Book proposal

I’m working on a book proposal – let me know what you think.

Ouroboros with textAn Ouroboros: Art, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action. The long form of a book will enable me to delve deeply into the relationships between art, innovation, entrepreneurship, and money to develop an argument that gets to the heart of what is arguably the most critical issue for the arts today: how can an artists make work and live in our late-capitalist society? The Ouroboros, the serpent eating its own tail, is a visual metaphor deployed to shift commonly held perspectives on, especially, the relationship between art and money. Art is the head; money is the tail, feeding and nourishing the head in a cycle that enables the organism to not only survive but also thrive. In essence, my thesis is that money does not sully art — it feeds it. Between the art and the money is the body: innovation and entrepreneurship. I employ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of innovation: a novel idea that is implemented and has impact on a domain. Is that not what the artist does: create something new and unique that has impact? Entrepreneurship is conceived as the discovery or creation of a mediating structure that can convert the artistic innovation into money so that the money can be re-invested in the artist and the making of more art.

I approach the study of art not through the lenses of history and criticism but rather as an artist (my MFA is in Design for Stage and Screen) and policy analyst (my PhD is in Public Administration and Policy). As such, I approach my analysis dramaturgically, assessing the given conditions, the setting, the actors (i.e., “characters”) in the arts economy, their motivations, and potential outcomes for both individuals and the economic social system of which we are all part. The book’s ten interconnected essays in four sections corresponding to the head, torso, belly, and tail of the Ouroboros: Art, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Money. The essays draw on my ten years of research, practice, and teaching in the nascent field of arts entrepreneurship to argue that entrepreneurial action leads to positive results for individual artists, but individual entrepreneurial action may not benefit the “arts sector” writ large. Artists who produce work entrepreneurially either as individuals or collectively are deployed as case study examples in each essay. Other data undergirding the essays comes from research conducted on artists’ professional development needs and on arts incubation practices about which I have previously written.

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is director of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programs at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, including its award-winning arts entrepreneurship program, Pave: The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of ASU. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix and "like" the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship at Find Pave's journal, Artivate, at
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10 Responses to Book proposal

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  5. Man Cheung says:

    We have been struggling for that serpent for a long time, balancing the need for earning money vs the creation of theatre in an educational context. Education at least provides some kind of stable platform through which policy makers and financial controllers can justify arts spending. We are attempting to launch into developing more theatre and it is a real challenge to build audience and find financial support.. The deeper we are in education the more we are shunned by the “professional” arts community and the boards who provide necessary grants for any theatre to thrive. If we move away from education then our reach drops right off and we can’t connect with nearly as many young artists as we can now. I’m sure this is a common theme you come across on a regular basis.

  6. inannagram says:

    Ah, okay. I love the idea of a dramaturgical exploration. Are your essays already written, or are you submitting a proposed TOC/outline with sample chapters? Either way, if I were evaluating your proposal I’d want to know whether your content is mostly analytical or if you offer recommendations or possible courses of action for further development. Recommendations derived from your case studies and/or broader analysis might make for an easier deal, since publishing (especially NF) is so sales oriented these days; but that certainly doesn’t mean that you need to take a self-help approach. Perhaps you could just emphasize the benefits or potential benefits to more specific subsets of your general intended audience, such as: artists themselves (who may be fearful that an entrepreneurial approach means selling out, or flailing on their own in trying to figure out how to be entrepreneurial in their approach to the business side of their work); arts sector professionals in more supporting roles, either for-profit or nonprofit, who can translate your findings into more beneficial practices or programming; grantmakers or potential investors, who may wish to broaden their perspective or become more proactive in seeking out entrepreneurial artists or even developing opportunities for artist entrepreneurship.

  7. inannagram says:

    What a fascinating metaphor you’ve come up with…and an important topic. May I ask what audience you’re writing for (academic, lay artists, some other target demographic)?

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