We Should, We Could, We Must: A Mandate for Art in Higher Education

Posted by Ron Jones On September - 26 - 2012

Ron Jones

I used to believe that my role, and that of my teaching colleagues, was to ensure that we gave to our art majors our full measure of knowledge, skills, and understanding. I like to think that we took every opportunity to sharpen their critical eyes and guide them to more enriched sensibilities as they aspired to be artists, art teachers, and art historians.

That was what college was all about, and I thought that if they worked hard and gave it their “all,” then we’d applaud them at commencement and wish them well (while, among ourselves, we knew full well that many, perhaps most would not “make it”).

While I don’t think I ever said it straight out, I do believe that my message to graduates at every commencement was, “We’ve done our part; now it is up to you.” I now am embarrassed to say that implicit in this thinking was the notion that we in higher education need not assume any responsibility for what happens later, after our students leave. After all, we gave 100 percent to all of our students—so we thought—who were with us for those four, five, or six years. What they did after graduation was unquestionably up to them.

The national discourse about the value (or lack of value) of higher education is making it quite clear that there is a greater (or new) expectation that we in higher education now provide a bit more—perhaps a lot more—than a “discover yourself” curriculum that results in nearly half of arts graduates dropping out of the field before the second anniversary of their commencement (see Strategic National Arts Alumni Project that has been tracking the lives and careers of arts graduates in America). This, of course, is not a desirable result; therefore, we must change the way we’re doing things or we will continue to get the same result in years to come.

What has become obvious to me is that artists are entrepreneurs too. Artists have to network, have to market themselves as well as their work, they have to take risks and have to profit from failure not unlike those we recognize as the most successful entrepreneurs. Whether a designer or painter or sculptor or even art historian and art educator, there is a benefit to being additionally prepared with the tools to manage one’s career and apply one’s creativity to ensuring success. Read the rest of this entry »

Unique Leaders, Common Characteristics: Who We Are (Part One)

Posted by Jaclyn Johnson Tidwell On April - 2 - 2012

Jaclyn Johnson

I write from Nashville, TN, a nationally recognized music city and a burgeoning arts town.

As an actor, community arts project manager, theatre producer, and staff member of an arts service organization, my days bustle with arts leaders, new and seasoned. They provide the spark for the city’s growth. And those stepping forward as new leaders will define the future of the creative sector.

When I look around at my ensemble and community, I see common characteristics that will weave through our individual impact as emerging leaders.

In this blog series I will explore three of those characteristics: who we are, how we will work in the arts and why we will dedicate so much of our hearts to it.

Who are we?

We are artists first and manager-janitors out of necessity. We are arts entrepreneurs.

From crowdfunding to self-publishing, it is becoming increasingly easy to take this do-it-yourself approach to making art.

“Film is an ever more do it yourself word,” said Coke Sams at a recent Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville seminar on alternative funding options for art projects. Coke is a producer at Nashville-based Ruckus Films and part of the team for the Blue Like Jazz film, the most successful film project in Kickstarter history raising over $345,000. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Incubators: Creating a Roadmap for Resilience

Posted by Ebony McKinney On November - 30 - 2011

Ebony McKinney

This post is part of a series on emerging trends and notable lessons from the field, as reported by members of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council.

Increased creative freedom, autonomy, and flexibility have come with a more precarious work style. This is becoming the new normal, even outside of the creative realm.

Does this make artists and creatives “new economy pioneers” prototyping the workstyle of the ‘conceptual age’? If so, what advice can we offer? Can we create a roadmap for resilience?

In this post I’d like to consider how arts incubators play an important role in not only supporting innovation and risk taking, but also by cultivating our most important assets — social and human capital.


In 2007, Bay Area Video Coalition’s (BAVC) Producers Institute for New Media, began in San Francisco. The institute was developed because BAVC recognized that traditional cinema didn’t inspire people to take action. Also, new media was becoming more prolific and gradually more accessible. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Agency Links the Arts and Business

Posted by Nancy Glaze On November - 16 - 2011
Nancy Glaze

Nancy Glaze

Valerie Beaman asked all of the Blog Salon writers several question prompts regarding the intersection of arts and business. The following are my answers to a few of them:

How can the arts best convince the corporate world of their value to business?

Half of the residents in Silicon Valley view themselves as artists and participate in either formal or informal arts activities regularly. Silicon Valley’s residents are incredibly diverse and the region is home to the largest proportion of arts and culture organizations focused on ethnic or cultural awareness among comparable regions in the United States.

Those who work in technology are interested in learning about other cultures and connecting with their own. The nature of the more than 650 arts and culture organizations as well as the diverse workforce seem a natural fit and a win-win for arts groups and businesses that want to engage and enlighten employees.

Creating partnerships between the arts and the private sector within a framework of diversity and cross-cultural understanding supports an authentic need that springs naturally from the way we do business here and who is in the workforce. Silicon Valley is viewed as a global technology leader and is the birthplace of innovations and inventions that have changed the world. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s the State of Career Development for Musicians?

Posted by Sally Gaskill On September - 15 - 2011

Sally Gaskill

In his post, Ron Jones takes on the topic of career development for art and design students. I thought I would check in with Angela Myles Beeching, author of Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, for her perspective on the performing arts. As she says, “It takes more than talent to succeed in music.”

Beeching, who has a DMA in cello performance, is the former director of the Career Services Center at New England Conservatory. She currently directs the Center for Music Entrepreneurship at Manhattan School of Music and maintains a thriving private consulting practice.

Q (Sally): I once heard the dean of a prominent school of music say that typical undergraduate music students do not start thinking about what they might do after graduation until the spring semester of their junior year. Then they panic. What’s your response to that scenario?

A (Angela): Part of it is a developmental process: undergrads are so busy fulfilling their degree requirements and figuring out how to become adults, that the reality of graduation does not start to get real until junior year. However, students at every stage have entrepreneurial project ideas. So, the earlier you can engage students in developing leadership and entrepreneurial skills, the easier it is for them to think about longer-term career goals and the action steps needed to fulfill their dreams. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding the Professions to Which Our Students Aspire

Posted by Ron Jones On September - 15 - 2011

Ron Jones

We who educate aspiring artists, whether we’re public or private, liberal arts or research university, or a professional school, tend not to give sufficient attention to what ensures proficiency in our students, or what prepares our graduates to act upon an indifferent world.

We tend to give little attention to preparing students as entrepreneurs who have a sense of business or an understanding of how to make the world work for them.

We are inclined to give minimal, if any, attention to basic skills (writing, presenting, managing, arguing, collaborating, etc.) necessary for transforming an excellent education in art into a successful life-long profession in that art.

Yes, we do an excellent job of giving students the skills, knowledge, and understandings that relate to art-making, but that’s it!

Put more self-accusingly, we have generally opened the door at commencement, bid the graduates goodbye, closed the door, locked it, dusted off our hands and said with a sigh, “We’ve done our part; now it’s up to you.”

I am here to say we can do better; we must! Read the rest of this entry »

The Critical Supporting Role of Curation in Making Innovation Possible

Posted by Ian David Moss On July - 26 - 2011

Ian David Moss

Through the work of the [Emerging Leaders Council] Emerging Ideas Committee this year, I’ve become acquainted with a wealth of new approaches to old problems and exciting combinations of existing models about which I was previously unaware. You’re seeing some examples of them on the Blog Salon this week, and we’ll be sharing more on this space as the year goes on.

For every strong example of innovation we highlight, however, I’m sure there are five more that we missed. Not because they were not among the ones we chose, but because they were never even brought to our attention.

Part of the nature of being “under the radar” is that it’s hard for people who rely on conventional information sources to find you. The five young arts professionals on our committee set out at the beginning of the year to identify novel, smart projects that weren’t getting attention from the field as a whole. We used what resources we had at our disposal – most notably, our connection to the 30+ local Emerging Leader Networks around the country – but inevitably, our ability to “spot” innovative ventures is determined to a significant extent by those ventures’ visibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Introduction to the Encyclopedia Show

Posted by Robbie Q. Telfer On July - 26 - 2011

Robbie Q. Telfer

Hi, the internet! My name’s Robbie Q. Telfer, and I’m a performance poet and live event producer from Chicago.

The two biggest projects I am currently in charge of implementing are the annual Chicagoland youth spoken word festival Louder Than a Bomb and the monthly literary variety show the Encyclopedia Show. Both events are intensely rewarding, constantly challenging, and deeply exhausting endeavors.

The Encyclopedia Show was created by myself and longtime collaborator Shanny Jean Maney in December 2008 in part as a response to the adult performance poetry movement getting bogged down in cliquey cheerleading and egotistical self-indulgence.

Essentially, Shanny and I saw that there was this huge international community of trained performance artists who, after years of competing in poetry slams, were beginning to itch for new artistic challenges that had ostensible goals grander than “convince five strangers to give me high points in an intentionally absurd competition.”

Oh, that’s a fine goal for a while, but it would be akin to playing Apples to Apples every weekend for your whole life. They’re fun games and all, but there are so many more artistic possibilities if you just change up the rules. Read the rest of this entry »

Emerging Ideas: Seeking and Celebrating the Spark of Innovation

Posted by Ebony McKinney On July - 25 - 2011

Welcome to the Emerging Ideas: Seeking and Celebrating the Spark of Innovation blog salon. This Salon is part of a larger effort on the part of the Emerging Leaders Council to help Americans for the Arts and the field at-large learn from the best and brightest thinkers and doers in communities around the country.

In January, we decided to initiate a year-long research project by asking, “What lessons can the rest of the field learn or take away from novel, under-the-radar, and locally-based ideas, projects or approaches to old problems?”

We were looking for great examples of innovative, on-the-ground projects or initiatives that deserve wider attention because of their potential to serve as a model for the rest of us.

Hopefully many of you were able to attend our Idea Lab at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Diego this year. Several of this salon’s bloggers were gathered in conversation there.

This fall, our committee will present a selection of in-depth profiles on some of the innovative ideas, projects and themes we’ve uncovered throughout the year. This week’s salon is an effort to expand and frame that conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Innovation Challenge

Posted by Scott Provancher On May - 19 - 2011

Scott Provancher

Why is it so rare to find successful examples of innovation and entrepreneurism in the arts industry in America? The arts industry, after all, is filled with creative individuals who are working in a country that idolizes the lone entrepreneur business leader (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc…).

After watching this video about Google Art Project and realizing disruptive innovations that could change the way we experience art are not coming from the arts industry, but from for-profit technology companies, I began searching for answers.

Though we often like to believe innovative ideas that turn into successful businesses or products happen from a solitary “eureka” in one person’s head, the fact is that they usually don’t. Organizations and individuals who successfully produce game-changing innovations have very disciplined approaches to nurture creative ideas, assemble the right minds to develop them, put the necessary financial resources behind them, and most importantly are comfortable with taking risks.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Creative Economy: Not-Sole-For-Profits-Proprietors

Posted by Helena Fruscio On May - 17 - 2011

Helena Fruscio

We can all see the business models changing – for-profits with a social mission, nonprofits with a business models that include historically “for-profit” ventures, and sole proprietors, small business owners, and entrepreneurs devising new plans, products, and businesses at a breakneck speed.

In Berkshire County, a rural community with a population of about 120,000 in western Massachusetts, we have started a movement that encompasses and supports the needs of this swiftly changing business dynamic.

It starts with the acknowledgment of the new businesses dynamic and then working to shift the focus on the core and driving values of the emerging field: Creativity.  Read the rest of this entry »