How Brad Bergsbaken, the chair of the Business Department, is helping more students enter the art industry
December 2015—Brad Bergsbaken realizes that not every person who has a passion for art is an artist, which is why he accepted the role as chair of the Business Department. He knows his students are perfect for fulling careers in the arts as gallery owners, theatre directors, museum administrators, sound engineers, and art show coordinators. Here, he shares how he’ll pave the way for students in this program by providing robust professional experiences—on campus and off.
Tell me about your background and how you landed at SFUAD.
I started working as a surgical product designer in Tucson before I earned my bachelor’s degree. That environment taught me to work collaboratively with my colleagues—from marketers and sales directors to surgeons and insurers—by balancing each groups’ needs. When I married in my late 20s and had a child, I realized I had to find my passion. I earned a bachelor’s in economics at Idaho State University and went on to earn my master’s from the University of New Mexico. I soon started teaching at SFUAD and fell in love with an inspiring group of students. The small classes gave me time to explore the subject in depth and tailor the content to the students’ needs.
What type of students do you teach in the Business Department?
Our program is tailored to students who have a love for art and want to be successful in the art community, but aren’t necessarily artists. The program has a strong business core and is taught with students’ eventual careers in mind. For example, in the economics course, students analyze case studies about art markets as well as standard markets so they see the contrast and better understand the art industry.
The cornerstone of our program is our environment: Our university has top-notch programs in a range of artistic disciplines. There are also so many opportunities for students to learn the business aspects of each subfield and apply them. They can easily become assistants at Garson Studios, Greer Garson Theatre, or in our music recording studio.
What experiences do students have in this program?
Students in every other major leave with a portfolio of work. Business students need to have a similar portfolio. They will have internships on campus with our theatre productions, and programs such as Shoot the Stars!™, Artists for Positive Social Change®, and Outdoor Vision Fest®. They can do the accounting for a project, develop marketing campaigns or the strategy for the graphic design, and drive public relations efforts for these events. I want our graduates to be able to walk into a job interview after graduation and show tangible experience from the onset of their time at SFUAD.
Why is understanding arts management essential for every student?
Any time you have brilliance in a specialized field, like fine art, film, creative writing, or performance art, it’s easy to get caught up and not look at the necessity of managing your work. Many of the Business courses are available to every student as electives. Our courses will teach them to negotiate contracts and protect their intellectual property. Having students from every major in our Business courses also creates creative conversations that enhance each course.
How have you connected students with leaders in Santa Fe?
We started the Creative Professionals Series in the spring. Students meet with creative industry leaders in the community in an informal setting, which allows them to ask questions. We’ve worked with individuals such as the executive director of Creative Santa Fe, an independent arts consultant, and the executive/artistic director of the Lensic Performing Arts Center. They rave about the events as much as the students do. We had another series this fall and continue to build new opportunities, like mentorships, into the events.
How can alumni support the department?
There are so many opportunities in Santa Fe. Local leaders in small businesses and galleries want to help by offering internships to provide our students with professional experience. I would be more than happy if local alumni would like to do the same. If you’re not in our region, still consider giving back: We could connect you to a student as a mentor.