Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Arts Entrepreneurship Blogathon - Day 4

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on…………."

Arts Entrepreneurship Blogathon - Day 4:  If you would like to comment, please go to the site blog.westaf.org and click on the comment icon at the end of the blog.

Today's Question:
What is the present status of arts entrepreneurship research, and where do we go from here?

Anthony Radich:   Arts entrepreneurship research could benefit the field more by:

Doing a better job of distinguishing between business entrepreneurism and social entrepreneurism.

Arts-entrepreneurship research could tell more stories about successful arts entrepreneurship that is rooted in the arts.  Such research could strive to use examples from both the past as well as the present.

There could be a more thoughtful examination of the relationship between cultural policy and arts entrepreneurship. What in fact are cultural policymakers doing to encourage and then reward business entrepreneurism in the arts?

Perhaps the question that intrigues me the most that I see very little being written about is the issue of equity and diversity within arts-business entrepreneurship. As arts entrepreneurship is presented in the field today, I see almost no discussion of the ways in which the movement will express these values, even though such values have been central to the work of many in the nonprofit arts.


Linda Essig:  I gave a talk recently on this very topic at UW-Madison. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I adapt those comments here:

Research on arts entrepreneurship and arts AS business and arts AND business happens in several domains. I’ll discuss four of those domains, but it is not an all-inclusive list. First is the realm of economics in which folks like Michael Rushton are theorizing on the price mechanism in the arts and Roland Kushner is tracking the longevity of start-up arts organizations. I would like to see more economics-oriented research in the for-profit arts sector, but that data is harder to come by and funding for primary data collection is scarce.

Community resources and development (or community economic development) is another area of research that looks at arts-based businesses and on the effects of arts-based businesses on community development.  We can also understand this domain to be at the intersection of arts entrepreneurship and public policy. Spurred by the NEA “Our Town” program and its partner ArtPlace initiative, there is a lot of interest on the ways in which arts and culture businesses can enhance what is called “community vibrancy.”  Rhonda Phillips and my ASU colleague Gordon Shockley work in this area, primarily from a theoretical perspective, and often drawing examples from Europe and the Commonwealth countries where the concept of “creative industries” is more fully developed.  Working at the intersection of art, economics, and policy, research on arts enterprise and community development also includes the work of Ann Markusen, consultant Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, and others. My own research on arts venture incubators could perhaps be considered under this umbrella as well.

Related to both the economics and community development domains is the nonprofit studies realm.  Stephen Preece researches nonprofit arts venture creation.  Mark Hager, another ASU colleague, also works in this area, often on the relationship between nonprofit arts organizations and tourism. Andrew Taylor is following the money – specifically capital – in nonprofit arts organizations.

Finally, there is research about arts entrepreneurship in higher ed, both the content and the pedagogy of arts entrepreneurship. My own work in this area involves developing a framework for teaching students to develop those entrepreneurial habits of mind that support both creative and financial success using three different pedagogies of collaborative projects, mentorship, and experiential learning.   As mentioned in an earlier post in this series, a recent article in Artivate from Australia advances the field, extends the “habits of mind concept” to develop teachable means for developing an “arts entrepreneurial mindset” including  “Creative, Strategic, Analytical and Reflective Thinking,”  “Confidence” (or what I would call self-efficacy), “Collaborative Abilities, “Communication Skills,” and “Understanding of Artistic Context.”  I would like to see more research on how to teach to the other end of the arts entrepreneurship spectrum – new venture creation -- and I will be presenting later this year with my Drexel colleague Neville Vakharia on arts venture incubation as a tool for such pedagogy.

For arts entrepreneurship to develop as a field or a discipline, it needs to articulate the unique knowledges, theories, and methodologies that define it as a field.  Doing so requires research and knowledge-building of that field – not about its place in universities and teaching institutions – but knowledge building and research of arts entrepreneurship practice that then feeds back into the university classrooms and studios where arts entrepreneurship is taught.


Adam Huttler:   I fear I am woefully unqualified to answer this one. I have never claimed to be an academic, and I’m simply not up to speed on whatever research has been published on the topic of arts entrepreneurship. The thoughts I’ve shared in this blogathon have been based on a mix of personal experience and intuition.

Having said that, I’m inclined to be skeptical of research on this topic that purports to be objective or seriously data driven. Entrepreneurship is an art as much as a science, and every entrepreneur’s story is unique. What I do find immensely valuable are case studies. I’ve drawn much inspiration over the course of my career from business narratives, and I’ve learned important lessons by studying everyone from Peggy Guggenheim to Jeff Bezos. More often than not, I actually prefer reading about entrepreneurs from radically different industries than my own, since they allow me to detach from industry minutia and focus on abstract concepts. As such, I would welcome more ethnographies of entrepreneurial ventures both inside and outside the arts.


Richard Evans:  At present, the term “arts entrepreneurship” is largely confined to academia and to a few professional journals.  As I travel around the country for EmcArts, meeting thousands of practitioners and funders and engaging around this critical juncture for the not-for-profit sector, it’s not a term I hear used widely.  The research that exists – and it’s in its early stages – tends to circulate among aficionados, or informs an occasional conference session (usually, for “emerging leaders”).  The first conference assembled by the Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Network takes place next month.  (By contrast, research into “social innovation” and the “social entrepreneur” has in the last decade become a considerable industry.)

Why is arts entrepreneurship neglected?  Apart from its relative novelty, the reasons, I think, start with the uncertainty of definition discussed earlier – Is it about how to set up your own creative business?  Is it about understanding arts administration?  A specialty in business models?  Career advice for the independent artist?  Developing a distinctive and useful definition will mean acknowledging the shifting sands on which any such definition should be built, notably the move across the social sector from relying on the “heroic leader” as problem-solver to recognizing that the complexity of contemporary challenges in which the arts are involved demands a “servant leader” approach, empowerment of distributed leadership, and entrepreneurship as a team asset and an organizational discipline.  A definition based on recognition of these shifts could lead to some powerful research for the future of the field.

Entrepreneurial behaviors also do not lend themselves to basic quantitative analysis, nor do they respond well to attempts at “proving” intended outcomes.  Naturally divergent from past practice, and not necessarily quick to produce quantifiable returns, such ventures confuse traditional metrics – or simply fail to match up.  Add to this that research into the social impact of the arts is also in its infancy, and, in a measurement-obsessed world that values what it measures, it’s not surprising that entrepreneurship is side-lined, seen as anomalous to the main action (though anecdotally admired).
The arts world has been slow to pick up on the implications of complexity science, even of systems analysis, as filters through which the measurement of change and progress can – must be – quite differently calibrated.  Developmental evaluation, that embeds the evaluator in the project team as a means of documenting and tracking the kinds of “learning journeys” I referred to earlier (rather than preserving traditional independence), has yet to be whole-heartedly embraced.

What does get traction in the wider arts field is research into audience trends and cultural participation, into capitalization, and into the lives of artists.  The assumed benefits of more fully collecting and analyzing longitudinal historical data on arts organizations also continue to attract attention.  These emphases imply not only a pervasive pragmatism linked to traditional advocacy, but also I think a continued reliance on centralizing principles, on pulling it all together to see possible patterns across organizations, agencies and individuals, independent of their embeddedness in local systems.  But cross-sector analysis of local dynamics, rather than cross-system comparison, is nowadays more likely to reveal salient trends, and must certainly inform future strategy at that level.

The siren-call, or glittering surface, of Big Data may also be a factor here.  Massive aggregation and ramped-up analysis are clearly of great value in mass consumerism, in corporate targeting, and in understanding historical trends in relation to local variances.  Its promise, in the arts as elsewhere, is widely touted.  But I don’t see Big Data as relating strongly to developing arts entrepreneurship.
In our programs at EmcArts, we used to compile financial and organizational data for Innovation Teams to consider as they began their work, but we discontinued this practice, as we found it closed down, rather than opened up, the space for divergent and “illogical” thinking.  Better to use random word association than five-year ratio analysis.  This doesn’t mean longitudinal historical data is without value to entrepreneurship and innovation.  But I find myself more interested in whether we can develop the ability to compile data that might use recent organizational behaviors and impacts to help in predicting likely changes in organizational performance, if current strategies were to be maintained in the future.  I imagine some use of traditional numerical data, but also attitudinal data, capacity assessment and systems analysis being combined to create a suite of predictive tools.

The approach in the arts to data analysis has never been particularly scientific (testing hypotheses to see if they are, in fact, predictive).  But, in these times, if we could assemble “early-warning” tools to assist organizations, including many that may have been doing well until now or very recently, to see trouble ahead, then we could so much more easily alert arts leaders to the need for adaptive change, for a renewed entrepreneurship in the organization, before the obvious indicators all turn red, the precipice looms, and a healthy future becomes so very much harder to achieve.  Now that research would be interesting.


Andrew Taylor:  Research in arts entrepreneurship is showing growth and great promise, with at least one new journal dedicated to the topic, and many faculty and scholars diving into the void. There's massive opportunity to connect and translate existing research on entrepreneurship in other fields (for-profit venture, social venture, global venture). From here, we keep going. And we keep making efforts to connect scholarship and practice in powerful ways.


Russell Willis Taylor:  Others in this blogathon will have more informed views about the research available on the topic.  I would only add that some centralized source of research summaries that helps leaders use the research already out there would be helpful to entrepreneurs.  Steven Tepper and Alan Brown are both field leaders who have made great strides in helping to organize and disseminate that research, and we need more organizing of this area to make it easily accessible and meaningful to practitioners.


Ruby Lerner:  We’re not engaged in arts entrepreneurship research, so I can’t comment on this.


Thank you panel.

Don't Quit
Barry






3 comments:

  1. I don't know why you people talk on and on about this. The arts as we have known them are dead, dead, dead. Yes, you can point to something here and there, but that's it and those soon will be gone. Time would be better spent creating some entirely new kind of artistic expression and using technology in the art, as well as a means to reaching people. This will be art to serve people in a newly revamped economic system and a world that progresses every minute of every day. The younger audience knows nothing of art as historically presented. The older audience is strapped for cash and dying off. We better find something new or become subway conductors (just a random thought). It may be utterly impossible to be paid for new art, but it's not paying now, not that it has ever been lucrative. Wake up, folks, tomorrow is here.

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  2. I am wondering how much research is being pointed in the direction of Psychology and Behavioral Economics. It seems the default understanding is that art is at least potentially if not in fact inherently entrepreneurial, and yet there is this whole mythology of the 'starving artist' that has been so poorly explained.

    Is the starving artist simply a defective entrepreneur? Or, are there things about being an artist that don't always fit with an entrepreneurial attitude? Its not a question about the art itself as much as its a question of how human beings make a place for art in their lives, and this seems to have inevitable psychological consequences for some individuals.

    If the 'starving artist' thinks of herself as an idealist who is above the 'taint' of an art marketplace, just what is she responding to? What is the truth of those feelings? Are they necessarily deceived about something, or are they expressing very real psychological issues? And if so is our response that these issues need to be 'fixed', that they are somehow expressions of an 'abnormal' or 'incorrect' view on things?

    It seems from this discussion that most of the current research is pointed at how art fits in the community, how it functions as a business practice, etc, but nothing to speak of it as a manifestation of human expression. Its like we are talking about widgets almost rather than something that has an intimate place in the lives of its practitioners. The truth is that art is often a personal expression, and that should qualify it as a special case in at least some circumstances. Right?

    For instance, what if we were talking about sex? Sex can be sold and is therefor as entrepreneurial as anything else. It can be made into a commodity. Right? But imagine being handed a wad of bills after snuggling with your lover. How would that make you feel?

    Struggling artists sometimes are in the same position that what they are doing isn't a thing they identify as a job. They are not doing it because of the financial strings attached, and they sometimes feel weird when money becomes involved. I'm not saying that art is like sex, only that some artists feel similarly about it, and that until we have adequate explanations for why this is we simply gloss over the very real psychological tensions that exist for some artists trying to make their way in the world. Not all, but some. Can we afford to dismiss their reality?

    What do you all think? Should research be directed in this area? Are psychology and Behavioral Economics fields that have potential insight into the entrepreneurial status of the arts? If we simply treat making art as an obvious candidate for entrepreneurial activity we miss that in very real situations it simply is not. And the folks who have trouble looking at their art practice as entrepreneurial are not simply defective in some sense. They don't need to be fixed as much as they need to be understood. And perhaps even more importantly, they need to understand themselves and avoid the default position that making art somehow has to be or should be conceived of as entrepreneurial activity.

    Just because a thing can be made entrepreneurial doesn't mean that it always should. Isn't it important to define those boundaries? And aren't those boundaries often in the minds of art practitioners more than anything?

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  3. Carter - yes, psychology and behavioral economics can (and do) inform arts entrepreneurship. In the meantime, there are two resources from cultural economics that respond to the general topic you describe (why the "starving artist?"). Hans Abbing (2004) "Why Are Artists Poor?" and Richard Caves (2000) "Creative Industries: Contracts Between Art and Commerce."

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