A Publication of WTVP

Fostering entrepreneurialism and innovation with hands-on internshipsfor local students…

All communities and organizations continue to address the global recession by building on their assets in ways unique to their geographic region. For businesses to grow and develop, knowledgeable workers are essential, including those with a background in the arts. By utilizing young professionals proficient in art and design, businesses can foster the kinds of skills necessary to identify and create new products and services that accelerate innovation, regardless of the industry or economic sector.

Economic development happens through many different avenues, as long as there is a diverse workplace to support growth. Various studies have shown the inclusion of individuals with artistic skills in the workforce—more specifically, those who possess the abilities honed in the creative process taught in the college of arts—are becoming increasingly important in all industries. By using imaginative designers to address consumer needs and make products more user-friendly, companies can improve aspects of business ranging from product development to advertising practices.

Putting Knowledge Into Practice
With their ability to identify creative enterprises that can benefit all types of organizations, graduates with Bachelor of Arts degrees can contribute useful insight in product and service development and marketing. The remaining piece of the puzzle is the need to put knowledge into practice via hands-on experience. Through its internship program, the Peoria Art Guild provides an opportunity to link the arts to technology and beyond, teaching lessons that can assist in problem resolution and team building, as well as knowing when and how to address issues in day-to-day operations.

When participants begin their internships, they are educated in the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Peoria Art Guild, as well as other arts organizations in the region. Based on this analysis, students are challenged to identify and craft strategies to promote the growth and profitability of the organization: developing new business models, identifying action plans, assigning responsible parties, and executing evaluation processes. This opportunity reinforces the analytical knowledge learned in the classroom by placing students in a business setting where they can learn managerial techniques and improve their presentation skills.

In addition, the internship program allows for staff and students to review the art industry, both at the local and national level, in order to identify opportunities to maintain the organization’s relevancy and competitive edge. Interns are continuously evaluating competitors’ efforts and best practices while keeping the organization’s strategic plan at the forefront of their proposals.

The competitive analysis portion of the internship program has proven beneficial to the Peoria Art Guild, as one can see in the national ranking of the Fine Art Fair. It provides time for staff to work with students to address all areas of the event and determine ways to improve it, a strategy that has attracted national attention, ranking the Fine Art Fair among the top 100 fairs in the country.

Diverse Backgrounds Welcome
The internship program is not limited to students with Bachelor of Arts degrees; undergraduates in marketing, accounting and business administration are also welcome. By encompassing students from a variety of backgrounds, issues can be addressed from different perspectives. Each student brings a unique skill set to the table and must learn to have his or her questions, comments and concerns be heard without dominating the overall project. This team effort enables students to work towards an overall objective, while understanding and improving day-to-day operations. Lessons learned through this model are easily translated into a corporate setting, as they encourage creative thinking and implementation. A secondary objective is to create a “think tank” environment for students of diverse backgrounds, so they can learn the dynamics of today’s workforce.

As technological innovation and global markets create new and unpredictable opportunities for individual businesses and entire industries, the Peoria Art Guild is utilizing social media and other technologies to promote art education efforts far beyond the boundaries of Peoria, Illinois. Interns keep staff up to date on the latest high-tech trends to identify creative strategies for growth that might positively impact the organization.

The results of the internship program are two-fold. The Peoria Art Guild helps create a more diverse workforce by offering students hands-on experience while continuing the growth and development of the organization. By building on current assets, such as our local universities, the Peoria Art Guild is fostering an environment friendly to entrepreneurial activities and product and service innovation. iBi

Beth Reusch is executive director of the Peoria Art Guild. For more information, visit