Field Course: Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship - Harvard Business School MBA Program


Field Course: Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship

Course Number 6913

Professor Rohit Deshpande
Senior Lecturer Henry W. McGee
Spring Q3Q4: 3 credits

Ten afternoon class sessions plus 2-5 hours per week of team work.
Enrollment: Limited to 30 students

Educational Objectives
The nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity in the US in 2015-$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs. A recent report by the Conference Board noted that in addition to the enormous financial impact of the sector, “companies consider the arts to be important in building quality of life, stimulating creative thinking and problem solving, and offering networking opportunities and the potential to develop new business and build market share.”

All arts leaders are entrepreneurs who are tasked, by Howard Stevenson’s definition, with “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources.” Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship (ACE) is designed to introduce students to the key issues faced by managers in this important industry.

Course Content and Organization
The course will utilize three approaches to learning-traditional case-based classes on campus, talks by key arts leaders, and hands-on consulting assignments with Boston-area arts institutions.

Cases: Cases and required background reading will cover entrepreneurial issues encountered by an extensive range of arts and cultural institutions both in the United States and abroad.

Guest Talks: Students will hear firsthand from a number of arts and cultural leaders who will discuss the entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities they face.

Projects: Students will assemble into five-person teams to work on projects throughout the course. Project partners will include a wide variety of Boston-area arts and cultural institutions with different missions and a range of resources. Each project will focus on solving a specific and well-defined entrepreneurial challenge and will require extensive data collection and analysis.

Non-Disclosure Agreements: Partner organizations will provide student teams with confidential information. Students will be required to sign a confidentiality and intellectual property assignment agreement.


Course Requirements and Grading

Deliverables: The course will have five deliverables: (1) Team Launch Document (2) Situation Analysis, (3) Preliminary Draft of Partner Presentation, (4) Final Partner Presentation, and (5) Individual Learning Reflection.

Grading: Each student’s grade will be based on (1) Class Participation, (2) Quality of Team Deliverables, (3) Partner Input, (4) Team Member Peer Evaluation, and (5) Quality of Individual Learning Reflection.




A limited number of places will be held for students from the Kennedy School of Government and the Graduate School of Design. The mix of students from diverse disciplines will contribute to both student learning and the range of solutions proposed for the entrepreneurial challenges faced by the course partners.