Book proposal

I’m working on a book proposal – let me know what you think. [Please see the revised proposal instead]

Ouroboros with text

An Ouroboros: Art, Money and Entrepreneurial Action will be a collection of original essays for an interested lay audience that bridges the gap between my scholarly writing for academic publications such as the Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society and popular writing such as that on this blog, Creative Infrastructure. The long form of a book enables me to delve deeply into the relationships between art, innovation, entrepreneurship, and money to explore what is arguably the most critical issue for the arts today: how can an artist make work and live in our late-capitalist society? 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 in the arts economy, their motivations, and the potential outcomes for both individuals and the economic and social systems of which we are all part.

The book’s ten interconnected essays will be presented 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 and from my work as a creative artist. From this dual perspective, I argue that entrepreneurial action leads to positive results for individual artists, yet individual entrepreneurial action may not benefit the “arts sector” writ large. Artists who produce work entrepreneurially either as individuals or collectively will be 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 written previously.

Preliminary Table of Contents


Essay 1: Introduction: An Ouroboros. This essay introduces the Ouroboros as a visual metaphor for the relationship between art, innovation, entrepreneurship, and money and the theoretical constructs undergirding each section. It explains my “dramaturgical” method of analysis and deploys that method to describe the late-capitalist arts economy.


Essay 2: Art and Symbolic meaning. This essay explores non-pecuniary motivations for making work that has impact: the expression of symbolic meaning in which use value is present but secondary. Ana Teresa Fernandez’s “Erasing the Border” is a central case.

Essay 3: Art, Economy, and Control of Production. Drawing on the work of economists from Karl Marx to Richard Caves, the artist is described as someone who makes unique work and maintains control of the means of the production of that work. Visual artist James Turrell and pop band Pomplamoose are cited as examples.


Essay 4: Novelty. Novelty or “newness” can be evidenced in individual works and in and by organizations. This essay begins to connect the individual with the organization and subsequently the economic system along the spectrum of novelty by exploring the differences between the unique and the mass-produced in the arts and culture sector. Museum gift shops are examined at that nexus.

Essay 5: Impact. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, for something to be an innovation it must not only be novel, but also have impact. This essay looks at trends in the social practice of art and how such social practice can sustain artists while making positive change in communities. Examples may include Donna Neuwirth of rural Wisconsin’s WormFarm Institute and the other artists with whom she works.


Essay 6: The Nature of Entrepreneurial Action . This essay looks at examples from across the visual and performing arts to explain how artists create mediating structures that connect their novel and impactful work with their audience and other publics.

Essay 7: Being an Entrepreneurial Artist. Drawing on data collected for “Artist Professional Development Needs” and new interviews, this essay addresses the issue of the sustainability of artist careers. Interviews with artists served by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Arizona Artsworker Program inform the analysis of the entrepreneurial actions being undertaken by individuals.


Essay 8: Abundance and Scarcity. Where are the sources of abundance in the arts economy? We know where there is scarcity, but this essay shifts the perspective from scarcity to abundance by showcasing the ways in which artists have used entrepreneurial action to generate the material resources they need to make their work happen.

Essay 9: Selling Up, not Selling Out. When an artist follows mission rather than money, they can “sell up” instead of “sell out.” In this essay, examples are drawn from community development (for example in Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row district), arts service organizations (such as Springboard for the Arts), and individual artists’ practice, tying together three levels of analysis: system, organization, and individual.


Essay10: A Future Imaginary: Money Feeds Art. This concluding essay connects the tail (money) back to the head (art) within the context of the arts and culture economy as it exists today and how it can be imagined for a sustainable and sustaining creative future.


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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19 Responses to Book proposal

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  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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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