Because this is my first posting on the entrepreneur-the-arts-blog I thought I would take up space this week with some introductory information. I also want to lay out some of the questions that keep me awake at night.
Iâ€™m a lighting designer, Iâ€™m an entrepreneur, Iâ€™m an educator, and Iâ€™m a researcher. There are other descriptors too, but theyâ€™re probably not relevant to this site! I smiled when in yesterdayâ€™s posting, Jim wrote â€œWhen I was active as an actor in New York, following graduation from Yale School of Drama,â€ because I date my own interest in entrepreneurship to â€œwhen I was an active lighting designer in New York, following graduation from New York University [then YSDâ€™s main rival in theatre design education].â€ I probably didnâ€™t even know what the word â€œentrepreneurâ€ meant at that time (and who does now â€“ but that for another day). What I did know was that I was creative, had ideas, and needed to get producers and directors to recognize me. In other words, I needed a launch, a boost, a kick in the pants to get me moving forward on a creative trajectory. Fast forward 25 years and thatâ€™s what I try to do as an educator: give smart creative young people a launch or a boost â€“ and sometimes a kick in the pants â€“ to get them moving forward in their creative lives.
In addition to directing a large interdisciplinary school, I lead ASUâ€™s arts entrepreneurship initiative p.a.v.e. (the performing arts venture experience). The program includes a student arts-venture incubator. Funded in large part by a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, weâ€™re able to provide creative students with that launch or boost that they need by providing seed money, mentorship, and office space. The first question that keeps me up at night is â€œWhat is the efficacy of this program over the long run?â€ Now in its third year, weâ€™re seeing some positive results, as well as some enterprises that have failed to meet their potential. Thus, I wonder too, â€œHow does the efficacy of this program compare to that of other arts venture incubators?â€ This latter is the subject of my next research project, so if you have benefitted from an arts venture incubator, I would be really interested in hearing from you.
The really big questions that keep me up at night are about public funding for the arts. Iâ€™m really intrigued by libertarian (my description) economist Tyler Cowenâ€™s call for an arts agency that can â€œoffer support to individual artists on a relatively arbitrary and indiscriminate basisâ€ with far less accountability than the NEA has now. He even writes â€œDirect subsidies have worked best when accountability is absent.â€ (both quotes are from Cowen, Tyler (2006) â€œGood and Plentyâ€ Princeton University Press, p. 134)
Here are a few other questions (itâ€™s a miracle I sleep at all):
Is some artmaking fundamentally incongruous with environmental sustainability?
Can one teach â€œinnovation?â€
How does environment and geography affect arts entrepreneurship?
How can we get students more engaged in (arts) entrepreneurial activities?
Does the traditional definition of â€œentrepreneurâ€ really fit the arts?
Is there a â€œright balanceâ€ between the new and the traditional?
Thatâ€™s enough for now. As I consider these and other questions related to entrepreneurship and the arts, Iâ€™ll share my thoughts with you. Iâ€™m sure I wonâ€™t have any definite answers, but the musings will hopefully be interesting.