Last week, I led p.a.v.e.â€™s semi-annual workshop on arts entrepreneurship and grant writing. Like most entrepreneurial activities, I didnâ€™t do this alone. I was joined by my p.a.v.e. colleagues Lynne Aspnes (music), Muriel Magenta (art), and Miguel Valenti (film). The past four workshops weâ€™ve held started with a brief history lesson and some standard definitions of entrepreneurship like â€œundertaking risk for monetary gain.â€ This time we switched it up a bit and each one of us shared our personal definitions of arts entrepreneurship. Needless to say, the discussion was much livelier. It was also a lot more useful for our audience.
My colleague from art talked about entrepreneurship as the â€œbut then whatâ€ moment that extends the art process from exhibition to something beyond that. My colleague from music talked about finding ways to be a catalyst, to turn events into actions, taking the artist out of the practice room and into the world. My film colleague discussed entrepreneurship as creating oneâ€™s own opportunities. I talked about arts entrepreneurship as propelling oneself forward and using art for social transformation. I did eventually sneak the two-second history lesson in, explaining that French economist J.B. Say first coined the term â€œentrepreneurâ€ very early in the early nineteenth century. Because the first English translation of the word was â€œadventurer,â€ I was also able to extend our multiple definitions of entrepreneurship to include â€œadventuring.â€ Arenâ€™t artists all adventurers, boldly going where no artist has gone before?
As the free-formed discussion continued, I realized that to attempt to distill all this down to one single definition of arts entrepreneurship would be restrictive, and therefore anti-entrepreneurial. To define one meaning is to eliminate the potential for all other alternative meanings â€“ we need not do that. In a recent post, Jim Hart asked â€œis Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?â€ Much as he suggest that artists need a wide perspective, so too do we need a wide perspective on arts entrepreneurship. Innovation can and does flourish within parameters of need and resources, but not within limitations of thinking.