A Short Story of Cultural Bifurcation

I include this short story of cultural bifurcation in one of the essays in An Ouroboros: Art, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action.


In 2014, I traveled to a small rural town in western Washington State to observe an arts incubator that had been launched there in conjunction with an adaptive reuse real estate enterprise. On my second night, after spending a full day with the founder and several loft residents and incubator clients, attending an opening in the gallery space, and eating a communal meal with the mostly Seattle-based artists who were visiting for the opening, I heard Mariachi music playing as I walked back to my cabin. Half a block away, there was a large party in the backyard of a home. A fully costumed Mariachi band was playing and people were dancing. I later asked the city’s mayor to comment on the contrast between the two parties and whether or not there was a connection between the cultural events I observed at the warehouse and the backyard. “Not really,” he responded. He continued, “No, they have their own culture*.” This bifurcation of culture, between Euro-centric “benchmark” events and non-Eurocentric but equally ethnically specific cultural production is another feature of the given conditions encountered by the entrepreneurial artist.

In the rural Washington backyard, there are no observable market forces at work. There is a direct connection between the musicians and the celebrants, dancing and enjoying their community. Arts entrepreneurship is concerned with that essence of the relationship between artist and audience, between the art that is created and its intended community. The action of entrepreneurship occurs when the artist identifies their public and discovers or creates an opportunity to connect their art with that public.

*[I make no comment here on the divisive and potentially racist implications of this statement, but may do so later]

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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