Disability is Not a Costume

I am utterly disgusted by Madonna’s putting on an eyepatch to adopt the “persona” of her alter ego Madame X. Disability is not costume or character – it is disability. And when it comes to the eyepatch, I have some experience. Throughout my childhood, my mother wore an eyepatch after her eye socket and optic nerve were destroyed by a gangrene infection. After her eye was removed, she was no longer able to drive; her depth mom in glassesperception was gone; and she had my father walk on her left side out in public so she could have an extra set of eyes on that side. People stared at her, so she wore large dark glasses. An eye patch does not signify a mysterious character backstory; it signifies a disability.

I think about my mother and her half-blindness when I read about issues of representation on stage and screen, whether representation of disability, gender, or race. If Madonna wants to create a Madame X character with a disability, she should hire a disabled actor to play the part.

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Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship 5

Four years ago, I created a series of short videos for use in my class Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship. I’m no longer teaching the course (and the videos themselves admittedly could use some updating) but for those of you looking for a primer on arts entrepreneurship or some supplemental material for use in your own classes, I’m making these available to the public by posting one video per week.

In Module 5 I introduce mission and vision statements from a variety of arts enterprises, discuss the characteristics of good (i.e. useful) mission statements, and let Steve Blank explain the related concept of value proposition. The readings referenced in the module are Ann Bogart’s and then, you act and András Szántó’s article, “60 Museums in Search of a Mission Statement.”

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Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship 4

Four years ago, I created a series of short videos for use in my class Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship. I’m no longer teaching the course (and the videos themselves admittedly could use some updating) but for those of you looking for a primer on arts entrepreneurship or some supplemental material for use in your own classes, I’m making these available to the public by posting one video per week.

In this module, I introduce some basic planning tools for the artist entrepreneur, the most important of which is, arguably, the “inventory of means.” My version of this is downloadable here: inventory of means . The reading referenced in this module is from The Profitable Artist.

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Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship 3

Four years ago, I created a series of short videos for use in my class Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship. I’m no longer teaching the course (and the videos themselves admittedly could use some updating) but for those of you looking for a primer on arts entrepreneurship or some supplemental material for use in your own classes, I’m making these available to the public by posting one video a week for the next fifteen weeks.

In this third module, I discuss how need motivates artists, funders, and audience members, and basic techniques for researching your audience and recognizing their needs and wants. The reading referenced in this module is:

  • Simonet, Making Your Life as an Artist, Artists U, 2014. Free downloadable eBook: http://www.artistsu.org/download-the-book pp. 30 -35
  • Artspire, The Profitable Artist. New York: Allworth Press 2011. pp. 115-121 (Chapter 13 Marketing and Networking; Chapter 14 Researching your Market)

Enjoy!

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Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship 2

Four years ago, I created a series of short videos for use in my class Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship. I’m no longer teaching the course (and the videos themselves admittedly could use some updating) but for those of you looking for a primer on arts entrepreneurship or some supplemental material for use in your own classes, I’m making these available to the public by posting one video a week for the next fifteen weeks.

In this second module, I introduce basic economic theories of entrepreneurship and explain how they can apply in an arts entrepreneurship context. The module begins with reference to some reading materials that registered students had been required to read. Those materials are:

Andrew Simonet’s Making Your Life as an Artist

Barry Hessenius’s interview with Aaron Dworkin.

Introduction and Chapter 1 of David Cutler’s The Savvy Musician.

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Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship 1

Four years ago, I created a series of short videos for use in my class Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship. I’m no longer teaching the course (and the videos themselves admittedly could use some updating) but for those of you looking for a primer on arts entrepreneurship or some supplemental material for use in your own classes, I’m making these available to the public by posting one video a week for the next fifteen weeks.

In this first video, I discuss definitions of “entrepreneurship” and of “arts entrepreneurship” and map the habits of mind that can support the entrepreneurial process.

Additional reading for this module: FRAMEWORKS FOR EDUCATING THE ARTIST OF THE FUTURE- TEACHING HABITS OF MIND FOR ARTS ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The quote from Ann Bogart can be found in her excellent book and then, you act, which had been required reading for an earlier version of this corse.

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Exploring

It’s been nine months since I relocated to Los Angeles. After acclimating to my new position at Cal State LA, I am able to take some time to explore the richness of my new “home town”. One of the best parts of living here is that if I drive 45 minutes in one direction I’m at a beach, and 45 minutes in the other and I’m in the mountains. I’ve felt the push-pull of beach and ocean since I was kid exploring the beaches of Long Island; now I don’t have to choose!

Of course, what is truly outstanding is the cultural richness and diversity of the LA area. With no events on my own campus during spring break, I took some time to branch out this week. I visited: the Kim Abeles studio in Keystone Art Space; sister campus Cal State Fullerton’s Santa Ana outpost, the Grand Central Arts Center; saw Lars Jan’s adaptation of Joan Didion’s The White Album at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance; and today enjoy the culinary arts at the “Masters of Taste” benefit for Union Station Homeless Services, courtesy of a KPCC ticket promotion at the historic Rose Bowl Stadium, which I have never visited. Artistic production, community-arts exhibitions, experimental theatre, and a tony culinary arts festival – I’m in culture explorer heaven.

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A waterfall in Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains

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National Humanities Advocacy Day

Greetings! I want to share with the Creative Infrastructure community this month’s “Letter from the Dean,” (i.e., me) as it connects with many of the themes of the blog.

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March 2019

Dear Arts & Letters Community:

As this newsletter hits your inbox on March 12, hundreds of advocates are on Capitol Hill in Washington DC visiting with their state representatives to talk to them about the value of the humanities and the impact humanities-based activities have on communities. The College of Arts & Letters is marking this day with a big celebration of all things humanities and arts! One of the goals of the advocates in DC is to erase misconceptions about the humanities and make humanities work visible. That is exactly what we’re doing on campus today. Each college department has a table or booth where they are sharing information about study in the humanities and about the professional pathways for which such study prepares you. Some departments are showcasing the public practice of their work in unique and exciting ways. The brand-new BA in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) is working with a community-based artist to run silk-screen prints and make and distribute buttons to celebrate Women’s History Month. The Department of Philosophy will have logic puzzles and games available and an “ask a philosopher” booth. Chair of the Department of English, Linda Greenberg, has designed an exciting Humanities Scavenger Hunt. Our professional student success (i.e., “advising”) team will be on hand to answer any questions students may have about Arts & Letters courses and help you register for an array of summer courses.

While all this activity is happening along the main campus walkway, the State Playhouse features a reading by LA’s poet laureate Robin Coste Lewis at 11:00 AM; later in the day there is a Forensics demonstration by our award-winning and nationally ranked Golden Eagle Forensics Speech & Debate team, a philosophy debate on “Morality for Machines,” a concert by the Villiers Quartet, and an open mic poetry event to close out the evening. In these and other ways, we make the humanities visible.

One of the misconceptions about the humanities is that humanities majors don’t lead to good employment outcomes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As I’ve noted in this newsletter before, the top three learning outcomes CEOs and hiring managers expect from college grads are: oral communication, ethical decision making, and written communication. Our departments of Communication Studies, English, Liberal Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, and Philosophy deliver these three outcomes not just by way of general education, but with the disciplinary depth needed to really master these outcomes. Our arts majors also support those outcomes, along with # 4 on the CEO and hiring managers’ list: the ability to work in teams. The pathways for success are clear: our students go on to be teachers, lawyers, public relations professionals, translators, writers, artists and more!

If you’re just waking up on March 12, get ready to come to the State Playhouse for the kickoff of our celebration of National Humanities Advocacy Day, beginning at 11:00 AM…and stick around all day. I’ll be at the College of Arts & Letters Advising table 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM, so please drop by!

Warm best wishes,
Dr. Linda Essig, Dean

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Kim Abeles, Community Impact Artist

It was a sheer joy to spend 60 minutes listening to Kim Abeles talk about her work under the guise of the Academic Senate Distinguished Lecture on Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. Abeles began by describing herself to a room that included very few artists (the Dean of Engineering sat in front of me, for example) as a “community-based” artist. She explained, and as readers of this blog probably know, that sometimes this is called “social practice” or “social impact.” I combine these into a different phrase to describe Abeles, a “community impact” artist.

And impact she has had. Her talk revolved around two characteristics of her work as a community impact artist: that the value of her work is in its ability to incite change and that when you work with communities of people, you don’t really have control of the “inputs” that get used in creating the work. I took note of the longevity of her work, as that also contributes to its value, a topic of particular interest to me.

Much of Abeles work encourages people to recognize the impact they have on their environment and, due to that recognition, change their behavior. She is perhaps most well-known for her “smog collectors,” a variety of work that use a process of printing with atmospheric smog. When she started making this work in the late 1980s, smog was even more of a problem in LA than it is today. She has done smog collector projects with cities, schools, and soon, an art museum in Moscow. Her work with the California agency that regulates automotive smog and enforces the smog testing program commissioned her to create a series of smog collector pieces and muffler-based sculptures to raise awareness about the smog-check program. She told a story of how a state legislator called a hearing to investigate why an artist was commissioned by the state Bureau Automotive Repair. She was waiting outside the hearing room in Sacramento when she received word that the hearing was cancelled. Why? When the legislator learned that the project had generated $3million in free press and publicity, he realized that the $3000 commission was probably a good value after all.

Another series of works, undertaken with community partners such as a school or a the Science Center is the “Paper Person” series. In these works, Abeles collects the paper trash from a facility over the course of a specific day (in the case of the Science Center, it was Earth Day, April 22), takes it back to her studio, irons it, and laminates it together to make a giant paper person, a visual manifestation of waste.

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Photo (c) Kim Abeles

I could go on and on describing Abeles’ projects, including one piece recently on display in Cal State LA Fine Arts Gallery show “School of Endurance Work“, but I’ll stop here and just encourage you to visit her website, invite her to your school, or see her work around town. She is an exemplar of a “community impact artist.”

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Place and Income Inequality

In the research I was doing today around place-based or geographic idiosyncrasies of local arts economies, I came across an interesting 2005 paper by Mark Stern published as part of the Dynamics of Culture series by the Social Impact of the Arts Project. “Artists in the Winner-Take-All Economy: Artists’ Inequality in Six U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1980 – 2000”[i] looks at the Gini coefficient, a widely accepted measurement of inequality, across artists in 6 metropolitan areas over three sets of census data, 1980, 1990, and 2000. I read the paper because I am trying to write something about the unique characteristics of New York City and why the artists I interview for An Ouroboros: Art, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action make conscious choices to locate – or not – in art hubs like New York or Los Angeles.

I find two of Stern’s findings particularly interesting. The first is that “artists’ inequality did not increase as quickly between 1980 and 2000 as that within the rest of the labor force.” So, during a period when income inequality increased rapidly across the US (remember the 1980s?), it actually increased less rapidly among artists. Reading further into the paper, Stern finds that this is not because artist incomes continued to be much lower than other professions; instead, he finds that the median of artists’ incomes rose significantly closer to that of the rest of the population during the period of his study. But to reiterate, income inequality did increase, as this table[ii] from the paper illustrates:

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The second finding of note, particularly with regard to my current topic of interest, place-based arts economies and the place-based economic decision-making of artists, is

the analysis finds significant variation in artists’ income inequality across metropolitan areas. The winner-take-all hypothesis would lead us to expect that metropolitan areas that are ‘global cities’ in the arts world—notably New York and Los Angeles—would have greater inequality than other cities. This is not the case, however. On the one hand, Los Angeles displayed the highest level of income equality among cultural workers. New York, on the other hand—even though income inequality among all workers was generally higher than elsewhere—had among the lowest levels of artist income inequality. (Stern, 2005, p. 2)

I can guess as to why this is the case for LA, my newly adopted home. There is a robust nonprofit arts economy similar to other cities but layered on top of that a large commercial arts industry potentially skewing the results for several of the artist categories Stern considers in his analysis: actors, directors, producers, writers, and musicians. Of course, this is only a guess, and I have no data to back it up. Chicago is also a bit of an outlier, and also by far the city with the largest increase in artist income inequality between 1980 and 2000. I can’t even hazard a guess as to why. New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are all more similar to one another with regard to income inequality despite differentiated arts and culture sectors. Perhaps geography is not destiny after all despite

Stern’s research predates the Great Recession. He has done some work quite recently on equity and inequity among New York City cultural organizations, but I can’t find any research that includes post-recession analysis of income inequality among artists using 2010 census data or the CSS. If you know of any, please drop me a line.

[i] You can download the paper from SIAP’s digital repository: https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=siap_dynamics

[ii] Steven Ruggles, Matthew Sobek, Trent Alexander, Catherine A. Fitch, Ronald Goeken, Patricia Kelly Hall, Miriam King, and Chad Ronnander. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0 [Machinereadable database]. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center [producer and distributor], 2004. http://www.ipums.org.

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