Willingness

You may have heard about the recent late winter storm that rocked the east coast. Thanks to that storm, I was stranded in Washington DC in between a meeting of the RUPRI/NEA Rural Cultural Wealth Research Lab and the Mike Curb MA in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership Field Experience class trip to NYC. This unexpected extra night in DC afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with a dear friend who happens to be the Properties Director at Arena Stage.

Over dinner, Monique and I got to talking about collaboration. Then she said:

Collaboration is the WILLINGNESS to sit in darkness together.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 4.58.58 PMMic drop. What a great way to think about artists’ collaboration. Being a theatre artist, she meant it both literally (she and I spent a lot of time sitting in darkness together at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in the early 1990s) as well as figuratively. Collaboration requires a kind of mindset, a WILLINGNESS, that is intentional, open, and non-judgmental. Finding companies and “company” where that kind of collaboration happens consistently is rare in my experience. I have seen a director throw a chair across a room, a choreographer get up in the face of a student and stare her down, a faculty member shout down a colleague for no apparent reason other than as an exercise of intimidation. When artists behave in this way they are not collaborating; they are asserting power. In collaboration, even when power differentials exist (and they always do) all the participants enter the darkness together and willingly.

In my arts entrepreneurship classes, we often talk about “uncertainty.” In a way, entrepreneurship, like collaboration, requires a willingness to sit in darkness, hopefully together, but maybe alone, navigating the uncertain with the limited information at hand. Despite the distance of years (it had been four since we last saw each other), Monique and I were able to sit together, willingly sharing our experiences, not in darkness, but in the light of a lifelong friendship.

(photo: Plymouth Theatre; photographer unknown; public domain)

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Sharing and Value

I continue to explore, somewhat casually and, unfortunately, intermittently, the concept of “sharing” and what it could mean to have a true “sharing economy” for the arts. As part of that exploration, I am reading Arjo Klamer’s Doing the Right Thing: A Value Based Economy. In it, he differentiates between “willingness to pay,” a familiar concept in both economics and market research, and “willingness to contribute.” “Willingness to pay” is a concept of exchange in which something of value (a private good) is traded for something of value (a currency of some kind). “In the case of willingness to contribute, the expectation is that the contribution will add values to a shared good” (Klamer, 2017, p. 88).

If we consider that artist and audience co-create the value of art, then we begin to value the role of the audience and begin to conceive of art not as a private good, or even a public good (per Samuelson) but as a “shared good.” A “consumer” is antithetical to the concept of a shared good because a consumer reduces the value of a good through her very consumption of it (think of ice cream here or a car, which depreciates with every mile driven). [Sidenote: If we consider knowledge to be a shared good, as Klamer does, then the student-as-consumer model of higher education falls apart, as well it should; students and faculty co-create knowledge and understanding.]

Seymour_Joseph_Guy_-_Knowledge_is_Power

[Shared] Knowledge is Power by Seymour Joseph Guy

But an artist creates work and wants to sell it to support the creation of more work (and the material needs of her life). Is such work — the product of an artist’s mind and labor — a shared good? Not yet; for this reason I can’t buy Klamer’s argument wholesale. But, as I am beginning to understand, the value of that work — its exchange value, its social value, and even its aesthetic value — is enhanced by the participation of the audience. So, it’s not that the audience co-created the work itself, but the audience, through participation, collection, attendance, co-creates the work’s value as a shared good.

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Look Around, Look Around

After telling a story to my undergraduate arts entrepreneurship seminar yesterday, one student said, “that would make a good blog post.” So….here it is.

First, the set-up: One of several objectives for this course is to help students increase their capacity to recognize opportunities, especially opportunities for creative action. In week three of the semester, I noticed that the students in the class always took the same seats around the conference table. I invited them (OK…required them) to move to different seats so that they could get a new perspective on the room, perhaps inspiring new creative thoughts. On more than one occasion since, a student has remarked upon entering the room, “I don’t know where to sit…” “Sit wherever you like,” I reply.

What do we miss when we always sit in the same seat?

The story: I went for a long afternoon walk this past weekend. The weather was extraordinarily nice, even by February-in-Phoenix standards. I was bopping along the sidewalk, the soundtrack from Hamilton playing through my earbuds as I passed the local middle school athletic fields. 50 yards or so in front me, a father and daughter are looking up and excitedly pointing at something behind and above me. I turned my head to the right and didn’t see anything. I was getting closer to them and their excitement seemed to be growing, so I turned fully around, and there, about 100 feet in the air and somewhat behind me, a hang-glider was floating down to the ground for a landing in the field. hanggliderI live near an (urban) mountain preserve and there are frequently hang-gliders on beautiful Sunday afternoons, but they usually land in the designated landing area. The pilot had overshot by about a ¼ mile – but found an opportunity to land and took it. I never would have known had I not turned around when a neighbor pointed at the sky behind me. We don’t always have someone pointing the way to an opportunity, but when we do, take a minute to turn around and find it!

As Eliza Schuyler sings it: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

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Thoughts While Waiting for a Plane: Value and Values

“Value” and “values” are such loaded words. Because the various concepts of both are top of mind as I teach arts entrepreneurship to a variety of student constituencies this semester, I’ve written several times recently about “values,” those ethical concepts that guide decision-making, as well as “value” derived from consumption or ownership. We talk about use value, hedonic value, aesthetic value, and, of course, market value, the only type of value for which price is an accurate proxy. I’m at the same time in the middle of reading Arko Klamer’s new-ish book, Doing the Right Thing: A Value-Based Economy. Until I dug into this book, I had kept separate the two types of “values,” but he is helping me see their connections. Ultimately, what we value is what is important to us. And “value,” as an unspecified quantity, is a measure of the degree to which something (an object, an experience, a relationship, or a concept that undergirds decision-making) is important to me.

When I was getting my MFA in stage design, we learned about another kind of “value” – brightness — and that high value contrast (think bright vs. dark) would create visual interest and draw attention on stage. Perhaps I find the concept of “value” in their ethical and economic senses so fascinating because their contrast creates interest.

800px-Gray_scale

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Bread and Bitcoin

“Bread is the staff of life,” or so the saying goes. When I was studying lighting design at NYU, my teacher there, Arden Fingerhut (who became my dearest mentor and friend), would ask students to bake something to bring in to class. She explained that she did this because lighting design was the most abstract of the theatre design elements: costume designers had tangible sketches; set designers had physical models; but we lighting designers had only concepts and ideas and analogies. We didn’t actually produce our work until we were in the theatre, which we did only once or twice in our graduate course of study. So, she reasoned, bringing in some baked item, something we had actually made and could touch and taste, would make us feel that we had really made something of value when all we had to bring to class otherwise was a “concept paper” and some chalk marks on black paper (it was the early 1980s, long before computer visualizations of lighting were commonplace).

Fast-forward a few decades, and I am teaching graduate seminars in which I sometimes bake for the class or invite (but don’t require) students to do the same. I do this for a somewhat different reason than Arden articulated: to build community by sharing and for the hedonic effect that fresh baked anything produces. “Sharing” has been a blog topic here several times over the last few months as I think about alternative currencies for arts and culture.

There’s an easy bread recipe I use, and the bread has been a real favorite of my current group of graduate students, gobbled up swiftly and with more gusto than sweeter dessert-type baked items. I brought a loaf in to my graduate arts entrepreneurship seminar today, paired with butter that my dean, Steven J. Tepper, had churned and made into holiday gifts for his team. We did eventually get around to a discussion of alternate currencies – specifically crypto currency like bitcoin — and how its use was riskier than that of other currencies because, as I put it, “I can’t walk into the Safeway on the corner and buy a loaf of bread with bitcoin.” There was a wide range of opinion about the use of crypto-currencies and I look forward to learning more about the concept. Even though I can’t use bitcoin to buy bread in the local supermarket, if you want to gift me a bit-coin, I will ship you a loaf of my bread! Or if you prefer, you can bake it yourself – but please share it if you do.

LINDA’S NO-KNEAD BREAD RECIPE: 

The most important component of this bread is TIME – it does not require skill. If I start the bread early Friday morning, It’s ready for a late breakfast on Saturday. If I start it Monday night, I can bake it Tuesday night and bring it in for my grad seminar on Wednesday.

You’ll need 24-30 hours.

You will also need a large mixing bowl and a cast iron Dutch oven

dutch oven

  • 4 cups of WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR (King Arthur or Kroger brands are good)
  • 2 cups of UNBLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR
  • 1 TBS of salt
  • ½ tsp of active dry yeast (not the fast rising kind)
  • 3 cups of water
  • Some cooking spray and a sprinkle of oatmeal or cornmeal for the bottom of the pan

Mix the flours, salt, and yeast together.  Add the water and mix together well to form a wet dough. You don’t need to knead. Cover with plastic wrap and put aside in a cabinet or closet. (I put a cutting board on top to keep the plastic wrap on.) Let it sit undisturbed for 20-24 hours.

After this time has passed, punch down and knead a few times – not much is necessary, but if you can actually see some raw flour in the mix, make sure it gets incorporated. Let it sit (covered) for another 2-4 hours.

Put the Dutch oven in the regular oven and preheat both to 450 degrees.

Spray some cooking spray in the pan, sprinkle some oatmeal or cornmeal on the bottom (don’t cover the whole bottom – this is so the dough lifts up and gets some air circulating under it), pour in the dough (it will be wet and gloppy) and bake it COVERED for 30 minutes; remove the cover and bake an additional 18-20 minutes. It should pop right out; cool on a rack. It should look something like this:

bread

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#Resistance Values

When I start teaching a new semester of arts entrepreneurship or cultural leadership with graduate students or advanced undergraduates, I usually have them do an examination of their own values so that they can consciously consider the values that drive their decision-making. This year in my arts entrepreneurship courses (an undergrad seminar, a graduate seminar, and a venture incubation workshop) the exercise included a prompt that seemed to initiate even deeper thought. Reading aloud from Arjo Klamer’s new book, Doing the Right Thing: A Value Based Economy (Ubiquity Press, 2017) got us thinking about how our values directly impact our economic behavior. He writes:

If you embrace the idea that what we do, or what organizations or governments do, is ultimately the realization of values, you will have to recognize with me that the standard economic models of rational behavior do not suffice. The realization of values calls for something like phronesis, or practical wisdom.

and

When doing the right thing, people strive to realize their values. That is, they need to be aware of what those values are and then, by interacting with others, by producing, buying, selling, socializing or conversing, they try to make those values real. This perspective contrasts with the focus on preferences and utility maximization in standard economics.

Values can evolve over time, so I undertake the self-examination along with the students. “Honesty” is usually close to the top for me, along with “usefulness,” “empathy,” and for the past five years I’ve also come to understand “love” as a core value as well.  On Wednesday 1/10, my top five in order were 1-Usefulness, 2-Empathy, 3-Honesty, 4-Love, and 5-Justice. Then on Thursday 1/11/18, the President of the United States displayed his utter lack of all of these in strong and vulgar terms. The contrast between the values I believe a good leader possesses and those he exhibits in words and action is so strong that I felt an intense need to draw a starker contrast by the time I got around to the third exercise in class on Friday. My list therefore took on a different order: 1-Justice, 2-Empathy, 3-Integrity (replacing “Honesty”, “Integrity” has the additional implication of morality and uprightness – both of which the President lacks), and then 4-Usefulness, and 5-Love.

valuesLike Klamer, I embrace the idea that what we do, or what organizations or governments do, is ultimately the realization of values. My personal mission moving forward, what I will strive to do every day, is to make my values of Justice, Empathy, Integrity, Usefulness, and Love real for me and for those I interact with. Klamer offers an ideal of a value-based economy, but we can only achieve that if we live a values-based life.

Note: If you would like to do a value sorting exercise yourself, you can do an online version designed by The Good Work Project or you can download my set of “Values Cards” here: Values cards. Print them, cut out the cards, and begin by picking out the ten that are most important to you. From there, rank the top five. Save them, and think about how you realize them “by interacting with others, by producing, buying, selling, socializing or conversing.”

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Top 5 Creative Infrastructure Posts of 2017

ULI panel Pacoima

A panel convened by Urban Land Institute-LA to assist Pacoima Beautiful and LA Department of Cultural Affairs in arts incubator plan

#1. For the second year in a row, a short piece defining arts incubators was the most popular post on Creative Infrastructure. I first posted “What is an ‘Arts Incubator’?” in 2013 early in my research on the topic, but the post has gained in popularity year after year; thousands read it in 2017. My publicly viewable posts on the topic of arts incubators, unlike my formal scholarship on the subject found behind publisher paywalls, led to both formal and informal consulting engagements with communities or cities interested in setting up arts incubation programs. A journal article summarizing my research findings will be published next month in the International Journal of Arts Management; the link to “Value Creation and Evaluation in US Arts Venture Incubators: A Cross-case Analysis” will be posted here when it is available.#2. The second most popular post in 2017 is most popular overall: “Just Say NO!” is my advice to young people with specialized skills and equipment asked to take on unpaid work under the guise of an “internship.” It has been viewed almost 200,000 times.

#3. Another definitional post, “What is the Arts and Culture Sector?” was also quite popular in 2017. This post is drawn from a longer scholarly article, “Means and Ends: A Theory Framework for Understanding Entrepreneurship in the US Arts and Culture Sector,” which was published in the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society.  

mv5bmzuzndm2nzm2mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwntm3ntg4ote-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_#4. La La Land was a popular movie in 2017, and so was my critique of it, “La La Land of Broken Dreams.” I felt the movie did a tremendous disservice to young artists and performers by re-mythologizing what it means to “make it” as a professional artist.

#5. Rounding out the top five is another early arts incubator piece, a teaser for what would become a formal article in Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society: “Arts Incubators: A Typology.” The blog post shares results of some early field scanning, “Arts Incubators: 47 and Counting.” The arts incubator landscape has shifted around since this work started in 2013, but I hope to have made some contribution to the field’s understanding of what arts incubators are, what they can do, and perhaps most importantly, what they can’t do.

I give my own honorable mention to a post about workplace sexual assault. “Un-bully-able” was also written in 2013, but I decided at the time to password protect it and only share it with friends. Thanks to the heroines of the #MeToo movement, I felt empowered enough – and safe enough – to share it publicly a couple of months ago.

Ouroboros with textDuring 2017, I started teasing out small pieces of a book that I’m working on, putting paragraphs out into the blogosphere for your feedback along the way. I hope you’ll continue to read and respond as I continue to develop that project.

2017: that’s a wrap!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

new year cork

Illustration used for my very first CI post published New Year’s Eve 2011

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