Barnett Center Think Tank

Sweet Honey in the Rock

As part of the Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise, graduate students are conducting a case study with acclaimed musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock (above) to create a more entrepreneurial business structure.

For years, generous donor Larry Barnett, an Ohio State alumnus and entertainment industry leader, dreamed of a place at the university where students could not only study and create art, but also master the business and entrepreneurial aspects of the arts.

And that’s exactly what is taking shape at the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise. The center, which opened last year in the renovated Sullivant Hall and was funded by a gift from the Barnetts, is putting programs into place that make his dream a reality.

“We’ve created graduate student think tanks where interdisciplinary groups of students work collaboratively on case studies to solve critical issues in the arts,” said Sonia Manjon, director. “The purpose is to look at specific issues artists are facing in the world, giving students the opportunity to be problem-solvers and to learn what arts entrepreneurship really means.”

The first Think Tank included six students from arts policy, dance and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. They embraced the challenge of creating an entrepreneurial operating structure for Sweet Honey in the Rock, the acclaimed 40-year-old performance ensemble rooted in African-American history and culture.

Through visioning sessions, interviews and collaboration, the group is helping Sweet Honey in the Rock identify and adopt a new business structure. “We want to examine how they are set up as a business, and what their business model is. We want to help them identify their vision, and how to realize it,” Manjon explained.

Gretchen McIntosh, graduate student in arts policy and administration, said the Think Tank is a unique opportunity. “I immediately recognized the value of a collaboration like this,” she said. “The Sweet Honey in the Rock project is especially important because of the group’s history in activism, preservation and community building. As students, we benefit from studying their rich history to inform future success, and we’re offered an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the performing arts industry. For me, this case study offers the chance to hone my arts administration skills.”

Manjon said the Think Tank will continue working with Sweet Honey in the Rock, helping them identify structural options and assisting with a transition plan and implementation.

Additional Think Tanks are being established to work with other organizations, including the King Arts Complex in Columbus.