My Big Tent

In my role as the publisher and co-editor of the only US journal in the field of arts entrepreneurship, Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, I have the opportunity to discuss — and argue with — a wide array of artists and educators working in this field.  This discussion “goes public” at the conference of the Association of Arts Administration Educators conference next month and in the pages of the journal, especially in its introductory article.  There seem to be three broad schools of thought on the topic – 1) arts entrepreneurship is new venture creation in the arts and creative industries, 2) arts entrepreneurship is self-employment of and by artists in their own disciplines, or 3) both, inclusive of all that falls in the middle.

Believing in “the wisdom of the and versus the tyranny of the or,” I fall firmly in school #3. There is the potential for dichotomous conflict — conflict that should be avoided — even in the subtitle of the journal I publish.  “A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts” implies approach #2 – entrepreneurial behavior applied within arts disciplines.   I confess that I didn’t fully realize the philosophical implications of that two letter preposition at the time my co-editor suggested it.  I see this dichotomy too in an article we’re publishing in the next issue, “Infusing Entrepreneurship within Non-business Disciplines.”  This title stands in contrast with my own article of several years ago entitled “Suffusing Entrepreneurship Across Theatre Curricula.”  “Infusing within” versus “Suffusing across” is not merely a rhetorical difference.  It is indicative of the potential conflict facing the discipline as it attempts to define itself as focusing on self-employment for artists or the “universal human action”* that is entrepreneurship.

James Undercofler, who seems to be struggling with this dichotomy in his classroom, shared a useful definition of entrepreneurship, from Richard Green:

“…we understand entrepreneurship to mean the transformation of an idea into an enterprise that creates value—economic, social, cultural, or intellectual…”

maxfields_tent_insideDepending on how one defines “enterprise,” I like this definition because it erects a big tent within which the entire spectrum of arts entrepreneurial activity can exist. I like it too because “value” need not be measured only through the lens of profitability but could be value delivered as social good, cultural richness, or new ideas.  Welcome to my tent…

[UPDATE: In a follow-up post, I offer a reminder that art and artmaking should remain at the center of the big tent]

*See Koppl and Minnitti (2008)

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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2 Responses to My Big Tent

  1. Pingback: Arts Incubators and Theories of the Firm | Creative Infrastructure

  2. Pingback: Keeping Art at the Center | Creative Infrastructure

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