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The art of entrepreneurship

Marie Sul­livan, Kate Downey, Joey Lafaytis, Ian Gasco-​​Wiggin

In Northeastern’s Col­lege of Arts, Media, and Design, entre­pre­neur­ship is more about chan­neling cre­ativity than simply turning an idea into a busi­ness venture.

“For us, entre­pre­neur­ship takes on a slightly dif­ferent meaning,” said Founding Dean Xavier Costa. “Entre­pre­neur­ship is not only about devel­oping startup projects, but also about our interest in cre­ativity. We like our stu­dents to embark on projects that are inno­v­a­tive and creative—we want them to take risks and approach entre­pre­neur­ship as a way to approach their creativity.”

The col­lege recently pre­sented its inau­gural batch of Entre­pre­neurial Spirit Awards to stu­dents who had used what they had learned in class and on co-​​op to take on lead­er­ship roles and develop new projects in the arts. The awards, which will hence­forth be pre­sented annu­ally, were given out for the first time during a panel dis­cus­sion on entre­pre­neur­ship and the arts as part of last month’s Global Entre­pre­neur­ship Week.

“We are incred­ibly excited about the work our stu­dents are doing,” Costa said.

Ian Gasco-​​Wiggin designed new space for a com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tion in Holyoke, Mass.

The awards were pre­sented to Marie Sul­livan, a senior com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major whose doc­u­men­tary short Finders Keepers fol­lowed a group of dump­ster divers and “free­gans” in Boston; Kate Downey, AMD’11, who founded a theater com­pany to pro­duce a new ver­sion of Shakespeare’s Titus Andron­icus; Joey Lafaytis, a second-​​year music tech­nology major who helped turn the Green Line Records stu­dent group into an up-​​and-​​coming record label; and Ian Gasco-​​Wiggin, a grad­uate stu­dent in the  depart­ment of archi­tec­ture who designed new com­mu­nity space for Nueva Esper­anza, a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion in Holyoke, Mass.

Award win­ners noted that the expe­ri­ence of chan­neling their cre­ativity through entre­pre­neur­ship has improved their lead­er­ship skills and self-​​confidence.

“My project was very much about taking an idea and seeing how far I could run with it,” said Sul­livan, whose doc­u­men­tary began as a class project. “Being able to get out of my com­fort zone while making this film really let me learn a lot about myself along the way.”

Lafaytis, for his part, helped restruc­ture Green Line Records and led the devel­op­ment of a new recording studio, which is sched­uled to open next year in Snell Library.

“When I saw the appli­ca­tion for the award, it asked you to talk about ideas like ded­i­ca­tion and what it takes to be the leader of a group,” Lafaytis said. “One of the things I’ve seen through run­ning Green Line as a busi­ness is that you have to be able to take a step back as a leader so you can see what’s going on now, and at the same time look far­ther ahead than any­body else.”

Kate Downey pro­duced a ver­sion of Shakespeare’s Titus Andron­icus.

Downey, who founded a the­ater com­pany after par­tic­i­pating in the Com­mon­wealth Shake­speare Company’s summer appren­tice pro­gram in 2011, noted that her expe­ri­ence as a the­atre pro­ducer taught her an impor­tant lesson in per­se­ver­ance. 

“It was def­i­nitely an expe­ri­ence where we learned as we went along,” said Downey, who now works as a rehearsal coor­di­nator at the New York City Opera. “I had picked up a lot from my co-​​op with the Actors’ Shake­speare Project. It has a scrappy dynamic that it’s going to make things work no matter what, and I def­i­nitely think we tried to cap­ture that mindset.”

Gasco-​​Wiggin worked within a space that hosts a number of local orga­ni­za­tions, including an after-​​school pro­gram for a pre­dom­i­nantly Puerto Rican com­mu­nity. He was tasked with designing a space that could give back to the com­mu­nity and gen­erate rev­enue and ended up cre­ating a mixed-​​use envi­ron­ment com­prising a café, book­store, and a com­mu­nity art wall.

“It was great to work on a real-​​life idea and get involved with clients out­side of the class­room,” said Gasco-​​Wiggin. “We talked about impor­tant issues and had to come up with ways to tackle each one so we could keep moving forward.”