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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 24, 2008

UI program teaches business skills to arts students

A new University of Iowa program hopes to help graduates who become artists to keep from starving. The Performing Arts Entrepreneurship Certificate program teaches performing arts majors the basics of business management so they can make a living from the art they love.

David McGraw, a lecturer in the program who also advises participants, said students take six courses that teach accounting, marketing, fundraising, organizational leadership and financial management to provide the foundation to run a small business.

"It encourages students to take an entrepreneurial approach to promoting their work as an artist," said McGraw, also a production stage manager in the Theatre Arts Department.

The certificate program combines the resources of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, the Tippie College of Business and the Division of Performing Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

McGraw said the University of Iowa is one of only a few colleges and universities in the United States that offers a program like this to undergraduate students.

He said many of the students who combine arts and business training are interested in careers in managing their own studios or galleries, or working for nonprofit arts organizations or museums. That also gives the program something of an economic development angle.

"The arts are an important part of building a community's quality of life, and a good quality of life helps to build a strong economy," he said.

Bob Zegler (left) is one performing arts major who has benefited from what he's learned in his business classes. In fact, it's helped him land the short films he's produced in such prestigious venues as the Cannes International Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.

Zegler, a senior film major from Arlington Heights, Ill., was the producer on the film "Eyelids," shot in Chicago in 2007 by his production company, LookAtRubbish. The film was first screened at the Take One Student Film Festival at Columbia College in Chicago, where it picked up buzz before being accepted for screening at Cannes last spring.

Go to to view "Eyelids." (Click on thumbnail photo above for high resolution image of Zegler.)

"I walked down the red carpet at Cannes at the Grand Lumiere, one of the most beautiful theaters in the world," Zegler said. "It was amazing.

'Eyelids" was screened the next day at a smaller theater with other short films before an audience of filmmakers and one investor. "I have to admit I had tears flowing as the enormity of the moment hit me and knew I was realizing my dream of being a filmmaker," Zegler said.

He said his business courses taught him about relationship building, an important skill in the film business especially, and the importance of balancing the business side of making a film with the artistic side.

"The classes also taught me about caution, and that jumping the gun isn't something I want to do, because I can lose a lot of money," he said. "I have to make sure I have my financial house in order before jumping in."

He also learned to think in new ways about marketing his work, which led him to post his short films recently on YouTube, adding to the buzz that "Eyelids" generated at Cannes.

But his business classes also showed him one unfortunate truth: "My business is not financially feasible," he said of LookAtRubbish. "I specialize in short films and music videos, which are not profitable. I was hoping I could make a living at it, but I can't. Better to learn that now, while I'm still in college."

McGraw said he thinks Zegler is using well what he's learned and will find a way to succeed in film. "He didn't have the traditional method of going to a big film school to break into the business, so he took an innovative approach and used a new technology to help him," he said.

"Everything I learned really ignited an entrepreneurial spirit and made me realize I can start a business," Zegler said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,