Penn State students interested in arts entrepreneurship recently competed in the first Arts Business Idea Competition, sponsored by the College of Arts and Architecture’s Arts Entrepreneurship program.
The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major, with the only requirement being that the business idea or concept was arts-based. Senior Theatre major Maya Lederer won first place, which included a $1,400 prize, for her project, “ReVamp Theatre Company,” whose mission is to use technology to make millennials more interested in the theatre. She plans to develop an app that will allow users to vote on shows’ plot lines during the production, with the actors adapting on the spot.
Finalists presented their ideas to a team of judges that included Penn State School of Visual Arts alumnus William Snyder, a graphic designer based in State College who is active in many local arts organizations; David Stambler, saxophonist and School of Music faculty member; and Michael Black, founder and owner of Black Sun Studios, a photography studio that has produced work for companies such as Merrill Lynch and Procter & Gamble.
The other winners were, second place, Olivia Jones; third place, Tania Pyatovolenko; and fourth place, Casey McDevitt. All winners received cash prizes.
According to Jonathan Gangi, director of the Arts Entrepreneurship program, the inaugural Arts Business Idea Competition was a great success. “The aim of the competition is to incentivize students to take steps towards creating the career they want by taking a ‘risk’ and presenting their arts business concept to a panel of judges,” Gangi said. “An aspiring artist and entrepreneur can only talk and think about their career for so long before action is required, and the prize money is intended to both spur action towards their career and serve as start-up cash to help them implement their vision. We look forward to seeing what the four finalists do with their prize money to advance their careers as artists and entrepreneurs.”
Lederer, who graduates in May, has already taken steps toward making ReVamp Theatre Company a reality, meeting with professors in computer science, law, and theatre to discuss her idea and how she can get it off the ground.
“Winning this competition has given me the confidence to go out and actually pursue this business venture,” said Lederer. “It's fantastic to have a base fund for my company; however, the most valuable prize I won was the advice and support from the judges and my professors. This competition has shown me that starting your own company is completely feasible as long as you have a solid starting idea and are willing to reach out and get help from your professors and peers.”
(photo by Alex Bush)