Jul
26

What Role Does Artistry Play in Creativity?

Last week, when I attended Columbia College’s Creative Entrepreneurship Conference, an interesting tension arose between myself and a participant of the conference.

In my panel discussion, “Creative Entrepreneurship in A Time of Change”, I raised the issue of why is it that there are not more artistic individuals becoming leaders of creativity in the 21st Century Creative Economy? Why is it that on Fast Company’s 2009– 100 most creative individuals in business list only 22% are from classical artistic disciplines and shouldn’t there be more?

It seemed the thought that artistry should be at the center of creative leadership struck a nerve with a woman who, though not an artist herself, often trains teaching artists. While I won’t name this individual, her comment back to me was that artistry “is just one of many tools and that creativity does not require it nor should it have to.” She went on to add that ” it is more important that creativity be embedded in all we do and it matters little if art is part of it or not.”

Ever since that exchange I have been thinking about her comment. I agree, creativity needs to be embedded in all we do. And I feel no shame in adding that I am sure we MUST place all of the classical art forms in artistic education at the center of teaching artists themselves, and the rest of the world, how to become more creative.

For artists development, the path is simple. Artistic development first. Creativity Training second. Synthesis into an Entrepreneurial Mindset third. For all others: realization of the value of artistry first, learning from others to expand their creative thinking through artistry second, synthesis into their chosen fields third.

For artists: Those who study the arts professionally deserve more than anyone to be taught to have the vision to lead in this area because they come to it, first and foremost, with integrity, a desire to learn the discipline and the glue– passion to do something positive with their art form to change the world. While often, through the educational process, this energy becomes misguided into ” its all about me and how I FEEL when I create art,” because of all the individual focus, private lessons, single-skill building, that often translates into a myopic view of artistry and consequently few professional opportunities resulting in low self esteem, like Jim Hart said, “We need to teach our students how to have vision. Imagine the cultural implications.”

What kind of cultural implications come immediately in mind? Take for example the amazingly creative investment bank, Goldman Sach’s. Not only did they make oodles of money from their creativity, but they did it on the kind of scale that almost destroyed the US Economy. If your into economics, the Rolling Stone article about their “creativity” is a worthy read.

And in case you are wondering what “culture has to do with this”, culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:
~ Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
~ An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
~The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

It seems unlikely that anyone in leadership at Goldman Sach’s learned their “culture” of creativity from a school trained dancer, poet, actor or film maker, but, clearly, for better or worse, they are, and continue to be, a creative culture. But what if they had? What if artistic expression had been embedded at the core of their “creativity training” as an organization? Might it have changed what kind of company they built?

Certainly “creativity” does not depend on dance, music, writing, theater or film to exist, but one’s heart is purest when the passion of well honed creative expression through a classic art form is expressed. There is nothing like feeling connected to yourself and to others through the expression of artistry. This is a very different sensation that the expression of creativity that does not necessarily create this kind of connectivity to heart and mind.

I believe artistry, unlike creativity brings a higher purpose, a need for self reflection and examination, a connection to other that can transcend words or ideas and an openness of thought that creative training alone, side swipes, at best.

And yet, artistry quickly becomes short sided and littered with dead end signs professionally without being fueled by creativity. Artistry needs to transcend itself into a creative profession, just like Alex Beauchamp writes about in her blog Girl at Play.

Artists need to develop their creativity to offer others their gifts. Creative individuals needs artistry to give their employees, companies and communities a sense of higher purpose and connectivity to their lives and the lives of others.

Artists can change the world. We simply need vision AND creative skills to embed our artistry into the cultural learning of an organization, and humanity, to become the next generation of leaders our world needs.

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