Review is in!

I am delighted to share that Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action has been favorably reviewed by Wen Guo in Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts.* Here are a few excerpts:

“…a remarkable book that, over 196 pages, thoughtfully discusses and demystifies the key issues that make frequent appearances in the burgeoning discourse of arts entrepreneurship as both a scholarly field and creative praxis.”

“Essig integrates her dramaturgical lens and training in stakeholder theory to analyze both contextual and behavioral constructs of arts entrepreneurship phenomenon through the following questions: What is the economic, social, and cultural context for arts entrepreneurship? Who are stakeholders of arts entrepreneurship, and what role do they play in both the phenomenon and discourse of arts entrepreneurship? How are artists and other stakeholders situated and motivated to take action? How can the arts sector and the late-capitalist world be transformed for and through arts entrepreneurship? Most importantly, how do the power dynamics shape the narrative of arts entrepreneurship and the transforming arts sector?”

and my favorite: “I found this book an intellectual delight for scholars, teachers, and artists who want to develop a systemic and comprehensive understanding of arts entrepreneurship as an academic field; a social, economic, and cultural phenomenon; or simply a term full of controversies and possibilities.”

You can secure an e-book of Creative Infrastructures from Intellect Books, or hardcopy from University of Chicago Press or from your local bookseller.

*full disclosure: I am on the editorial board of Artivate but did not participate in any way in the solicitation or editing of this review or any other articles or reviews in the current issue.

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Creative Infrastructures

Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action is now available online or, maybe, at a bookstore near you if you ask for it. Please do. I started these essays in 2017, but many of the ideas first found the light of day on this blog, which launched December 31, 2010. Many thanks to all of you who read, commented, contributed, agreed to be interviewed, or just made good work. Enjoy!

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2021 becomes 2022

It has become my annual ritual for the past 11 years to write a New Year’s Eve blog post, celebrating the launch of Creative Infrastructure on December 31, 2010. But let’s face it – blogs are so last decade…or maybe even the decade before. Both my blogging (this is only the fifth post of the year) and the readership have declined significantly this year (down to about 9000 from a high of over 200,000 in 2014).

Nevertheless, there were some very important milestones and transitions during 2021 worth noting. Quite unexpectedly, I left Los Angeles to return to New York to assume a new position as provost of Baruch College (CUNY). While on its surface this wasn’t because of the pandemic, can any transition in 2021 not have been affected by the pandemic?

Most noteworthy for readers of this blog, was the publication of Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action. Many of the ideas in the book first saw the light of day here on the Creative Infrastructure blog. I started thinking about the book when I developed the ouroboros as a metaphor for arts entrepreneurship for a talk I gave in 2014 and began writing it in earnest in 2017. Despite working full time as an academic dean during the first year of pandemic, there was something about being sequestered and isolated at home that enabled me to finish it. I was working through the essays late in 2020 when I went to pick up the thread on “the next one” only to realize that I had indeed drafted all of them. So off it went to the publisher, from there to the reviewers, and back to me and then the copyeditor, layout editor and so on.

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Author copies arrived earlier this month!

I hope you’ll read it – I poured my heart into it (as well as some real scholarship).

I want to acknowledge those who helped along the way, in this selection from the Prologue:

I am grateful to those interviewed: Jesse Armstrong, Betty Avila, Aaron Landsman, Larron Lardell, Lauren Lee, Sharon Louden (who also introduced me to editor Tim Mitchell), William Powhida, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Gregory Sale, Sarah Sullivan, Beth Ames Swartz, Clifton Taylor, Carlton Turner, Xanthia Walker, and Laura Zabel. These fifteen artists appear throughout the essays. They have been making a living and a life in the arts for five years or fifty, some part of an arts organization and others on their own; I thank them profusely for sharing their time with me and their talents with the world. The interview with Ed Marquand excerpted in Essay Nine was conducted in 2014 as part of a research project entitled “Value Creation by and Evaluation of Arts Incubators.”

The arts entrepreneurship learning journey that began in 2005 was informed by numerous colleagues and artists whom I met along the way through both professional conferences and chance social interaction. I listened to them as well, and they taught me much. Some who have had particular influence on the essays in this book are Kim Abeles, Kiley Arroyo, Laurie Baefsky, Jamie Bennett, Danielle Brazell, Bob Booker, Paul Bonin- Rodriguez, John Borstel, Adrienne Callander, Tom Catlaw, Woong- Jo Chang, Shelley Cohn, Jennifer Cole, Jaime Dempsey, Alexandre Frenette, Jonathan Gangi, Ruby Lopez Harper, Liz Lerman, Bronwyn Mauldin, Porsche McGovern, Jacob Meders, Tim Miller, Ian David Moss, Lauren Pacheco, Mark Rabideau, Diane Ragsdale, Esther Robinson, Michael Rohd, Rey Sepulveda, Gordon Shockley, E. Andrew Taylor, Neville Vakharia, Tatiana Vahan, Scott Waters, Jason White, Margaret Wyszomirski, and the late Sherry Wagner Henry. There are many more; I apologize if your name isn’t included here. During this same period, I launched the Creative Infrastructure blog, from which this collection gets its name and where I worked through many of the ideas that follow. I am grateful for the interactions I have had there with readers, especially Carter Gilles, whose questions and comments, while usually challenging, were always quite thoughtful. My graduate students at ASU have helped me to clarify and articulate my thinking by asking really smart questions. Joanna Guevara and Mollie Flanagan deserve special thanks for their coauthorship of several reports and studies. Some of these were developed with support from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, whose arts program manager, Heather Pontonio, has been an influence on me and the field.

Upon leaving ASU in 2018, I became dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA. I thank Lynn Mahoney, José Luis Alvarado, Jose Gomez, and President Bill Covino for their support of this project. Special thanks go to my assistant, Flora Saavedra- Hernandez, who helped me to carve a few hours a week (some weeks) out of an otherwise packed calendar.

Finally, thank you to my children, Simon and Monica, who grew into adulthood while I was learning, and to my loving partner Glenn, who has admirably sustained his own creative practice as a lighting designer for over thirty years.

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Pre-order now available

I am thrilled to announce that Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action is now available for pre-order.

E-book or UK paper from Intellect Books

US Paperback from University of Chicago Press

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Page Proofs!

I’ll just leave this here.

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Book Update: Publish with Minor Revisions

I wanted to provide an update for my readers who have been following the progress of my book, Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action.

            After some delay, I received a positive reader report from the publisher, Intellect Books. It was all one could hope for: thoughtful and constructive, with a conclusion to “publish with minor revisions.” Those revisions are now underway especially in response to the reader’s suggestion that I address race, class, and equity more directly. It is great feedback that provides a foundation for the revisions I am making now.  

            In short, all is on track for publication later this year!

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Winners, Thought Leaders, and System Change

I just finished reading Anand Giridharadas’ 2018 book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. This isn’t a book review – I don’t do book reviews here – but rather a thought exchange which, according to him, is what public intellectuals do (as opposed to “thought leaders” who don’t exchange ideas with others but rather just expound on them from the TED stage*). His book is both a prompt for and an affirmation of the approach I am taking in Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action. That approach is to admit my complicity with and disentangle myself from what Giridharadas calls “marketworld” and what I and others (such as the brilliant Wendy Brown) call “the neoliberal regime.”

Giridharadas decries the “win-win” approach of social enterprise, impact investing, and big philanthropy because it maintains rather than corrects global economic inequity. Such endeavors treat symptoms rather than change systems. Arts entrepeneurship is itself a way to work through, around, or with this system. While I was happy to be called arts entrepreneurship’s “national exponent” by Bill Deresciwicz in his book Death of the Artist, I was relieved to not have been called its national “proponent,” which would have been quite inaccurate. I now find myself explaining arts entrepreneurship in much the same way Giridharadas explains win-win consulting, thought leadership, and globalism: as trying to relieve the symptoms of an economic and social system inhospitable to artists rather than as a way to change the underlying system.

A young person in my life, much like the person profiled in the first chapter of the book, stopped reading in the middle of chapter two when it became clear to him that the book indicted the perpetrators but didn’t offer any alternatives or solutions. “Where do we go from here?” Giridharadas asks rhetorically in his epilogue. “Somewhere other than where we have been going led by people other than the people who have been leading us,” isn’t much of an answer. I am not a revolutionary – I don’t think we can knock down a system that has been built up over the last 130 years. I am, like many profiled in the book, a pragmatist. How can we make lives better now in ways that don’t further strengthen marketworld systemically or contravene values personally? Giridharadas alludes to a few answers and states one explicitly. The two that jumped out at me (both from Chapter 3, I think) are those that I discuss in my own book: listening and participation. In the end, we all have to commit to the one he makes clear at the very end: “do less harm.”

I write this just 36 hours before the inauguration of the 46th president of the US, Joe Biden. At the very least, Biden appears intent on undoing some of the greatest harms perpetrated in the last four years against the planet (by re-engaging in the Paris Climate Accord) and to immigrants (through executive actions reversing some of his predecessor’s executive actions.) I would prefer he make the kind of system changes Giridharadas (and I) believe are needed, but ten days after an armed insurrection and with close to 400,000 dead in the US from Covid, sticking his finger into the dyke of suffering seems like the right and reasonable action. We can work on the system next month.

* Giridharadas discloses in the acknowledgements that he has been an associate with McKinsey Consulting and spoken from the TED stage not once, but twice. (I have done so from an early TEDx stage myself.)

Image: Systems Thinking clip art, designer unknown, but likely developed for a corporate meeting; used here with irony.

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Tenth Anniversary!!

Each year, I write a New Year’s Eve post, recapping the previous year. But, this isn’t just any New Year’s Eve post, this is the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of Creative Infrastructure! I have posted far less frequently the last couple of years, coincident with accepting my current position as Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA, and also, I think, because blogging just isn’t so much of a thing anymore.

The blog has afforded me the opportunity to work through a lot of ideas related to the arts and entrepreneurship. Now those ideas are synthesized into a collection of essays, Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action, which will be available as an e-book from my publisher, Intellect Books, before the end of 2021.

As I have for nine of the last ten years, I recap some Creative Infrastructure stats:

  • Readership in 2020 was about even with 2019, at just under 10,000 reads
  • There were 6700 unique users
  • Most of those were from the US, but Canada and the UK were second and third
  • I only posted eight times this year (including this post) as opposed to 24 posts in 2019 when I made my online course, Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship, available here for free
  • The most popular topic continues to be, for the third year in a row, a definition of arts incubators and related posts; it is gratifying that the research that consumed five years of my life from 2010-2015 is still of use – or at least of interest. The “Donut Post” on unpaid internships, still remains the single most read post overall.

I hope 2021 will bring an end to the pandemic and with it a recognition that community action is actually more effective at increasing individual well-being than the pursuit of individual interests.  

With gratitude to my readership, I wish you all a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action

Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action is a labor of love, the culmination of fifteen years of ever-evolving thinking, and, now, a manuscript submitted to Intellect Books. A prologue, nine essays, and an epilogue (this last is still in progress); almost 80,000 words; over 400 citations; hours of interviews with artists; a new title. I had to print it out for a final read.

And now…thinking about what’s next.

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Real Estate

All too often, artists who are attentive to the “business” of their creative practice are accused of “selling out.” But for many working artists, that attention to business–to revenue generation, asset accrual, the arts economy—is what enables an artist to not just survive, but to thrive. When artists follow their mission, or organizations theirs, they don’t sell out, they spiral up. As I talked with artists and arts infrastructure leaders about what makes their work sustainable, an unexpected theme emerged: property ownership.

So starts Essay Nine, the last before I complete the speculative fiction of the epilogue. The essay is inspired by two complementary quotes:

Art is a way of survival (Yoko Ono)

I had a dream. My father had just died, and in my dream … I called my Dad and I said, “Should I give up my art?” He said, “No. Don’t give up your art, but keep the house.” (Beth Ames Swartz)

Another update: after consulting with my editor from Intellect Books, the title of the book now aligns with this blog, where I tried out so many of my ideas:

Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action

Inspiration for Essay Nine
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