Arts & Culture

UK arts entrepreneurs dive in headfirst at 'Fish Tank'

photo of Fish Tank poster
UK arts entrepreneurs are preparing to pitch their best ideas at "Fish Tank."

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2022) — The University of Kentucky Department of Arts Administration’s fifth annual Fish Tank: Emerging Entrepreneurs in the Arts” pitch competition returns to Awesome Inc in downtown Lexington at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15.  

“Fish Tank” is an annual pitch competition featuring UK arts administration students who have bold ideas for a better future in the arts and are ready to “jump in the tank” and share their ideas with the world. Part of Global Entrepreneurship Week and produced by theLAB, competitors will be judged on the feasibility and sustainability of their projects by esteemed business owners and arts professionals.  

"Throughout the semester my classmates and I have been working diligently to craft and flesh out our business ideas and eventually our business plans,” said H. Toncray, senior arts administration student. “We’ve been hard at work gearing up for our pitch competition at Fish Tank. We are very excited to be able to show our work and ideas to everyone!" 

This year’s panel of judges features Whit Whitaker, executive director of The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center and UK alumnus; Winter Phong, fundraising, community arts practice and engagement, strategic planning, and market research expert and assistant professor of arts administration at UK; and Sal Sanchez, business strategy and leadership consultant and owner of A Cup of Common Wealth, Chocolate Holler and Magic Beans Coffee Roasters. 

“Serving as the event coordinator for Fish Tank as an alumna of the program myself has been really special,” said Chelsea Russell, theatre and arts administration 2021 graduate. “I'm especially excited for Fish Tank 2022, because we will be pitching to the judges live and in-person at Awesome Inc something that we weren't able to do when I was a participant due to COVID-19.”  

After the students pitch their ideas, judges will score based on a set list of criteria, and after each pitch the judges will be able to ask participants follow–up questions on the students’ business plans.  

Russell and Joy Chou, senior arts administration major, recently sat down with WRFL to discuss the event in more detail. “Some of the topics I know will focus on arts access in education, arts access in rural communities, addressing 'imposter syndrome' in the arts and internship structures within the nonprofit arts world. I’m very excited to see what everyone has been working on,” Chou said. “One of the topics I’m very intrigued by is the group focusing on imposter-syndrome. That’s not an issue you immediately think of when you think of the arts and is not something that I’ve heard explored very much.” Hear the full Nov. 3 interview on WRFL here.  

Awesome Inc Fellowship Director and UK Arts Administration Entrepreneur in Residence Keith McMunn will serve as the emcee. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. This year’s Fish Tank is made possible with support from UK’s Gaines Center for the Humanities. To register to attend the event, visit https://jumpinthetank.eventbrite.com/.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.