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UMD students seek to solve cultural problems

One of the groups in the Cultural Entrepreneurship class is presenting on protecting the integrity of the Duluth Temple Opera Block. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

A special group of liberal arts majors at UMD is trying to use the power of business to solve cultural problems as well as turn a profit.

From increasing the interest in newspapers among young people to finding a new use for instant camera prints to saving Duluth's historic Temple Opera Block building, the students will present their solutions for these social challenges as part of their final projects on Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Zeitgeist Theater.

"In this intro class, students learn about the creative cultural economy. They get a feel for what it is, and how it's growing," said Dr. Aparna Katre. "We wanted to present the projects because many of them deal directly with Duluth so we want to get the community engaged in the process."

Katre, who teaches the CUE 1001 "Culture Industry and Creative Economy" class, said the students have been working in teams to create their projects that deal with a problem in the cultural industry domain. Katre says the "culture industry" is split into four categories but the presentations will deal primarily with the art and media industries. This is the first group of students to enroll in the class.

The cultural entrepreneurship program is a part of the College of Liberal Arts dedicated to educating their students with cultural competency, business basics and foreign language education according to

one of the program's founders, Dr. Olaf Kuhlke.

"We started the cultural entrepreneurship program so that our students are prepared not only for work in the cultural world but also to be able to start their own new creative businesses," said Kuhlke, the associate dean of students of the college of liberal arts.

Kuhlke says cultural entrepreneurship is a new concept and the program at UMD is the first of its kind in the country.

Sterling Anderson says his group's project is on revitalizing instant photos like Polaroids.

"We're focusing on the fact that Polaroid photos are one of a kind. When you take a Polaroid photo it's in your actual possession, it's unique," says Anderson.

Anderson's group is presenting Polaroid photos as a solution to our culture's need for instant gratification. Part of their hypothetical plan would be start bringing the cameras back into stores here in Duluth.

"The way I see it cultural entrepreneurism is problem solving and creating a business based around solving a problem. It's making a profit while chasing what you love to do," said Anderson.

Anderson's classmate Chris Owen has a similar viewpoint. His project deals with preserving the cultural and human values fostered by newspapers.

"We focus on figuring out ways to create a newspaper which relates to a younger generation," said Owen.

Owen's part of the project proposes the addition of newspapers to the curriculum in ISD 709 schools. He says it's been interesting to learn about the process of forming new curricula.

Other project subjects include the creation of an innovative ad campaign to assist Mayor Don Ness in increasing Duluth's population, the benefits of the performing arts programs in K-12 schools, and the creation of ideas to preserve the integrity of the Temple Opera Block in Duluth.

The presentations will begin at 4:30 p.m. but the project tables will be on display in the atrium starting at 4 p.m. There will be a panel of judges that will critique each group's presentation. After the presentations, audience members can vote on the best project.

Who: The students of the Cultural Entrepreneurship class

What: Are presenting their final projects

Where: The Zeitgeist Theater 222 E. Superior St.

When: Wednesday Dec. 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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