An earlier post introduced my observation of a Mariachi band playing in the backyard of a home in a rural western Washington town and the direct connection being made 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 through an appropriate mediating structure. But for the artist to truly be entrepreneurial requires them to also create that mediating structure, not merely make use of a structure designed and created by others. This distinction was clarified for me when I attended a “porchfest,” a community music festival in which local residents donate their porches so musicians, most from the local community or surrounding region, can perform on them for an audience of community members.
The connection between performer and audience is as direct here as was the Mariachi band’s in western Washington, but the porchfest artists do not create the mediating structure. The work of connecting the audience to the festival is done by a pre-existing community organization, a historic preservation district, or even the local municipality. A few of the performing groups are more entrepreneurial than others, using the porchfest opportunity as a resource, setting up a point-of-sale operation for professionally produced recordings, thus controlling their means of distribution. Most, however, would not consider themselves professional musicians, let alone entrepreneurial artists. But on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, listening to everything from blues to bluegrass, most people weren’t thinking about “mediating structures”; they were just enjoying the music and the company of neighbors.