Entrepreneurship Beyond “Market?”

Matthew Clinton Sekellik deserves a more considered response to his recent Howlround post, “Against Entrepreneurship,” than I provided in a brief (and admittedly slapdash) comment on it. Because I get it, I really do. “Entrepreneurship” seems in many contexts to be – and in some cases is – an ideological tool to excuse the lack of public funding for the arts and to justify a kind of social Darwinism in which only the “entrepreneurial” survive.

Sekellik’s post is predicated on the idea that the capital markets are unfair, and I agree. How can we make the market more fair? One way is through public subsidy; that is what public subsidy is designed at least in part to do: to correct the inherent market failure in a given sector.


Free beer at Art Basel Miami. Photo by Jakob Fenger, CC 2.0.

Sekellik uses Uber drivers as an example of people trying to make it in a gig economy from which only the corporation, Uber, profits; the drivers themselves are exploited. But Uber drivers are not entrepreneurs; they are contract workers. Unlike artists who create a unique product and send it into the world, Uber drivers pick people up and drop them off.

What if we separate entrepreneurship from “the market” all together? To be an entrepreneur means to:

  • create something new, something of value: aesthetic value, cultural value, social value, or, maybe, financial value
  • recognize or create opportunity to create that something new
  • make use of both internal resources (knowledge, skills, ability) and external resources (social connections, money, facilities, partnership) to create that something new
  • create a structure or process for connecting that something new its audience
  • start all over again if things go wrong – or if things go right – to keep making

These behaviors exist in non-capitalist economies and capitalist economies. In our own late capitalist economy, such behaviors can generate income that can be reinvested in the making of more art.

But is it enough income? Sekellik writes:

What we must demand is our fair share: wages, jobs, pensions, health care. We must demand dignity and respect so that the capitalists and entrepreneurs who think our work worthless must recognize our contributions to civic society. And we must ensure our demands our heard.

I couldn’t agree more. Our work as artists, playwrights, lighting designers, musicians… should be valued and compensated. But working as a freelancer, as Seth Godin recently pointed out, is not the same as being an entrepreneur and although I quibble with Godin’s focus on the financial goal of a profitable “harvest,” his distinction between the two is important. As freelancers, we must demand equitable pay for freelance work. As artists putting new work into the world, we have to be willing to take risks and may need to bundle our entrepreneurial and freelance work together; that’s not neoliberalism, it’s pragmatism.

Ultimately, it’s really hard to make a living as an artist. It’s also really hard to make a living as a public elementary school teacher (many of whom work second jobs as Uber drivers). Both artists and teachers are critical to the functioning of society and both are grossly undervalued by the market. We can’t ignore the market, but we can think beyond it.

Posted in Arts entrepreneurship, Institutional Infrastructure, Personal infrastructure | 2 Comments

The Venn Diagram of Art and Entertainment

In her insightful response to the recent Hamilton/Pence/Trump kerfuffle, Margy Waller wrote on Medium, “The current debate about whether artists should speak to policy or politics from the stage is framed to reinforce the default thinking about the arts as entertainment.” Margy and others have researched public perceptions of the arts and how dichotomous thinking (art/entertaintment; public/private; elite/community-based, and so on) can – and often does – shape cultural policy. But, as in most arenas, dichotomous thinking is counterproductive – especially when it comes to effective public policy. There is great art that is entertainment (Hamilton being just one example) and there is great entertainment that is not art, although it may be artful. The shared space between the two is enormous:


But this Venn diagram is insufficient to describe all the many ways that art attracts and affects the human psyche. The best “list” of such effects or incentives that I’ve come across is Ann Bogart’s, from and then, you act. In a chapter titled “Magnetism,” Bogart describes seven dimensions along which art (in this case theatre art, but I believe it applies to all forms) magnetizes: empathy, entertainment, ritual, participation, spectacle, education, and alchemy. Hamilton succeeds because it is magnetic along all seven dimensions.

Near the end of her Medium post, Waller reminds us of the dark possibility of government-controlled art. Artists, we are reminded by Albert Camus, must create — dangerously — on the razor’s edge between frivolity and propaganda. Especially now.

Posted in Arts policy, Culture and democracy, Institutional Infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Can We Do? Part 4

This is the fourth in a four part (for now) series that I am writing in response to last Tuesday’s election results because for me, writing is way of thinking, knowing, and understanding. In the first post, I tried to take a positive tone, considering what cultural leaders can productively do. In the second post, I shared my personal feeling of disorientation and a tool that helped me get past it. In the third post, I share my anger over what this election means for mothers and daughters. Today, I address the kind of leader I want and that I believe our country needs.

The Servant Leader

If his own autobiography and other reports are accurate, our president-elect has not spent a single day of his adult life working in service to others. Instead, it seems he has worked doggedly to line his own pockets and those of his children. The country chose him over a woman who has worked in public service on and off throughout her long career. Let me correct myself.  It is the states, via the electoral college, that chose him, the popular vote having favored Hillary Rodham Clinton by over 630,000 votes or about one percent.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-1-11-02-pm The president-elect would be wise to pay attention to that fact – that he lost the popular vote – as he moves from unabashed self-interest to governing in the public interest. I’m not convinced someone can make such a fundamental shift in perspective in the few short weeks between election and inauguration.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-1-45-54-pmRobert Greenleaf developed a theory of servant leadership in the 1970s to describe the kind of leader needed to head organizations in which people are building a better tomorrow through ethics and virtue. Bolman and Deal call it “leading with soul.” I just call it “putting people first.” In a servant leader model, the leader leads by serving, by helping followers reach their full potential ethically. In servant leadership, the leader is servant first. According the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership:

A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

I want a leader who focuses on the growth and well being of people and communities. I want a leader who shares power, not one who would ever say, “I alone can fix it.” I want a leader who puts the needs of others first, whether they be immigrant, Muslim, Jew, trans, gay, brown, white or purple. And, I want a leader who helps develop people to perform as highly as possible.

The country – indeed the world – is stuck with Donald J. Trump for four years (unless he is impeached for malfeasance of some kind) but we don’t have to stop seeking servant leaders at every level of government and that’s what we can do. From the town council to the state legislature, from the corporation commission to the House of Representatives, let’s seek out leaders who put people first. Not people who put some abstract religious concept first, not people who put financial gain first, and certainly not a person who has not spent a single day in service to others.

There are 435 seats in the US House up for grabs in 2018. Lets work hard to find some servant leaders to fill them.

(image from the Bantam Books paperback edition of Herman Hesse’s Journey to the East)

Posted in Culture and democracy, Institutional Infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Can We Do? Part 3

This is the third in a four part series that I am writing in response to last Tuesday’s election results because for me, writing is way of thinking, knowing, and understanding. In the first post, I tried to take a positive tone, considering what cultural leaders can productively do. In the second post, I shared my personal feeling of disorientation and a tool that helped me get past it. In this third post, I share my anger, and while ultimately offering a recommendation of sorts, acknowledge that I may surprise, anger, or even offend some readers. Today, I am using the bully pulpit of my blog to share how I really feel in a far less varnished way than I usually do. (If gynecological exams make you squeamish, stop reading now and skip to part four, on servant leadership.)

The Woman Thing 

Emotionally, the hardest part of this election result for me is my anger and extreme disappointment — and did I mention anger – over the fact that my 16 year old daughter saw an accomplished, qualified, articulate, prepared, intelligent woman lose this campaign to a serial sexual molester and misogynist who doesn’t do his homework. Let’s face it: Hillary lost because she’s a woman.

My daughter is a very hard worker, a straight A student, who worked for the last two months as an intern for the Anne Kirkpatrick senatorial campaign. (In a year when people were supposedly voting for big change, they re-elected the five-term John McCain, instead of a woman who had represented northern Arizona in the US House.) I can’t explain what happened to Hillary Rodham Clinton in a rational, evidenced-based way. My daughter, along with all the daughters in America watched a “good girl” who followed the rules (email server excepted) win the popular vote and still lose the election. How can I tell my daughter to play by the rules? How can I tell her that if she works just a little bit harder

MD001285than the boys she will have the same chances as them? Hillary worked a lot harder than the boys. Not only has she worked harder, she has been more thoroughly examined than any candidate in history – certainly working harder than the unqualified buffoon who is ahead in the electoral college. I liken the public examination of Hillary Rodham to something only women experience: Hillary has had her feet up in the stirrups on the exam table with the entire world looking into every cavity, every email, and every tax return.

And that metaphor describes the way I and, I think, a lot of woman across this great and vast country are feeling: like we are collectively on the exam table, feet in the stirrups, with Donald J. Trump, president-elect, holding a cold speculum in his little orange hands. speculumI will not let him or his evolution-denying running mate anywhere near my body. Ultimately, that is what this election and so many of our statewide elections are about: controlling women’s bodies. One could argue that it’s also about controlling bodies of color, and I wouldn’t disagree, but while I empathize with the anger, frustration, and fear my friends and colleagues of color are feeling, I don’t experience it myself and this post, more personal than most, is about my own anger, frustration, and fear.

I fear for myself, I fear for my daughter, and I fear for all women’s bodies. VP-elect Mike Pence is now head of the presidential transition team. A transition team, I note, that has eighteen members, only one woman, and no (nada, nil, zero) people of color on it. This is the same Mike Pence who, as governor of Indiana, signed into law the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, even requiring that fetal tissue be buried or cremated, whether or not the woman from whom that tissue was extracted wanted such internment. Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t want to control women’s bodies because he believes them to be baby-carrying vessels from God, but because he seems to believe he literally owns them. This is the man, owner of the Miss Universe pageant, who famously said, “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” You, Mr. President-Elect, cannot grab my pussy! And, if you walk behind me, how my ass looks has nothing to do with my ability to perform in a debate or to run a classroom, a household, or a country.

There, I got that out of my system, and if you’ve stuck with me this far, you can breath, my rant is over and I turn instead to the theme of this series: What can we do? In her recent Op-Ed, Jessica Bennett closes by summarizing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s concession speech:

“Of course, on Wednesday after her defeat, Mrs. Clinton got up, put on her pantsuit, and kept on plugging. She didn’t sulk, or throw a fit, complain, or blame anybody else. She was gracious, humble, and professional. And no doubt she’ll keep fighting. Because that’s what women do.”

Well, what if we didn’t. What if we stop being gracious and humble? what if we stop following the rules? What if we stop deferring to men? What if we got our feet out of thosefrom-med-supplier-dot-com damn stirrups? To very loosely paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, if one woman were to do so, she would be called a bitch (as Hillary has been, as have many women), but if three women do it, it starts to look like an organization, and if fifty women say “STOP! You cannot grab my pussy! STOP! You do not own my body!” then it would be movement. We’ve had them before. One of them even got us the vote. Maybe the next one can get us the White House.

[Photos from: Sunnybrook Hospital; medsupplier.com; Clinton industries (no relation)]

Posted in Culture and democracy, Personal infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Can We Do? Part 2

This is the second in a four (or more) part series. This particular post was born out of the feeling of extreme disorientation I felt sitting at my desk Wednesday morning.

My Epistemological Existential Crisis

For background, I note I am a lifelong theatre artist, but also have a PhD in a social science field (public administration and policy). Yesterday, I wrote about connecting the dots of electoral data to identify opportunity for cultural leaders in the wake of the stunning defeat of experience and rationality Tuesday night. I love finding patterns in data, whether quantitative or qualitative. This semester, I am loving helping students to find patterns and connect the dots in my strategy class. So, like many across the country, I ask: HOW DID THE POLLING DATA GO SO HORRIBLY WRONG? I’m not going to answer that question – I’m not a pollster or methodologist. What I am is a human whose way of knowing has been upended.

Sitting at my desk Wednesday morning during open office hours, I felt that the ground hadn’t just shifted below the Pilates ball on which I sat, but rather that I wasn’t on solid ground at all; that the ground was riddled with holes, elastic, permeable. Yes, emotions are data points too. Why did I feel this way and what could I, individually, do about it? As our systems and institutions re-calibrate to this unexpected reality, what could I do as an individual to again feel like I could move forward on solid ground? If data analysis could be so wrong, where would I find solid ground from which to begin to understand the world?

When I dropped off my 16yo at school that morning after the election, instead of saying, “make good choices,” I said “do good work,” which her generation is now especially burdened to do. The phrase I used reminded me of Gardner, Damon, and Csikszentmihalyi’s “Good Work Project.” (“Good work” is work that is excellent, responsible, and meaningful.) I hadn’t looked at the site in a while and had forgotten that it includes a value sorting activity, similar to the one I had my students do in their leadership class. I took a deep breath, and asked myself, “What are my values in this new reality? Have my values changed?” I slowed down my reeling psyche and spent some time with the value sorting exercise. The values by which I make decisions, the values I try to live by, have not changed. They are the values that led me to support Hillary Clinton, bring me into the classroom each week, and drive my passion for supporting artists. But in that moment, (re)examining my values served another purpose, more important in that moment and more personal: reaffirming values, at least and at first, made me feel like there is indeed solid ground beneath my feet. Living our values begins with an understanding of self, which can only happen with sure footing.


The very act of sorting through The Good Work Project’s value cards was calming. If, like me, your anxiety level is higher than normal as a result of existential (and in my case epistemological) uncertainty, I recommend this exercise as a form of contemplative reflection and self-care. In this time of great uncertainty, take care of that self and then let’s move forward together from solid ground. And, never ever look at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight blog again.

Tomorrow: The Woman Thing

Posted in arts infrastructure, Arts management, Culture and democracy, Personal infrastructure | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

What Can We Do? Part 1

Like many political moderates, I was stunned by the outcome of the recent presidential election. My children, who are politically to my left, are bereft; I worry for them personally while they worry for our country and our planet. Because I have come to realize that the act of writing is, for me, the act of thinking and information processing, I am planning several posts (4 so far) that address the question “What Do We Do Now?” This first is about connecting the data dots and cultural opportunity. The second is about the epistemological existential crisis of the election; the third is on the woman thing; and the fourth on servant leadership.

What can cultural leaders do?

 I have been teaching a class on Opportunity Recognition in the Creative and Cultural Industries to a group of students in the Curb MA in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership. 100% of the students in the program fall into one or more of the following demographic categories: woman, person of color, immigrant, LGBTQ. I don’t know how they voted and won’t make assumptions based on demographic markers, but I would say that the mood in my classroom on Wednesday was very somber.

More than anything else, this class is about the cognitive process of “connecting the dots” to recognize opportunity, and how to ask the right questions to achieve creative solutions. So, without making assumptions about how they voted, I asked the class:

What does the election data tell us about the country and what opportunities are there for cultural leaders if we connect the dots?

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-9-52-16-amA lot of attention is being paid to demographic outcomes like “the women’s vote,” “the Latinx vote,” the “White working class vote,” and so on, many of which defied the expectations set up by pollsters and analysts. Looking at the geography that uses actual voting results is, in my opinion, more accurate than any exit polling can be (we have seen that polling is inaccurate; more on that in the next post). What the maps of election results show us is that there is a deep divide between urban and non-urban Americans. In general, the densely populated (and well-educated) cities went for Clinton and the less dense (and less well-educated) rural Americascreen-shot-2016-11-10-at-9-52-39-am went for Trump. (One notable exception is the rural counties of my state of Arizona, two of which are populated largely by Native Americans.) We will see in the coming weeks what the inaccurate pollsters think went wrong, but my guess is, they didn’t seek out or listen to rural America. So, based on connecting the dots between election result geography and inaccurate polling, here are some opportunities for cultural leaders:

  • Listen to the stories of rural America
  • Amplify the stories of rural America
  • Celebrate the rich culture of rural America, which, as one of my students pointed out in class, gives us country music, bluegrass, Zydeco, and more.
  • Employ culture makers in rural communities, from Navajo jewelry makers to Amish quilters, to West Virginian banjo players.
  • Empower rural and urban citizens to join together, to collaborate, and to build a future for America together.

What can cultural leaders do? Listen, amplify, celebrate, employ, and empower. Let’s get to work!

Posted in arts infrastructure, Arts policy, Culture and democracy, Institutional Infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Creative Enterprise Strategy Model

I’m currently teaching a new course titled “Strategy: Opportunity Recognition in the Creative and Cultural Industries” as part of the Curb MA in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership. My concept of strategy may be different than a business school conception of it, but the course draws on a variety of sources from business literature and elsewhere including organizational creativity, cognitive theories of entrepreneurship, and problem formulation. We also learn some basic research methods, from inventorying internal assets through conducting field observations and “noticing” (thanks to Andrew Taylor for bringing Verlyn Klinkenborg’s work on that topic to my attention).

Only now that I’m in the thick of it and we have touched on each of the individual topics in class, has the relationship between them all emerged:


I look forward to exploring this model for creative enterprise development further in the coming months.

If you’re interested in digging into the source material for the model, here is a short list of some resources:

Baron (2006). Opportunity recognition as pattern recognition: How entrepreneurs “Connect the Dots” to identify new business opportunities. Academy of Management Perspectives. [I referenced this article in an earlier post on networking]

Basadur and Basadur (2011). Where are the generators? Psyhcology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5(1).

Gassman and Zeschky (2008). Opening up the solution space: The role of analogical thinking for breakthrough product innovation. Creativity and Innivation Management 17(2).

Klinkenborg, V. (2012). Some short sentences about writing. Ecotone 7(2).

Sarasvathy (2001). Causation and Effectuation: Toward a Theoretical Shift from Economic Inevitability to Entrepreneurial Contingency. The Academy of Management Review, 26, 2, pp. 243-263 [here’s a fun take on effectual thinking from an earlier post]

Ward, T.B. (2004). Cognition, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing 19.

Posted in Arts education, Arts entrepreneurship, Institutional Infrastructure, Personal infrastructure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments