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 visual 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.

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Showcase, Not Competition

idea students

The Herberger Institute student participants.

The Herberger Institute Office of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programs, which I direct, just hosted its First Annual Herberger Institute Student Idea Showcase. It was a great event, with 18 students pitching ideas for everything from an app that reminds you to water the houseplants to theatre for the very young in a yurt, the latter winning the judges choice award; a visual impaired comic book artist won the audience award for her narration-enhanced Sonic Comics. For the ten years that I’ve led the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, I’ve been reluctant to produce a traditional pitch competition. This event came close, but we wanted to create an event that wasn’t only about “business,” but rather one that rewards arts and design students for their innovation, for novel ideas that have the potential for positive impact.

Idea judges

Our judges (l to r): Lawdan Shojaee, Jessica Rajko, Sara Cochran, and Bob Booker

My reticence to foster the kind of high-competition atmosphere one sees in some pitch competitions may have some basis in research. As I’ve been conducting a review of the literature on networking and entrepreneurship*, I noticed that entrepreneurial success in the arts and culture sector may be fostered by environments of low competition where networks that enable cooperation and friendship provide both emotional and business support, rather than the kinds of cut-throat competitive environments one associates with Shark Tank or high-stakes Silicon Valley VC presentations. So, we will continue to host our new event on annual basis by emphasizing “IDEA” and “Showcase” rather than “competition.”

* The two articles in our sample of 53 that address this issue also happen to be two of only three that specific look at the arts and culture sector:

  • Konrad, E. D. (2013). Cultural entrepreneurship: The impact of social networking on success. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22(3), 307-319.
  • Kuhn, K. M., & Galloway, T. L. (2015). With a little help from my competitors: Peer networking among artisan entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 39(3), 571-600.
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“The Dramaturgy of Public Policy”

thumbsI’ve had the great good fortune to have had several interactions recently with the brilliant Roberto Bedoya, artist, arts administrator, public intellectual, and someone who has earned the title of “thought leader.” The first of these interactions was at the 3 Million Stories Conference hosted on the ASU campus, then two weeks later when he returned as a guest on our Pave Speakers Series talking about “Property Rights, Human Rights, and Places,” and then this week during the ArtPlace Summit held in downtown Phoenix. It was there that I heard him use the phrase, “the dramaturgy of public policy.”

The dramaturgy of public policy.” And with those words, I could almost hear the heretofore tenuously connected gears of theatrical design and public policy analysis mesh together and begin 70px-Cog-scripted-svg.svgrunning smoothly in my head. “Of course!” said the voice in my head, “you understand policy the way you analyze a script dramaturgically: the characters, the setting, the given conditions, the motivations, the inciting action…” I thought to myself: Dramaturgy can be the entry point to understanding policy analysis for the theatre makers, dancers, and visual artists in my policy class. The garbage can model and policy streams could be thrown out the (policy) window in favor of a metaphor these students can relate to: policy as dramatic script.

Thank you, Roberto!


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Teachable Skills

A basic question that comes up often at meetings of arts entrepreneurship educators is “what should we be teaching?” As I was preparing to write the editor’s introduction to the Winter 2016 issue of Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, I realized that two articles in the issue as well as two additional articles we had recently published all contained studies of just that question: “What are the crucial skills for arts entrepreneurs?” Through both qualitative and quantitative inquiry, the four articles described several overlapping families of skills that I summarized in a table:

Skills Figure 1

The skills families include networking, especially networking for collaboration (which is confirmed by some other research we’ve done recently); hard skills for business, although this is only considered crucial by 2 of the 4 research teams; two modes of cognition: the strategic and the creative; confidence or “self-efficacy” (which I’ve noted earlier is best taught or developed experientially); communication, including marketing communication; and understanding context and recognize opportunity, a core competency for entrepreneurs in any field.

With this summary, the core competencies for arts entrepreneurship begin to emerge, signaling the beginnings of the maturation of the field itself.

(Table source: Essig, L. (2016). Editor’s introduction to the Winter 2016 issue. Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts 5 (1), 1-3.)

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New Project!

For about a month, I’ve been “between projects.” I don’t mean that in the Hollywood Empty_stacks_(2518828977)_(2)sense, but in the research agenda sense. I basically completed my cross-case analysis of arts incubators* and while I wait to hear back on a publication decision, for the first time in as long as I can remember, do not have a single book checked out from the library; the space in my office reserved for library books is empty. But the research we’re conducting for the Tremaine Foundation on the professional development needs of artists surfaced something interesting that we suspected intuitively and is worth looking into more deeply: networking is important for artists’ professional sustainability.

We’re building a foundation for a study of why networking is important and how it works for artists by conducting a systematic review of the literature on networking and entrepreneurial success. There is very little [peer-reviewed, published] research on networking and the arts specifically – only two of the 48 articles we’re currently including in our review specifically focus on the arts and culture sector. There’s quite a bit in the gray literature (e.g., the 2003 “Investing in Creativity” report includes a section on networks) but we need your help finding it. If you know of any studies that in whole or in part address the question, “How does networking support the livelihood of artists?” please comment here or send me an email.

*If you’re interested in the incubator study whitepaper drop me an email.

(Original image by flickr user Mollyali, CC 2.0)

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Knowledge Infrastructure: Artists’ Professional Development

In a podcasted conversation with David Dower some time ago, I explained that creative infrastructure for the arts has three components: physical infrastructure, organizational infrastructure, and personal infrastructure. I’ve noticed (as has at least one regular reader) that this blog hasn’t been focused as much lately on the infrastructure theme as I instead share experiences from my classroom and the many conferences I attend.

Today I return to infrastructure and, especially, knowledge infrastructure for arts entrepreneurial success. What professional development knowledges or training do artists need? This question is at the heart of our most recent report for the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Artist Professional Development Needs: Findings and Recommendations from a Survey of Artists and Arts Organizations. Lead author Mollie Flanagan (Tremaine Foundation Fellow in Arts Entrepreneurship) and I found that marketing communications, networking, and financial management are what artists say they need most, although arts service organizations report slightly different results. We assert, however, that all professional development activity must have the creative practice – the art – at its center, as illustrated in the map Mollie created indicating relationships between the professional development needs that were surfaced in our research. (The relative strength of the need, as measured by frequency of mention in our interviews and surveys, is indicated by size.) You can download the full report from the link above or by visiting Pave’s Research page. research map final 2_19_16

Source: Flanagan, M. and Essig, L. (2016). Artist Professional Development Needs: Findings and Recommendations from a Survey of Artists and Organizations. A report produced for the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation by the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, p. 14.

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Know Your Audience: Self-Employment in the Arts Conference

A core principle of arts entrepreneurship, at least as I teach it, is that the work must connect with its audience. That’s why we spend so much time getting to know that audience in a project-based course like Arts Entrepreneurship Seminar. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may know I go to a lot of conferences; as I write this I am on the plane home from the Self-Employment in the Arts (SEA) Conference, held annually in the Chicago suburb of Lisle. This is a conference that really knows its audience!

shelby mollieThe SEA audience is undergraduate arts students, primarily from Midwest colleges and universities. All of the programming, with the exception of two or three sessions designed for faculty, is geared toward introducing these young artists and designers to core self-employment business principles: how to communicate with clients; how to craft a financial plan; business models for artists. This last was delivered by two of my graduate students, Mollie Flanagan and Shelby Maticic, who led the 20 or so attendees at this session (there are ten or more sessions at any one time) in an interactive revenue generation ideation session. Another graduate student, Elisa Gonzalez, who launched ¡Habla!AZ out of the Pave Arts Venture Incubator program, was a plenary panelist, along with four other student from across the country who had started arts-based businesses while students.Elisa SEA

The conference was not perfect (although it ran perfectly thanks to conference organizer Amy Rogers); there were what I considered to be missteps by some of the presenters. Nevertheless, the enthusiastic young artists could learn so much by participating in the workshops, sessions, and networking events. If you are in their well-defined audience segment of undergraduate arts students (especially in the Midwest), I encourage you to mark your calendar now for the last weekend in February 2017.

For myself, I attended to connect with this very audience in the hope of inciting interest in our new MA in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership, giving away cards, flyers and pencils. The students were so busy running from session to session, few stopped to talk to me, but by the end of the day and half, almost all of our materials had made their way into the hands of the students and their faculty companions.

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