Snake in the Suburbs

snake in the suburbsYesterday, I found a dead rattlesnake in the gutter a couple of houses up the street from mine. My first reaction was, “there could be one of those in my own back yard – have to alert the kids and make sure they always have shoes on and are careful where they step.” I posted the picture of the critter on facebook where there was a range of responses from “horrifying” to “snakes and cars-not a good combination” to “the other white meat.” My reaction was definitely on the “horrifying” end of the continuum of reactions. Actually, if I plotted the reactions of my friends on a continuum, an interesting pattern emerges:

Horror/defend yourself! →emotionally neutral →snake empathy → humor

Correlates with:

My immediate neighborhood→nearby urban area → adjacent state → farther away

I think we find correlations like this around policy issues as well. For example, cuts to arts funding. When funds are cut, those most closely affected might have an immediate reaction of panic and assume a defensive posture; those not immediately affected might not even notice; those who don’t realize they are affected may even poke fun at the very concept of arts funding. One of my friends reacted to the dead viper with a suggestion to “cut off the rattle with a shovel; it dries well and makes a great sound.” I like this idea of taking the thing of which you are afraid and re-imagining it to make a musical instrument. When that thing you fear is the forced re-design of an arts organization, it takes great imagination to cut off its tail and make something new. In the heat of the moment, when you’re staring the snake in the eyes, it’s hard to have that kind of imagination (OK – my snake was dead, but it’s a metaphor). I didn’t go back with the shovel to retrieve the rattle but I did manage to check the backyard for unwanted visitors. We seem to be safe…..for now.

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Arts (for) Infrastructure

Photo by Buddy Rogers

Art work on entrance ramp to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Photo by Buddy Rogers for Google Maps

I dropped a friend off at the airport today – airports, along with roads and bridges are what most people think of when they think of infrastructure projects. Driving on the highway near the airport, my friend commented, “They do a really good job here of integrating art into infrastructure.”

When I started Creative Infrastructure about four years ago, it was because I wanted to develop a platform to share “thoughts and ideas about infrastructure for the arts.” Today, as I was reading Jason Shupbach’s piece on the 100 Resilient Cities blog, I recognized that my interest has evolved over the years to include not only “infrastructure for the arts,” but also “arts for infrastructure.” I was fortunate to have had an opportunity last month to sit down with Jamie Bennett and Jamie Hand of ArtPlace America, the creative placemaking consortium. They were explaining their goal of making sure that arts and culture is included in every urban planning process along with utilities, education, transportation, and so on. Arts and culture IS part of the infrastructure of our cities – and also our towns and rural areas — and can/should be at the planning table. Thus is woven the fabric of our communities.

Too often, people (and you know who you are) get bogged down in arguments about intrinsic versus extrinsic benefits of artistic creation and arts participation. Such arguments are not only futile; they are counter-productive. It would be far better to recognize that the relationship between art and infrastructure is a two-way street: the arts need solid infrastructure and the arts are a necessary component of solid infrastructure. AZDOTActually, it’s not just a two-way street; it’s a complicated network of connections that encompass the intrinsic and extrinsic, the economic and the altruistic, the private and the public. If it were easy…well, I wouldn’t need to write about it so much.

(image from AZ Department of Transportation)

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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:

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, and click on the public programming link. Or, register here.

Posted in Arts education, Arts entrepreneurship, arts infrastructure, Culture and democracy, Higher education | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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)

Posted in arts infrastructure, Arts policy, Culture and democracy, Technology and arts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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