Baseball love

Spring Training

Spring Training

If you know me, you probably know that I’m a baseball fan. It’s a terrific game. People who seriously follow baseball call it their religion, or a mirror for life. People have said the same about theatre and other art forms. Baseball may not be a national obsession (that dubious title probably goes to pro and college football) but it is still a national pastime, and the arts can learn a lot from it.

First of all, baseball is available at the highest professional level almost every day and although it costs more to produce and pay for players in New York and LA (just like the arts) a fan can see the highest level of professionalism in cities as diverse as Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Phoenix. If you can’t see it live, you can access a reasonable facsimile for free or close to free. Children are encouraged to participate from a very young age – not just spectate, but to put on a jersey with a number and hit a ball off a T and run around the bases. I admit that, unfortunately, much of that encouragement goes to boys, but it’s an imperfect world. Even as adults, amateur players can actually play ball, not just spectate (I myself even had a short stint in the Broadway Show League, a co-ed recreational softball league that plays in Central Park). It’s always family friendly and, oh yeah, there’s food. Even my kid’s recreational league had a snack bar staffed by parent volunteers. There are different levels of spectator opportunities – from the luxury box to the bleachers in the major leagues to A, AA, and AAA farm teams where local performers sometimes take to the field between innings. People can even watch the training and the practice.

So, what does my love letter to baseball have to do with the arts? Baseball helps me envision a different kind of place for the arts in America.  I’m imagining an arts ecosystem that involves lifetime participation as well as spectatorship, geographic variety, multiple levels of professionalism and expertise, and, most importantly, arts participation as an everyday pastime, not just something to do on a special occasion.

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An Arts Entrepreneurship Research Query

question markA bright PhD student at another university emailed a question to me in the context of developing a paper he is writing on the emergence of arts entrepreneurship programs in higher ed. Admittedly, my answer addresses his question somewhat indirectly, but responds to it nonetheless.  I share his question and my response:

Some critics and scholars suggest that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, that entrepreneurial learning is not measurable, and that there is no consensus on educational goals. How might the emerging field of arts entrepreneurship education respond to or best address these criticisms?

For arts entrepreneurship to develop as a field or a discipline, it needs to articulate the unique knowledges, theories, and methodologies that define it as a field. Doing so requires research and knowledge-building of that field – not about its place in universities and teaching institutions – but knowledge building and research of arts entrepreneurship practice that then feeds back into the university classrooms and studios where arts entrepreneurship is taught. Academic disciplines are built on the research that unearths, explains and disseminates the unique knowledges, theories, and methodologies of a domain. This goes to explain why there is not consensus on educational goals. There cannot be consensus on learning goals until there is a consensus on what arts entrepreneurship “is.” The literature on arts entrepreneurship is disproportionately weighted with articles about pedagogy and the placement of arts entrepreneurship in higher ed. While these topics are important and I myself have contributed to them, they do not directly advance knowledge-building about arts entrepreneurship itself as a field of practice and inquiry. Research on arts entrepreneurship pedagogy contributes to the knowledge base in the field known as “the scholarship of teaching and learning” and on its placement in higher ed contributes to the discipline of “higher ed administration.”

That having been said, yes, arts entrepreneurship can be taught (in a variety of ways), and the outcomes of that teaching can be measured (in a variety of ways). For example, experiential learning in our arts venture incubator has, thus far, proven effective in increasing student self-efficacy relative to arts entrepreneurial action. (Self-efficacy having been shown to be a predictor of success in entrepreneurial activity writ large.) In the classroom setting we employ a traditional in-class self-assessment of learning objectives based on a five-point Likert scale in which students respond to the degree to which they agree with statements such as “I understand that there are a variety of business structures that can support the arts.” I refer you to a book chapter and an article that directly address the question of how arts entrepreneurship can be taught:

For a related post see: A Landscape of Arts Entrepreneurship Education (and Research Agenda)

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Audience Development Approaches

The first year graduate students in arts management are spending a couple of weeks discussing marketing, audience development, community engagement, and community arts practice.  I drew a couple of quick sketches on the chalkboard – yes, we still have a chalkboard – to explain the difference between a traditional marketing approach and a community engagement approach to developing audience.  Here on a sticky note is a sketch of the traditional approach, in which marketing is used to overcome the inherent inertia between art and audience to connect one with the other – marketing pushes past that inertia to get the two together. marketing approach

In the engagement approach, on the other hand, the art and audience are brought together into one community circle.

community engagement approach

Thoughts?

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Saying “YES!”

Donuts for sharing (flickr user Johnny MrNinja, Creative Commons)

Donuts for sharing (flickr user Johnny MrNinja, Creative Commons)

I wrote a piece last week about saying “no” to unpaid/underpaid artist labor that took off in the inter-webs like a bat out of hell with over 4000 hits/hour at its weekend peak.  I would much rather be remembered as the person who says “YES!” than the person who says “NO!” so offer this follow-up.

Just – or even more – important than knowing when to say “no,” is knowing when and how to say “yes.”  Giving builds community; giving builds friendships; giving builds social capital (although one need not think of it in those terms); giving lifts the spirit of both the giver and receiver.  We may give of our time, we may give of our money, we may give of our things, we may give of our talent.  Related to giving is sharing – we may share knowledge, share food, share an experience (good or bad), without any exchange of material goods.

Sadly, there will be those who take advantage of the generosity of others for their own material gain or, as in the case of the donut company, place little or no value on the talents of others. Maturing as an artist, an artist who wishes to work in the public sphere, to interact with the social system in which we now live, must learn not only the art of making art, but also the art of differentiation.   I wish there were a magic bullet for differentiating between the worthy project and the unworthy, the excellent professional opportunity and the opportunity to be exploited, the worthwhile and the worthless.   No magic bullet, but a few thoughts:

  • Know yourself and what motivates you to make art
  • Have values and principles and let them guide you
  • Love something [with credit to Laura Zabel for the phrase]
  • Do “good” work: work that is excellent, impactful, and ethical [adapted from Howard Gardner]
  • Look around you and ask for help when you need it
  • Always be learning
  • Remember, after Kant, that people are never a means to an end, they are ends themselves – that includes you, the young artist, trying to decide whether or not the unpaid gig is truly a learning and professional development opportunity

Ultimately, as I’ve said before, “no” is an exercise of power, while “yes” is an exercise of empowerment.

Posted in Arts education, Arts entrepreneurship, arts infrastructure, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Just Say NO!

DoughnutA first year graduate student in my arts management class presented a paper this week on arts labor economics.  Her undergrad degree was in acting so she had never delved into the topic formally. She certainly understood through anecdotal observation that there is an imbalance between artist labor supply and artist opportunity and that artists are often paid less than their peers in other fields (to put it mildly).  Among the factors she considered was that artists are often willing to work for low or even no pay because the joy of doing the work is payment enough.   In concluding her presentation, she posed a rhetorical question that I paraphrase here: How can we make this vicious cycle of artist oversupply and underpayment stop?

Following this presentation, I returned to my office and this email:

Hello!

I want to reach out and see if you have any film students that are interested in expanding their portfolio with an opportunity to be our videographer for a day and film one of our [donut company name] Grand Openings! This is a great chance for film students to work with a well-known brand on a one-time project and get some good experience. We feature their work on our official [donut company name] social media pages and possibly on our official website!

As a reward, we give the videographer(s) a dozen free glazed doughnuts every week for an entire year!!! Please let me know if you have any interested candidates.

Note: This particular Grand Opening will be taking place ….. Thank you!

The email was sent to a long list of faculty members at film programs in the region. I hit reply all with the question “What is your pay rate for these skilled services?” To which the “marketing coordinator” replied:

Hi Linda!

Unfortunately, this is a volunteer/intern opportunity.  We will give the student videographer a punch card for a dozen free glazed doughnuts every week for an entire year as a thank you for their time! Hope this helps answer your question!

In addition to the overuse of exclamation points, this response invoked what some uninformed folks think is the key to unlocking the treasure chest of unpaid artist labor: INTERN.  I am a huge supporter of internships as experiential learning opportunities if they are truly that, with clearly delineated learning objectives, supervision by experts, and time limits.  But this was obviously not an internship in that sense.  Seeing a teaching moment, as well as an opportunity to stop the vicious cycle of artist underpayment in some small way, I responded, quoting chapter and verse from  the  Department of Labor rules for determining if an “opportunity” is actually an internship [I highlighted the salient points for her]:

Will there be someone onsite providing education and training? Here are the US Department of Labor rules on unpaid internships:

“There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation.  The Supreme Court has held that the term “suffer or permit to work” cannot be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his or her own interest an employee of another who provides aid or instruction.  This may apply to interns who receive training for their own educational benefit if the training meets certain criteria.  The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.  This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad.”

The response:

No. There will not be. This is a volunteer opportunity. Thank you for sharing this information! Very good information to know!

I posted this exchange on facebook where a friend reminded me of a meme on a similar topic that made the rounds a year or two ago:

Craig’s List Ad: We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More Jazz, Rock, & smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply back ASAP.

Craig’s List Response: Happy new year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restauranteur to come to my house to promote his/her restaurant by making dinner for me and my friends. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get a positive response. More fine dining & exotic meals and mixed Ethnic Fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.

So, one answer to my student’s rhetorical question is “Just say NO.” As in, no, I will not make your donut commercial for free; no, I will not play at your restaurant “for the exposure;” no, you cannot have my painting to hang in your home because your “important” friends will see it; no, I will not paint your set “for the experience.”  What I will do is accept a slightly below market wage because I’m still in school and you’ll get what you pay for; yes, I will play at your restaurant for one night if you provide dinner for my family of six beforehand; yes, I will loan my painting to you for a fixed period of time if I am invited to the cocktail party to meet your important friends; yes, I will paint your set with you so that you can train me on a specialized technique with which I am unfamiliar.  Or, yes! I will gift my talents to you with generosity and an open heart because I love you, your cause, or your work. But no, I will not make your donut commercial for free.  [In a follow-up post, I discuss saying "YES!"]

PS. Can you imagine what eating a dozen donuts every week for a year would do to your body? Yuck! [photo by Angeldm, Creative Commons License]

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Posted in Arts education, Arts entrepreneurship, Higher education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 132 Comments

The Ouroboros Last: Good Business Practices and the Arts

I was honored to be invited to deliver the keynote remarks at the UW-Madison Bolz Center’s Arts Business Research Symposium March 13-14.  I previewed those remarks here and have posted the full text serially over the last several days. The talk was originally titled “Not about the Benjamins: Arts Entrepreneurship Research, Practice, and Education.” Here’s it’s just called “The Ouroboros.” This is part 7, the last.

Before I wrap up, I want to take a little sidebar back to something I mentioned at the beginning – see: the Ouroboros metaphor is even manifest in the structure of this talk – the idea that good business practices support the arts

Slide18

This is true at both the organizational and individual artist level.  That is why, to support good business practices at the individual level, we at Pave are producing something we’re calling “The Arizona Arts Entrepreneur Toolkit.”  Too often, artists don’t have access to the business planning tools they need, or if they do, they are scattered across the Internet and in multiple textbooks, rather than right there in front of them, thus creating a barrier to entry for artists.  Some of the organizations I mentioned earlier, and I think specifically of Springboard for the Arts, provide similar services to their local or regional constituencies; thus our current project is new to Arizona, but, I freely admit, not new in concept.  One of the things we all can continue to do, as these toolkits do and this symposium and the ones we hold biennially at ASU strive to do, is demystify business practices so that individual artists can use them and, yes, exploit them, in the creation of art.

At the organizational level, the arts sector – especially the nonprofit arts sector — needs to be realistic, transparent, and accurate in its reporting.  Arts organizations need to disclose to their boards – and the public – what it really costs to produce and present art. A few companies are starting to do that.  However, I became incensed recently when American Theatre Magazine published an article titled “ZACH Theatre reveals all in its budget for August: Osage County.” The budget that was published was deceptively simple and deceptively low.  In a letter to the editor, also posted as a comment online, I pointed out that the first step toward solvency for an individual theatre or for the sector as a whole is really understanding what it costs to make art happen.  The article may have costed out most of what was visible in the photo that accompanied the article, but like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, the real costs are below the surface. Good, accurate, transparent accounting sounds boring and tedious, but it is a necessary business practice that supports the health of all of the arts.

So, to return to arts venturing and our Ouroboros:  is the creation of a business a means? Or an end?  I remind you of the distinguishing feature of arts business and our Ouroboros.  What distinguishes the arts business from tech businesses or manufacturing?  When it comes to arts-based businesses, it’s not about the Benjamins, it’s about the art.

Slide19

With that provocation, I would like to open the session up for discussion.

If, like the Ouroboros, you would like to return to the beginning, you can do so here or download the full text  with citation.

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Ouroboros 6: Landscape of Arts Entrepreneurship Education (and a research agenda)

I was honored to be invited to deliver the keynote remarks at the UW-Madison Bolz Center’s Arts Business Research Symposium March 13-14.  I previewed those remarks here and am posting the full text serially over the next several days. The talk was originally titled “Not about the Benjamins: Arts Entrepreneurship Research, Practice, and Education.” Here’s it’s just called “The Ouroboros.” This is part 6.

Where is this stuff being taught? And by “this stuff” I mean arts business, and specifically arts entrepreneurship.  There is robust interest within arts disciplines:

Slide14

Music schools have been particularly active in this area.  Eastman School of Music sponsors a business plan competition, for example, and Julliard’s music entrepreneurship program has been widely publicized.  But there are also programs and courses housed in arts management, arts administration, and arts leadership programs that have been around even longer, and they are teaching arts entrepreneurship across disciplines.

Slide15

Individual courses in arts entrepreneurship or arts business are at well over 100 colleges and universities across the country. I thank Jonathan Gangi, now a graduate student at North Carolina State, for putting together a pretty long list of where arts business education is happening.  As one might expect, courses and programs within disciplinary departments or conservatories seem to focus on the “entrepreneurial artist” model while those in business schools tend to focus on the “new venture creation” model. The definition of arts entrepreneurship when taught transdisciplinarily in arts schools seems, and this is only my anecdotal observation, to be most broadly construed.

As an example, one program I’ve studied, housed in a business school, focuses almost exclusively on business ownership – the content of the art is unimportant – while another, housed in an arts conservatory, focuses instead on “new ways of thinking” about artistic production. The program I lead has a transdisciplinary undergraduate certificate in arts entrepreneurship and then an MFA concentration in Arts Entrepreneurship and Management.  There is a broad range or, as I like to put it, a big tent.

maxfields_tent_inside

As arts entrepreneurship develops as an academic field, care needs to be taken to avoid dividing the field into programs that are nurtured within individual arts disciplines versus programs that cross disciplines. I conceive of arts entrepreneurship and arts business education as a transdiscipline.

While arts entrepreneurship and arts business education may be relatively new to academia, it is not new “in the world.”  There is A LOT of arts business education that happens outside of the university or academy setting that has been happening for a long time.  New York Foundation for the Arts has been offering arts business training since the early 1970s and Creative Capital has done so since its inception in the 1990s.  Other organizations like Springboard for the Arts and Art Home mentioned earlier, or the for-profit Institute for Arts Entreprenuership in Chicago also deliver arts business education directly to artists. Some public agencies also provide business training for artists. Montana’s Artrepreneur program is a good example.

What is needed as these educational initiatives move forward – especially within academia — is a connection between the research and the education.  I had a conversation with a colleague about this recently. He is concentrating his research and research dissemination efforts on arts entrepreneurship in the context of higher education. I reminded him that when he trained for his PhD in musicology, he didn’t study musicology in the higher ed context, but rather he studied musicology.  Similarly, if arts entrepreneurship is to move forward in the academy as a discipline of “practice and inquiry” we will need to build up our knowledge of arts entrepreneurship itself so that we are teaching arts entrepreneurship to our students and not merely teaching pedagogy, or teaching people to teach.

Slide17

There are a lot of areas where more research is needed. Here are just a few questions on my mind:

  1. What are the factors that support entrepreneurial (that is, new venture) success in the arts in the for-profit as well as nonprofit sectors?
  2. How effective are arts infrastructure tools like fiscal sponsorship, training, and incubation, in helping individual artists sustain careers? (if somebody could do a longitudinal study to tell us that, it would be terrific)
  3. What entrepreneurial behaviors support success?
  4. And how is arts entrepreneurial success measured – financially? Artistically?

Next installment (the last): good business practices and the arts.

Posted in Arts education, Arts entrepreneurship, arts infrastructure, Higher education | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments