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.

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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. 
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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 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

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


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It was a bad week for free speech. The most public event was Sony’s cancellation of the release of “The Interview,” Seth Rogan’s satirical movie about a fictional assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Then, the nonprofit theatre community was stunned by the firing of Ari Roth, artistic director of Theatre J, apparently for programming decisions that explored the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than blindly supporting the theatre’s parent organization’s perspective that “the plight of Israelis and the plight of Palestinians simultaneously was no longer welcome in our community centers.” (Theatre J, as are many Jewish theatres, is under the organizational umbrella of Jewish Community Center.) Sixty-one artistic directors co-signed an open letter to the DCJCC clearely articulating why the free circulation of ideas is important:

A free people need a free art; debate, dissent and conflict are at the heart of what makes theater work, and what makes democracy possible.

Also disturbing is another, more tragic, signature event of the last few days: the shooting of two police officers by an apparently mentally man, who indicated he was acting in retaliation for police action against Black people (the officers were not White, but that’s not really part of the story). My concern relative to free speech is the reaction of the police union, which seems to blame peaceful protestors – and the mayor who supported their right to free speech – for the murder of the officers. Police should be defending free speech rights, not criticizing free speech in action.

But I digress. What I am really concerned about here is:



the gradual destruction or diminution of something

We see the erosion of free speech when people or organizations are motivated by money and power rather than the transformative power of art. The DCJCC is the organizational parent for Theatre J and while I don’t know the specifics of their financial relationship, assume the JCC has some control over the theatre’s resources, as it certainly does over its executive staffing. Resources can “buy” speech, as is evidenced by our increasingly monetized electoral system.

The threat of withholding resources can have an equally chilling effect on free speech. Another sad event of the past week is the closing of Actors Theatre of Phoenix. The company’s financial troubles since the 2008 recession have been well documented, but I wonder to what extent they date back even further, to a 2006 production of Albee’s “The Goat: Or, Who is Sylvia” that precipitated the withdrawal of at least one major corporate sponsorship. I applaud Matthew Weiner for not shying away from such material – even in troubled times. But free speech and, most importantly, the ability of art to function as a site of “debate, dissent, and conflict” are eroded when money is used as both a carrot and a stick. The problem with erosion is that eventually, it can lead to a landslide.


Photo by Liz Roll, FEMA (public domain)

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Class. Privilege. Education.

Georgetown_University_entranceEarlier this month, an article on the website of Youngtown State University’s Center for Working-Class Studies struck a cord. The post is written from a faculty member’s perspective and describes the effects of class difference on attitudes toward education among students at Youngtown, a public regional university, and at Georgetown, the private Jesuit liberal arts institution in Washington DC. The author, Sherry Linkon, discusses the different kinds of cultural capital the two groups of students bring to the classroom. The Youngstown students “have first-hand experience with jobs that offer too little dignity or income, and they value higher education because they hope it will give them better choices…Just getting to college feels like an accomplishment for some; doing well sometimes seems out of reach.” The Georgetown students, on the other hand “come to college already steeped in elite culture. In high school, they read and wrote papers about postmodern literature and existential philosophy. They studied multiple languages and took AP courses in half a dozen subjects.”

08-1215-graduation-undergrad-2014spring-ad-147Near the end of her piece, Linkon notes, “For working-class and poverty-class students, college often feels like a site of struggle, while elite students see it as a stage for performance.” During my ten plus years as a faculty member at ASU, my classroom is often a site of such struggle for my students: the single moms who have to keep their cell phones out in case the day care provider calls; the many students who work 40 hour/week jobs while taking 18 credits; the thirty-somethings who are going to college for the first time because they have finally saved up enough to pay even the relatively low in-state tuition; the first generation children of immigrants for whom going to college is as foreign as the language spoken there. I’ve struggled too – especially with designing assessments that are meaningful and rigorous but reasonable for this student body without lowering my high expectations and aspirations for these students.

Due to the tragic and I believe unjustified deaths of several Black young men at the hands of law enforcement recently, the country is finally talking about race again in some meaningful way, including discussion of “White privilege.” My colleague Jason Scott reminded me that class privilege (which often correlates with race, but not always) extends to a kind of educational privilege as well: “It’s not so much realizing the different demands on their time as it is the way in which education has always been presented to them as a necessary task that must be endured – like a low-paying job – rather than an opportunity to blossom as human beings.” Many of our working class students do not have the privilege of viewing education as a means to something beyond a higher paying job; for many that is all it is. Perhaps the best thing that I can do as an educator is to instill in these students the idea that education is a means toward many unknown ends, including both the higher paying job and “the opportunity to blossom as human beings,” rather than a hurdle one is required to jump.Larry_Wade_110_hurdles

Photo of Georgetown University from WikiMedia, GNU Documentation License

Photo of ASU Commencement by Andy Lisle

Photo of hurdler Larry Wade by Flickr user Doublepillar, CC license

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