Leni’s Words of Wisdom

Our p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship brought in a fabulous artist as its March speaker. Leni Schwendinger is a lighting designer and public artist whose work is visible in New York, Seattle, Glasgow, Philadelphia, Dallas, and elsewhere. She was also named by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce as its 2008 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.
Leni spoke for a little over an hour about her creative work, her vision, and her philosophy, and ended with the following advice for all creative entrepreneurs, not just the student entrepreneurs who were in her audience (used with her permission):
1. Explore your vision
2. Take Risks to Discover
3. Focus your efforts
4. Expand your medium
5. Ask for support

Let’s unpack these points a bit. While the origin points are Leni’s (as is the image of the Triple Bridge on Ninth Avenue in NYC), I’m doing the unpacking.

Explore your vision, an artistic vision, is like a landscape. It can have breadth and depth, with high points and low points. The artist can move around in this vision and find new and interesting areas to explore within it. To do that, the artist needs to be in motion rather than static, constantly examining and re-examining their vision, moving through the landscape in search of the next project, the next opportunity.

Take Risks to Discover  there are two important concepts here, risk and discovery,  Risk being the means to discovery, the goal. Discovery comes at a price, or at least at the potential of a price. Entrepreneurship of any type involves risk. What are you willing to risk to discover a new place in your creative landscape?

Focus your efforts. I’m not a very good pianist. I’m a very good lighting designer. The lesson seems obvious to me.

Expand you medium  at first blush, I thought this was a contradiction to focus your efforts  but instead it’s a complement. Once the artist focuses their efforts, they can expand their medium. How? By taking risks to discover– to discover new meanings and new ways of expressing them, by advancing the medium itself technologically and creatively.

Ask for support. That landscape of creativity need not be a desert or deserted. How much more fun is it to work with a team or on a team? More than just fun, how much more productive and creative can one be when joining forces with other smart, productive, creative people. There are resources out there“ seek them, find them, ask them.

Next month, we’re hosting a talk by Arlene Goldbard, community arts activist and author. Stay tuned for some thoughts from and about her in mid April.

  • Dear Linda – First of all, thank you for the invitation to present ideas to the P.A.V.E audience the other day.

    Secondly, you unpacked what I packed. Your interpretation is spot on!

    It is my hope that students and members of the public will have taken away courage and inspiration that is possible when one commits to creative work and sticks to it.

    Best of luck with the continuation of the program.

    Leni Schwendinger

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