Art as work: Understanding trajectories of nascent cultural entrepreneurs


The creative industries, comprising art as well as creative businesses, are praised in policies for providing innovative solutions to societal challenges and generating economic growth. Yet, a crucial aspect that is only scarcely addressed in these policies is the working conditions within the creative industries. As previous research has revealed, creative work is highly precarious due to job insecurity, low pay and mental health issues (Banks 2007, Gill 2002, McRobbie 1998).
As a strategy for solving the issue of precariousness in creative work, cultural entrepreneurship has been introduced to prioritise the ambition of generating revenue from creative activities. Yet, we know very little about how cultural entrepreneurship is carried out in practice. Most often, cultural entrepreneurship is exemplified by singular case studies of famous artists who have also managed to become commercially successful (Enhuber 2014, van Klink 2016). Yet, outstanding success is an idealized state detached from the realities of most aspiring cultural entrepreneurs who can be described as ‘unintended’ (Essig 2015), ‘accidental’ (Coulson 2012), or even ‘forced’ (Oakley 2014) entrepreneurs that start businesses because there are no regular jobs for them.
To provide a thorough and empirically informed understanding of how cultural entrepreneurship is put into practice, this project will consist in a micro-sociological, ethnographic study of nascent cultural entrepreneurs. Hence, a more realistic portrayal of various career trajectories – both successful and unsuccessful – can be established. These findings will be presented at a seminar for researchers and practitioners to, ultimately, help making more careers sustainable.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. S.M. Strandvad

Affiliated with

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit der Letteren, Kunsten, Cultuur en Media


01/01/2020 to 31/10/2020