the capital region of Denmark. The objective for the development was to be true to this original purpose, but also to both expand it and make it more specific – it needed to be clear exactly why and how we should supplement the art educations. All of the principals from the art schools were informed about the development plans, and a small group consisting of the principal from the National Film School of Denmark, Poul Nesgaard, and the principal from the Rythmic Music Conservatory, Henrik Sveidahl, and myself, coordinator at Workshopscenen, was formed to formulate a proposal for the future strategy. In the process, teachers, students, professionals from the arts as well as officials from the Ministry of Culture were asked to give their input, i.e. to express their needs as well as ideas as to what they thought would be the best way for us to support and strengthen the curricula in the art schools. The result was a proposal for a tripartite focus on interdisciplinarity, artistic innovation and professionalization.
The process was informed by the Danish government’s initiative “Strategy for entrepreneurial education”, which was published in November 2009. The strategy was an interdepartmental collaboration between the Ministry of Science, Technology and Development (today Ministry of Higher Education and Science), Ministry for Education (today Ministry for Children, Education and Gender Equality), Ministry of Economy and Business (today Ministry of Business and Growth), and The Ministry of Culture (still called the Ministry of Culture). The latter is where the arts educations are located. To see the strategy unfold, the government designed the Foundation for Entrepreneurship, which had – and still has – the noble goal of being the “central, national knowledge centre and focal point for the development of entrepreneurship teaching at all educational levels”.
In our neck of the woods, and with the blessing of the principals of the art schools, we ran a series of pilot projects to test the students’ responses to the plan of introducing straight up entrepreneurship in the arts educations. The projects were quite diverse, developed to give as broad a knowledge base as possible.
The projects were:
- The interdisciplinary Academy in innovation and design, focusing on social innovation in urban areas (in collaboration with The Technical University of Denmark);
- SPRING – focusing on female entrepreneurs in the arts educations (in collaboration with Aarhus School of Architecture and Idea House, Copenhagen Business School);
- Incubator – a 13-week course, where a selected group of students was provided with an office space and exposed to weekly input from cultural or artistic entrepreneurs and peers, resulting in a 5-year business plan for the students’ business ideas (in collaboration with Idea House, Copenhagen Business School);
- Project Effect, where we began to develop a model for measuring the qualitative as well as the quantitative effects of the student incubators (together with Niels Brock Business College);
- Business Behind Talent, a course teaching the tools for start ups – project management, fundraising, business models etc. (this course is still running today, once each semester);
- And last but not least, we started to offer individual counselling for students who wanted to discuss their professional path, whether it was to have a one-on-one about how to become a professional artist, or more straight up business advise, such as advising on what type of business to start, how to sort out finances etc.
We don’t need that here
The feedback we got from the students participating in the pilot projects told us that yes, there was definitely a need among the art students for this kind of knowledge, as a welcome supplement to their artistic knowledge and professionalism. We also learned from the students’ feedback that they experienced themselves as becoming better at their artistic practice, after having been involved in one or more of the above – they developed a professional confidence, which helped them realize their artistic goals. What we also learned from the pilot projects was that it was extremely difficult to talk about professionalization in the context of entrepreneurship with the teachers in the art educations. Mostly we would get one of two responses: either “go away with your pointless entrepreneurship – it belongs in business schools, not in arts education”, or “we don’t need that here, we are already covering that ground” (which they weren’t, they just didn’t understand what we were trying to propose). This let us to realize that in front of us we would have a large and very important communicational task, if we were to make sense of introducing entrepreneurship as a formative field in the arts educations. This was the ground from where CAKI was launched in 2011.
Professionalization – a sustainable working life Where did CAKI
This coming May, it has been 5 years since we began unfolding our strategy in the arts educations in Copenhagen. Today most of the schools have developed their own entrepreneurship programs, to which CAKI has contributed with experience and knowledge, helping the individual institution to organize the type of courses, which fit the specific curricula, sometimes also focusing on specials needs for a particular art form. Some have introduced mentor programs, others what they call “transition courses”, focusing on the transition from school to a professional working life, and others again have implemented more straight up entrepreneurship programs in their curricula, catering to the students who know that when they leave the school, their career is in their own hands. Many of them will be self-employed, creating their own jobs. Because such are the socioeconomic conditions for most artists, in the performing arts as well as well as the fine arts, and as such, the arts are different from most other industries, were you normally will get a job rather than create one.
What is important is that we help the student connect the dots of a professional working life in an understandable and meaningful way, and then provide them with the tools they need to make it work.
CAKI serves a diverse group of artistic genres and aesthetic ideals. Reaching them all at once can be a challenge, but it is one that we blithely meet. They are also all art schools, which means that the teaching aims at developing and supporting each student’s unique talent. Our job at CAKI continues to be to supplement this by helping the student create a strong foundation for a sustainable, professional life, while he or she is still in school – to help them strengthen their abilities to translate creativity and artistic skills into a sustainable working life. This is what we call professionalization. Part of this entails entrepreneurship as an element of individual career management, which is why, when we promote entrepreneurship education to the arts students, we always maintain a strong focus on the artistic knowledge and creative skills of the individual student, as well as the student’s specific interests and motivation. We support this by working directly with the students, offering courses, workshops, mentorship and individual counselling. Often we find that what is important is that we help the student connect the dots of a professional working life in an understandable and meaningful way, and then provide them with the tools they need to make it work. And with meaningful we mean a way in which we help the students become better and stronger artists and individuals, focusing on their development on three levels: the private, the personal and the professional.
We also spend resources on working strategically with the schools’ managements and educational planners. We continue to collect and share knowledge on entrepreneurship in arts education, at the same time as we continue to expand our knowledge as well as developing and trying out new initiatives. During the last three years, we have spent a lot of time on the partnership EntreNord, together with Nordic Council of Ministers and Karlbak, where we work to collect, share, develop and increase entrepreneurship in the art educations in the Nordic countries.
What lies ahead?
Currently we are rewriting our strategy, to see what is still valid, and where we need to develop and make changes. We will maintain focus on entrepreneurship, artistic innovation and interdisciplinarity, because it gives us a meaningful frame, within which to work to achieve our main goal and raison d’être: to help the students unfold their artistic talents through becoming stronger professionals. Our focus is still on how to help develop existing as well as new working opportunities for graduates from the arts educations, as well as how to help the students create a sustainable working life.
We believe that a way forward can be via a further development of the inter-artistic and interdisciplinary perspectives. Therefore we are working to collect recent knowledge and experience on cross aesthetic initiatives and interdisciplinary projects in the schools, with the purpose of extracting useful insights to help inform CAKI’s next step forward. The framework condition for the artists of tomorrow continues to be that of self-employment (for most, but not all). This reality still differentiates the arts from most other professions. But as it is the case for all professions and industries, the arts also need interdisciplinary collaborations in order to see ideas and visions realized. CAKI can contribute by offering knowledge and guidance on how to make this cross-aesthetic and interdisciplinary meetings as generous, respectful and productive as possible, in order to support the schools in educating artists, who contribute to the arts as well as to our culture and society, through the development of new artistic content and innovative solutions.
Questions for further discussion
- Which learning goals can be formulated for cross aesthetic projects, which can feed into the students’ entrepreneurial skills set?
- How does it effect the profile of the teachers in the art schools, when entrepreneurship becomes an integrated part of the schools learning goals?
- and last but not least, the question that keeps returning to the discussion about entrepreneurship and the arts: how do we examine and evaluate on the students’ entrepreneurial skills?
CAKI works for the following institutions:
- The National Film School of Denmark
- The Danish National School of Performing Arts
- The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
- The Royal Danish Academy of Music
- The Rhythmic Music Conservatory
- The Royal Danish Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation
The following schools are associated members of CAKI:
- Copenhagen School of Design and Technology
- Performance Design/RUC
- Textile and Handicraft Design/UCC
Pernille Skov is director at CAKI – Center for Applied Artistic Innovation, where she works to increase innovation, interdisciplinarity and entrepreneurship within and between the arts educations in Denmark. Pernille Skov holds a Mag.art degree in Art History from University of Copenhagen and a MA in Modern Art from Goldsmiths College, London. She is founder of the cultural production company Contemporary Copenhagen. Besides producing videos for art institutions and artist, Contemporary Copenhagen initiates and manage projects, networks, exhibitions and events, working with companies, private partners and public institutions, as well as investigates and develops business models and financing opportunities for contemporary art and culture. From 2011 to 2016, she was founding partner in Art+Innovation Hub, a business collaboration which existed with the purpose of applying contemporary art across sectors and industries, bringing art and culture closer to society as a whole. Pernille Skov serves on a series of boards and advisory boards in the cultural sector, amongst others The Lake Foundation and Sejerø Festival. She lives and works in Copenhagen.
CAKI – Center for Applied Artistic Innovation is a center working for the arts education in Copenhagen. At CAKI we work within three focus areas: Interdisciplinarity, artistic innovation and entrepreneurship.
Header image: Photo by Franciska Zahle, from the project Textiles as narrative, CAKI 2014.