The Ouroboros 3: A Field of Practice and Inquiry

I was honored to be invited to deliver the keynote remarks at the UW-Madison Bolz Center’s Arts Business Research Symposium March 13-14.  I previewed those remarks here and am posting the full text serially over the next several days. The talk was originally titled “Not about the Benjamins: Arts Entrepreneurship Research, Practice, and Education.” Here’s it’s just called “The Ouroboros.” This is part 3.

My students begin their entrepreneurial journey by looking for opportunities in their own communities; by assessing the needs and wants there – where they live.  The arts venture that results from that assessment can meet the needs of both the community and artist in a different kind of bi-directional relationship:


THIS is how business helps the arts: by the creation of ventures that meet both the needs of artists and the needs of communities and by good business practices employed by both individual artists and organizations that connect artistic innovation with money so that money can feed the artistic process, connecting art to audience.

There’s a long history of thought around the idea that money will taint art.  Immanuel Kant said that the aesthetic is an end in itself – and I agree.  But Adorno said that art as commercial entertainment is suppressive and Hans Haake made a bit of a fuss when he said that when artists participate in galleryexhibitions, they trade their aesthetic and symbolic capital for financial capital.  But when we see money as nourishing art, as the product of arts entrepreneurship feeding the making of art itself, which is an end unto itself as Kant said, then that taint is diminished if not done away with all together  — money is not the ends, it is the means.  In arts entrepreneurship, It is not about the Benjamins.

In that introductory Artivate article I mentioned earlier, I posit a summary of arts entrepreneurship as a field of inquiry and practice that I add to a bit now, 18 months later. And, being trained in social science as well as artistic practice, create a 2X2 grid

Slide10 The “practice” column encompasses both practice in the field and what might be taught, while the “inquiry” column refers to research and to pedagogy (how practice is taught). The y-axis is the continuum of arts entpreneurship discussed previously.  It is not all-inclusive, but illustrative of what could happen and, perhaps most importantly, where more research is needed. 

But what IS happening? In Research, Teaching, and Practice? In the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, we’ve been working across all three of these areas since 2006 so in the next installment I’ll be using examples from the work we’ve done there as well as bringing in examples nationally to start to see what this landscape looks like.

For an inventory and analysis of the arts entrepreneurship landscape in higher education, you can download our 2016 report commissioned by the Alliance the Arts in Research Universities:

NEXT: A Landscape of Arts Entrepreneurship Research

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 The Ouroboros 3: A Field of Practice and Inquiry

  1. Pingback: The Ouroboros 2: What IS arts entrepreneurship anyway? | Creative Infrastructure

  2. Pingback: The Ouroboros 4: Landscape of Arts Entrepreneurship Research | Creative Infrastructure

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