We’ve Been Warned

Over the past several weeks, as I read of a bill in Oklahoma to ban the teaching of AP US history, an attempt by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker to delete “search for truth” and other central tenets of the Wisconsin Idea from the University of Wisconsin System, and then my own governor’s budget proposal (passed by the majority Republican state legislature) to slash state funding to the state’s K-12 system, community colleges (all the way to $0), and universities, I was reminded of a bit of black humor that made the rounds after Hurricane Katrina.

My feeble summary of the joke is that a pastor hears a hurricane warning on the radio advising he seek shelter and says to himself, “No thanks, if I need help, the Lord will provide.” Then the rains and winds come and his neighbor knocks on the door before she flees offering to give him a ride out of town. “No thanks, if I need help, the Lord will provide,” he replies. The waters start to rise and a man in a rowboat comes by and shouts an offer of assistance to the pastor, surveying the worsening scene from a second story window, but he replies, “No thanks, if I need help, the Lord will provide.” Then, with nowhere to go but up, the pastor climbs onto his roof. A helicopter with a rescue crew lowers a ladder, but the pastor says, “No thanks, if I need help, the Lord will provide.” The pastor dies of exposure and reaches St. Peter at the pearly gates who says, “Why are you here? It’s not your time.” The pastor told him about the horrible storm and how throughout it all he kept his faith that the Lord would provide. St. Peter replied, “We provided a warning on the radio, a helpful neighbor, a man in a rowboat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect and WHY DIDN’T YOU PAY ATTENTION?”

The recent assaults on education at every possible level are our warnings: PAY ATTENTION! First came the culture wars, which resulted in what Bill Ivey calls “a simple idea: if TV, radio, movies, and CDs are scrubbed free of sex and profanity, if government funding never lands on sex or political protest, we’ll be a happier, healthier nation. From comic books to NEA grants, to hip-hop CDs. Cultural content has been exploited by our leadership for political purposes” (Arts, Inc. p. 224). Now, by choking off funding to education, the very quest for knowledge is being exploited for political purposes. George Carlin said it pretty forthrightly:

They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. Thats against their interests.

Thats right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!

You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it,

The “they” Carlin refers to isn’t even the government; it’s the owners of the corporations that control the government through political patronage (c.f. “Citizens United”). And now elected government – where it has been elected to do so – is doing everything it can to make it harder for young people of modest means to access the education a person needs to make thoughtful decisions, to critically examine beliefs and structures, to exercise creativity boldly.

We’ve been warned. Now we need to join with our neighbor, get in that rowboat, and climb into the helicopter. PARTICIPATE in the democratic process. Make your VOICE heard.


For more on the Oklahoma bill to ban AP US History, including efforts to revise it see:




Walker followed up his attack on higher ed with an attack on organized labor:


and more on is education cuts: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/03/18/3634306/students-teachers-brace-scott-walkers-devastating-education-cuts/

For more on the AZ budget bill, see:



(image “Jesus is Coming. Look Busy (George Carlin)” by Bonnie CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Art Not Automated

Draper_Station_parking_payment_kioskUntil a few weeks ago, I would pay a student worker in a kiosk adjacent to the parking ramp where I have a meeting each Friday and have a ticket validated before returning to my car and exiting the garage. The facility changed to an automated system earlier this year and as I passed the empty kiosk with its venetian blind pulled down behind the cash-handling window, I thought about who might now be out of a job because of this latest “advance.” Perhaps it was on my mind because of a snippet of a story I heard this morning on NPR about all of the telephone operators that were fired in the 1930s as AT&T switched over to an automated system.

Technology has steadily displaced human workers, moving workers from manufacturing to service industries. This is a form of progress and for the most part is positive. But if we don’t need the parking lot attendant, or the delivery driver (because of automated drone-executed deliveries), if we don’t need the service sector jobs, what sector will the human move to next?

The arts are not as easily automated as a parking garage. This “inefficiency,” of course, is at the root of “cost disease,” which, in a nutshell refers to the fact that in certain fields (think symphony orchestras) as labor costs rise there is not – nor can there be -a concomitant increase in labor efficiency; technology won’t reduce the number of musicians it takes to perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony live. But it isn’t Baumol’s cost disease that I was thinking about as I considered the displacement of the garage attendant – it was the spiritual dimension of art itself.

Let’s put economics aside for a few minutes. If art is a way of knowing and understanding the world, it is because it connects with humanity at its essence. An artist connects with her/his audience intuitively, emotionally. As hard as the economics of art-making may be [damn! I couldn’t leave it alone], artists cannot be automated out of their work. The bar is raised, however, on creating the authentic connections between people and their world so that that world understands the true value of the arts.

(image: Draper Station parking payment kiosk by An Errant Knight, Creative Commons license (this is a wikimedia commons image and not a picture of the ramp referenced above))

Posted in arts infrastructure, Culture and democracy, Technology and arts | 4 Comments

Creativity and New Venture Creation in the Arts





Creativity and New Venture Creation in the Arts

4th Biennial Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts

(presented in collaboration with the UW-Madison Bolz Center for Arts Administration)

This two day event will allow participants to explore the processes, outcomes, and impacts of new venture creation in the arts through hands-on workshops, speakers, pitch sessions, and research presentations. The 4th Biennial Symposium features a multi-session interactive workshop on creativity led by Elizabeth Long-Lingo, as she guides participants through a process to take an idea from ideation to pitch.

The Symposium will be anchored by keynote speeches from Ruby Lerner, CEO of Creative Capital, and Steven J. Tepper, Dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and will include concurrent sessions on theory, practice, and pedagogy for arts entrepreneurship, creativity, and new venture creation in the arts. Student ventures and research will be showcased in special sessions.

Conference Schedule

Friday May 8

8:00 Registration opens

8:15-9:15 Breakfast and icebreaker: meet your workshop collaborators!

9:15-9:30 Welcome remarks: Linda Essig and Sherry Wagner Henry

9:30-10:00 Opening keynote: Steven Tepper, Dean Herberger Insititute for Design and the Arts

10:15-12:15 Creativity and new venture creation from the ground up

Session 1: Ideation workshop with Elizabeth Long Lingo

12:15-1:15 Lunch with programmed interaction led by Jessica Rajko, arts entrepreneur and Assistant Professor of Dance

1:30-4:30 Concurrent sessions: Workshops and presentations on theory, practice, and pedagogy of arts entrepreneurship

5:00-6:00 Pave incubator pitch showcase and reception

6:30-7:30 Keynote address: Radical Creativity: Why It Matters, What It Takes

Ruby Lerner, Founder and CEO of Creative Capital

Saturday May 9

8:00 Breakfast

8:30-9:30 Bolz center presentations: Impact Research

9:45-11:30 Creativity and new venture creation from the ground up: Breakouts

11:45 – 12:45 Creativity and new venture creation from the ground up session: Pitches

1:00-2:00 Light lunch and closing speaker: Diane Ragsdale

Registration is required for the event. The cost is $125 for the general public; $105 for presenters; and $50 for Arizona State University students. That covers all events on Friday May 8 and Saturday, May 9, including a light breakfast and lunch both days. All events will be held at the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus.

For additional details about the Symposium or to register visit the Pave website at http://pave.asu.edu, and click on the public programming link. Or, register here.

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Art. Science. Data

Grand_star-forming_region_R136_in_NGC_2070_(captured_by_the_Hubble_Space_Telescope)“All data is interesting,” a colleague said to me earlier in the week. “No,” I replied, “I don’t think so.” Not only is not all data interesting, not all data is relevant. There are piles of data being collected about you, me, our city, our country, the global climate, and the larger universe, every second of every day. What makes data interesting is relevancy to some question of importance. One of the many things scientists and artists have in common is that both ask questions of importance. As Andrew Simonet notes in Making Your Life as an Artist, “The scientific method and the artistic process are the two most robust problem-solving methodologies ever developed.” I read this a few days before I cracked open Thomas Piketty’s data rich Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Right there on page 2, Picketty says essentially the same thing, as applied to his particular research question – what causes economic inequality?

Indeed, the novels of Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac paint striking portraits of the distribution of wealth in Britain and France between 1790 and 1830…They grasped the hidden contours of wealth and its inevitable implications…These and other novelists depicted the effects of inequality with a verisimilitude and evocative power that no statistical or theoretical models can match.

Too often (US) society considers science and art to be dichotomous when, in reality, they are the two lenses of the stereo-optic glasses through which we can come to understand the world. There is so much data available; science and art work together to determine whatDolby3d-alt is interesting, what is relevant, and, perhaps, what is beautiful.

(Images: Grand star-forming region R136 in NGC 2070 captured by Hubble Space Telescope; Dolby 3D glasses; both public domain)

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Through the Eyes of My Students 2

Last fall, in response to some blogosphere noise asserting that there was no such thing as arts entrepreneurship, I posted some of my students’ articulations of the construct as written on a course discussion board. This semester, students are reading Andrew Simonet’s downloadable eBook, Making Your Life as an Artist, and for this first assignment, Barry Hessenius’s interview of Aaron Dworkin, a selection from David Cutler’s The Savvy Musician, and a short blog post from Kimberly Bryant on practical thinking for arts entrepreneurs. We spent the first two class sections getting to know oneanother and discussing arts entrepreneurship as an ACTION, an action that positions the artist in relation to society.

Student-generated ideas about arts entrepreneurial action

Student-generated ideas about arts entrepreneurial action

The first discussion prompt for the semester reads: “In our first week, we discussed entrepreneurship as an ACTION. In the first set of readings, Aaron Dworkin serves as an example of a cultural entrepreneur and Andrew Simonet talks about the artist’s “sacred responsibility” to culture.  Drawing on these two concepts and the other reading for this week, describe what it means TO YOU to be an ‘arts entrepreneur.'”

Here are just a few of their responses.

  • Being an arts entrepreneur means that you have an eye for beauty, you are willing to take risks, have the passion to continue doing what it is you love despite any ‘starving artist’ cliché, and the confidence to do whatever it takes to make your craft into a sustainable career path.
  • I think that it’s the artistic entrepreneurs who lead the forefront of contemporary art and culture because they are the ones who strive to do something different. However as the years go by and technology increases, the line between ‘art’ and ‘science’ begins to fade in some contexts and we start to see artistic innovations to serious problems.
  • As arts entrepreneurs we have a much more direct relationship with our auidence than a traditional artist. The traditional artist is free to exspress themselves in isolation; whilst an arts entrepreneur can derivive ideas from self-exspression, self-exspression for its own sake is not their goal. Rather they must find ways to relate their own creative endeavors in such away that they can benifit both themselves and others.
  • To me, an “arts entreprenuer” is someone who creates for them as much as they do for others. When met with failure, an arts entrepenuer learns from this and tweaks their approach, hopeful for success. An arts entrepenuer is bound to be met with adversity time and time again, it’s how he/she reacts to it that makes the likeliness of success a greater or lesser possibility in their future.
  • Unlike an established business that sets the pace of the market an entrepreneur has to latch onto the pace of the market while trying to disrupt it.  This takes action, an entrepreneur does not go into the market doing what has already been done or else they would not be an entrepreneur to begin with.  Having a passion for what you are doing is the right type of entrepreneur and is neccessary to survive through the challenges that will occur.  A passionless venture is not a legacy that an entrepreneur should leave behind.  Being open to outside influence is also important for a start-up because they will need some help along the way, friends can be made and relieve the burden of taking on a project alone.  Lastly, an arts entrepreneur should not go into the venture with the expectation of living a carefree life.  Although the consumption of arts increases the quality of life for its consumers the production of arts and stimulation of a demand for arts is not a carefree way of life and is a culmination of hard work.
  • Andrew Simonet’s correlation between the scientific method and the artistic process broke down an a person’s artistic endeavors well. Aaron Dworkin’s viewpoints on an entrepenuer’s positioning within the arts world made me realize just how important it is to have the right mindset in order to be not only a relevant company (or whatever your art may be) but also a profitable company. The subject of failure was brought up quite frequently in the week’s readings. The topic of failure was basically tackled the same way, in order for any type of success to be found, failure has to be met first. Failure is a necessity. I’ve noticed that for some reason, when seeing another’s success, it is generally pictured as something met with not much struggle. In reality, anything in history that has had success, is due to its prior failures.To me, an “arts entreprenuer” is someone who creates for them as much as they do for others. When met with failure, an arts entrepenuer learns from this and tweaks their approach, hopeful for success. An arts entrepenuer is bound to be met with adversity time and time again, it’s how he/she reacts to it that makes the likeliness of success a greater or lesser possibility in their future. 
Posted in Arts education, Arts entrepreneurship, Higher education | 6 Comments

New Report on Arts Business Training

I’m very proud of some work The Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship has done recently in partnership with the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. One of my graduate students, Mollie Flanagan (the Inaugural Tremaine Fellow in Arts Entrepreneurship) and I have authored a report – really a scan – of field-based arts business training across the US. According to the press release announcing the release of the report,

Report cover“How It’s Being Done: Arts Business Training in the US,” is the result of research conducted in the inaugural year of the Tremaine Foundation Fellowship in Arts Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. …”We commissioned this report to better understand the growth in the types and range of professional practices that are available to artists. When we began funding artist training programs in the mid-90’s, the number of providers could be counted on a single hand. Based on this web scan, we now know that more than 78 organizations are directly empowering artists with the skills needed to survive and thrive with their artistic businesses,” commented Heather Pontonio, Arts Program Director at EHTF. Beyond identifying the programs and organizations that are providing business training specific to the arts, the research also examines how the training is being delivered, and where there are gaps in this training.

The report is available for download online at http://pave.asu.edu under the “Research” tab or by request from either the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship or the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.

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State of Change

Because I teach, research, and blog about arts entrepreneurship, I have to thank The Atlantic for the great year-end gift of a platform on which to build my Creative Infrastructure anniversary post. In an article by literary critic William Deresiewicz and a companion reaction piece by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic has outlined the state of the arts and artists today – that state is a state of change. Although Meyer derides him for doing so, Deresiewicz pretty accurately sums up the last 500 years of art history: the master craftsman of the Renaissance studios evolved into the Romanticized lone genius, then into the mid twentieth century “professional,” and is now evolving again into the entrepreneurial artist.

Deresiewicz thinks this is a bad thing, that in this interactive age, artists will “spend a lot more time looking over their shoulder, trying to figure out what the customer wants rather than what they themselves are seeking to say.” There’s another way to look at this – that in the age of interaction (to use Claire Chase’s term), the artist needs to get to know her audience and community, to find out what that audience or community needs, and to make art that meets that need. Not just what the popular consumer “wants,” but what the audience – the society – needs. I had an interesting talk yesterday with Jim Griffin, former Geffen records director of technology and currently principal consultant at OneHouse, who said that the concept of a “consumer” of the arts is misguided – it’s a one way relationship that uses up that which is consumed. Instead, and I’m paraphrasing, we need to think of the audience for the arts as partners in an ongoing two-way relationship in which art is not consumed, but appreciated. Yes, we are in the age of interaction as well as integration.

Bob Dylan at St. Lawrence University (public domain)

Bob Dylan at St. Lawrence University (public domain)

To achieve that partnership, artists must, quoting Claire Chase, “be willing to change – this is the entrepreneurial act.” Deresiewiscz warns that training student artists to access this change, teaching them to craft a website, to distribute their work, to create across the traditional artistic platforms, may lead to a focus on breath instead of depth; quality will suffer. MacArthur fellow Chase’s artistic quality hasn’t suffered from her embrace of an entrepreneurial approach to art-making and, as Meyer points out, neither did Shakespeare’s. Yes, the times they are a-changin*, Professor Deresiewiccz. Change is scary, change is dangerous, change is uncertain. In the new year, I’ll be plowing ahead to empower artists to not only manage that change, but to make it happen for themselves.

(To find out more about the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, see http://pave.asu.edu)

*”You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.” – Bob Dylan


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