What Innovators Can Learn from Artists (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Tim Leberecht On January - 31 - 2013
Tim Leberecht

Tim Leberecht

Andy Warhol knew it all along: “Good business is the best art.” And lately, a number of business thinkers and leaders have begun to embrace the arts, not as an escapist notion, a parallel world after office hours, or a creative asset, but as an integral part of the human enterprise that ought to be woven into the fabric of every business—from the management team to operations to customer service.

John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and author of the book Redesigning Leadership, predicts that artists will emerge as the new business leaders and cites RISD graduates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, co-founders of Airbnb, as prominent examples. The author William Deresiewicz heralds reading as the most important task of any leader. John Coleman makes a compelling case for the role of poetry in business. Intel named pop musician will.i.am as director of creative innovation. And the World Economic Forum has been inviting arts and cultural leaders to its events for several years and this year added the ‘Role of the Arts’ to its Network of Global Agenda Councils.

Indeed, the “art” of business becomes ever more important as the “science” gets ever more ubiquitous. Against the backdrop of our hyper-connected economies and as Big Data and sophisticated analytical tools allow us to maximize process efficiencies and standardize best innovation practices worldwide, intuition and creativity remain as the only differentiating factors that enable truly game-changing innovations. Like any “soft asset,” they cannot be exploited, only explored. And like artists, innovators must develop a mindset and cultivate creative habits in order to see the world afresh and create something new.

How do artists think and behave? Here are twelve traits any individual aspires to make his or her mark on the world would do well to emulate:  Read the rest of this entry »

We Aren’t Preparing Young People for Careers at Disney or Apple

Posted by Lisa Phillips On January - 14 - 2013

Lisa Phillips with Steve Wozniak

There seems to be a major disconnect between how creativity is valued in society and the career advice we give our children. We all know that the arts are a valuable means of expression, a means to share stories across cultures and an uplifting and moving source of entertainment.

We revere our cultural icons, whether they are movie stars, literary authors or artists, but we seem to limit the possibility of careers in the arts to only a talented few.

How many of us arts professionals have heard from family and friends, “When are you going to get a real job?”

So, why do we put our cultural icons on a pedestal but undervalue arts education? I think one of the reasons is that as a society we are preoccupied with the idea that the arts are reserved only for those with talent. However, in the reality of today’s job market, we need to change this idea.

There is a significant gap between what children are told is important for their future career success and what business leaders actually want from the emerging workforce. Creative individuals are actually in demand. Not just for arts careers, but for careers in business as well.

For example, Disney and Apple are two of the most successful companies of our time, largely because of the creativity, innovation, and the leadership they have demonstrated in their respective industries.

In an era when businesses are constantly struggling to find creative ways to stay at the top of their market, arts education can be a powerful tool to nurture the creative abilities of our young people, ensuring they are ready for the skills that are in demand. Read the rest of this entry »

Technology Driving Arts Attendance, Engagement, & Fundraising

Posted by John Eger On January - 8 - 2013

John Eger

In the last decade alone, any business without a web presence—without an online, interactive website—was simply, not in business. Or wouldn’t be for long. The government and nonprofit sector soon learned their way around the internet too.

Now the Pew Charitable Trusts, specifically the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a major survey covering 2007–2011 and involving 1,256 arts organizations, reported that: “The internet and social media are integral to the arts in America.”

The survey found:

  • 81 percent of the organizations in this survey say the internet and digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts.
  • 78 percent say these technologies are “very important” for increasing audience engagement.
  • 65 percent say digital technologies are “very important” for fundraising.

There seemed no question that web presence was “important” or “very important” although not everyone is persuaded—yet—that an internet strategy is a priority. Those reporting also felt that such technologies “disrupted much of the traditional art world” by changing “audience expectations, put[ting] more pressure on the arts groups to participate actively in social media and in some circumstances, undercut[ting] organizations’ mission and revenue streams.” In fact, 40 percent believe that “attention spans for live performances” are being negatively impacted. Read the rest of this entry »

Has Endowment Become a Dirty Word?

Posted by Leah Hamilton On December - 13 - 2012

Leah Hamilton

Endowment. Much like the word “elite” or “patronize,” the term “endowment” seems to have acquired a negative connotation.

The traditional endowment model was sold as a core strategy of sustainability for an organization; the interest provided reliable budgetary support, and the principle was the legacy of dedicated arts patrons. But organizations began to use the fund’s annual draw in place of fundraising.

Then, when times got tough, the principle became a financial lifeline. When this happened, a new trend emerged; funders began to redirect their initiatives towards innovation and creative placemaking instead of endowment.

But, as with most trends, there are exceptions to the rule.

Springfield, MO is nationally recognized as a collaborative community, as highlighted recently by Mayor Robert Stephens on the Huffington Post. With consistent job growth in the city as well as lower than average unemployment rates, Springfield’s collaborative nature has helped the community weather the recession.

In the arts community, more than 30 local groups share The Creamery Arts Center. The 35,000-square-foot building, once home to the Springfield Creamery Co. and later the first distribution center for O’Reilly Automotive, includes administrative offices, as well as an exhibition hall, board room, arts library, arts classroom, film editing bay, a shared costume shop, and set design/fabrication studio. Read the rest of this entry »

Collective Impact and the Wisdom of Slow Culture

Posted by Bill Cleveland On December - 7 - 2012

Pomegranate Center works with communities to imagine, plan, and create shared public spaces designed to encourage social integration and build local identity.

In the world of commerce scaling up has a long history. In the eighteenth and ninetieth centuries, mass production spawned the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, scaling applied to retail businesses like fast food and electronics manifested as chain stores and franchising.

The intention with these enterprises is to maximize profit by providing reliable and affordable products and services through economies of scale. In terms of profitability, mass production, chains, and franchising have been stupendously successful.

On the nonprofit side, given the significant gap between community needs and resources it is understandable that policymakers and funders are going to eager to find ways to extend the benefits of what they see as effective ideas and practice. Slow Food USA, Link TV, and KIPP charter schools are good examples of how innovative nonprofits have shared and spread the wealth.

The downside, of course is that one-size-fits-all predictability and sameness can have a sterilizing effect on the delicate strains of quirk and diversity upon which vital culture depends to multiply and thrive. For people like me who are concerned with community cultural development, or in the current vernacular, creative placemaking, this is no small thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Creating, Collaborating, Connecting with Art, Activism, and the Internet

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 5 - 2012

Xavier Cortada

At the end of the last millennium, when the internet was young, I installed two webcams in my studio and invited people watching me out in cyberspace to share their ideas in a chat room. I would incorporate their views into the murals I was creating in my “webstudio.”

Back then, I was painting collaborative message murals to address important social concerns in different locations around the world (AIDS in Africa, child welfare in Bolivia, peace in Northern Ireland gangs in Philadelphia).

The collaborative murals mattered because I wanted to amplify people’s voices, share their concerns. I wanted to expand the circle of participants beyond those I could reach in person. The webcams and the webstudio were my way of trying to expand beyond geographic boundaries. Back then, I think the farthest I got from my Miami studio was Atlanta.

Since then, technology has developed to a level where online and human interaction has revolutionized communication to an extent unimaginable when I first created that early project. Art making can have exclusively online manifestation, reaching millions in space and time. It is indisputable that one can also build a sense of community online—ask Facebook.

We have even created realms where we can have second lives fully inhabit a completely virtual reality. And that is good: I find participatory art projects that engage individuals locally across communities to be address global concerns very powerful. Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

The International Council of Fine Arts Deans‘ (ICFAD) meeting in Minneapolis (October 24–27) for their annual conference talked about “Art as a Public Good”—meeting the demands for creativity and innovation, and serving the communities they represent, socially and economically.

Nurturing the talented performer, musician, or sculptor is of utmost importance to the fine arts deans and their universities. However, knowing that the arts, broadly defined, are being called on to shape the larger economic discussion—a national discussion, really—to change the way the whole country thinks about education, economic prowess in the global economy, and preparing our students for the new innovation sector, cries out for their leadership.

Lucinda Lavelli, dean of University of Florida and incoming President of ICFAD, kicked off the conference by talking about the concept of “the creative campus,” now adopted by several universities, “to establish educational settings that infuse the academy with the arts, foster creativity in all disciplines, promote interdisciplinary projects and encourage new ways of solving problems and expressing ideas.”

She asked several deans to talk about their university and how their college was collaborating with other colleges in business, engineering or the sciences, but more, she asked perhaps the biggest question of the conference: “What could—or should—the deans and their universities be doing” with their students, their alumni living in the area and through the town/gown relationships that exist, and how can others be engaged to help everyone in our community to think differently about the arts?

Quite simply, as Harvey White, co-founder and former president of Qualcomm, has been known to say, this is a “national emergency.” The clock is ticking, and when the dust settles after years of budgetary and fiscal malaise, the nation will desperately need young graduates with the new thinking skills for an economy that demands the most creative workforce. Read the rest of this entry »

Steal This Blog: 5 Ramblings on Arts and the Common Core Standards

Posted by Richard Kessler On September - 14 - 2012

Richard Kessler

1. For those looking for the obligatory introductory substantiations for the arts in education, search Google and insert your own here: ___________. At the same time, you might want to search on research by Ellen Winner.

2. For those who need to read that the arts are a core subject, you just did.

3. For those frustrated about the state of the arts in K–12, persevere.

Here are my five ramblings. Don’t be confused by the three above. Congratulations, you’ve just passed your first math test for today!

1. Don’t bet too much on the promise of Common Core-aligned new arts standards.

A lot of people I know are amped up about the prospect of new arts standards inspired by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts (ELA) and math. The idea is that the new arts standards, if positioned to reinforce CCSS, will benefit from the monumental machine behind CCSS. Unfortunately, the volume on this amp does not go to eleven.

Yes, we do need new arts standards desperately, particularly considering how stale most of the state arts standards have become. New standards done right will go a long way to align standards with current practice, recognizing the changed world of the arts, rather than establishing standards based upon a wish, like certified arts teachers in every classroom (or school). The arts have changed in so very many ways since the bulk of the arts standards were last written, so let’s make sure the new standards reflect the 21st century. (Hint: think hybrids.)

That being said, the Common Core State Standards are in ELA and math, while veering into some other domains (history/social studies) like shoots from a tree. The CCSS in ELA and math have been cemented into a newly poured foundation of the educational industrial complex and are wired through the White House, state departments of education, the philanthropic sector, school districts, higher education, corporations, and teacher and administrator unions, while being on the tip of the tongues of millions of educators around the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Niel DePont

In my personal assessment of the Common Core State Standards document (CCSS) it occurs to me that, for all its merits, the CCSS presumes that somewhere along the way, creative processes and critical thinking skills will be learned as a result of following the CCSS. I’m not sure that is true, but I am sure that those skills are practiced and illuminated by thinking like an artist thinks when making art.

We are soon to leave the Knowledge Age and enter the Innovation Age, if we haven’t already. In the 21st century creativity and innovation will be the skills most highly valued in students graduating from our colleges and universities. It is undeniable that there will be an increasing demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and math, the “STEM” skills. And, if you believe the CCSS, the English language arts (ELA) and mathematics skills it promotes at the K-12 level will be essential for college preparation and career readiness.

But I believe that students who excel in the skills of creativity and innovation, and evidence a talent for synthesizing disparate kinds of data and concepts into new and unique outcomes, will be the most prized workers of all, whether they enter the workforce after high school, college, or graduate school.

This is why we must integrate the arts into the current movement of promoting various alphabet-soup-titled approaches to education reform. Whether you believe that the CCSS is the way to create a better educated and “career ready” populace, or that a STEM-based education should be our national mandate, I personally believe that changing STEM into STEAM by adding the A for ARTS is the best acronym of all.

Having said that, I also believe we must reframe arts education in a new and vital way.

In the Innovation Age we must shift our arts education syllabus from one that is only performance focused to one that is also creativity focused. Students need to experience the creation of new work through the arts because the arts train the mind in sensory awareness and the ability to think flexibly and creatively, as both a problem finder and a problem solver. Read the rest of this entry »

San Jose: The Arts at the Heart of Economic and Cultural Development

Posted by Kerry Adams-Hapner On July - 12 - 2012

Kerry Adams-Hapner

Let me begin by saying this: art is at the heart of everything we do. Preserving, advancing, and celebrating culture and expression is our fundamental mission here in San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA).

We strategically position that mission to align with economic development goals, which is authentic to our city’s culture and climate, benefits the sector and enables us to advance our core mission. I don’t have that “intrinsic” versus “instrumental” debate; intrinsic impact is a foregone conclusion for me and the economic benefits enable strategic alignment, a.k.a. partnerships and resources.

In San Jose, the OCA is a division of the Office on Economic Development. I am both the Director of Cultural Affairs and a Deputy Director of Economic Development. Recognizing that a vibrant community attracts talent, and talent attracts companies, our economic development strategy fosters the vital cycle between cultural development (the arts), workforce development (the people), and business development (the companies).

We fulfill our cultural development goals through three primary strategies: attracting and retaining destination quality events; promoting high quality public art and placemaking; and providing arts industry support.

We foster the arts industry through nonprofit grants and support, cultural facility management, and support for creative entrepreneurs—comprised of artists and the commercial creative sector. Each function has its inherent, intrinsic cultural value—celebrating heritage, creativity, and the arts. And yet, we celebrate and amplify the economic side of these functions—culture as a catalyst for business through the nonprofit and commercial industries.It is also a means of building a sense and brand of place, a magnet to attract other industries. Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

So, an artist walks into an office…

I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But many artists start their careers or support themselves by taking “day jobs.” Andy Warhol worked in advertising. Modest Mussorgsky was a civil servant. Franz Kafka investigated personal injury cases for an insurance company. But is an artist in the office one of life’s small cruelties? Not necessarily.

A recent article featured in The Globe and Mail suggests that businesses looking to become innovators might want to consider hiring artists over those with more traditional business degrees.

Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift in the business landscape. Due to the current economic climate and the rapid advancement of technology, businesses are focused on working smarter through innovation. In fact, according to IBM’s 2012 CEO Study, 61 percent of CEOs identify creativity as a key driver of employee success in operating in a more complex, interconnected environment.

Considering the importance of thinking outside the box, bringing artists into the workplace seems like a natural choice. But how well are artists able to translate their artistic skills and sensibility into a corporate environment?

The Globe and Mail article highlights two Canadian businesses:

David Dobson, the director of business development for StarFish Medical, believes that art school gave him a simple business edge: it changed the way he thinks. Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Adlers

It is no surprise to anyone working in the arts and culture sector that arts organizations all around the world are consistently challenged with the task of securing new and diverse sources of funding in order to keep their lights on while fulfilling their artistic mandates. Businesses receive hundreds of requests every week from the arts sector.

Although many decision-makers in the corporate world recognize the value of the arts in the community, they are inundated with cookie-cutter, standard template proposals which are primarily focused on the needs of the arts organization, and not on how they can partner in a creative way with the businesses they are approaching.

My own conversations with executives from the corporate sector across Canada reveal that businesses which are considering supporting the arts expect to receive innovative sponsorship proposals. They are looking for creative synergies which stand apart from the pile of requests they receive every day. They expect a well-researched, professional business approach demonstrating a solid return on investment for their company, whether this means engaging their clients and employees at an event, reaching new audiences, or raising the profile of their company by being aligned with an innovative arts organization or project.

Logo recognition and tickets to events are a given, but in terms of sponsorship benefits, they are standard practice and old news. Businesses are looking for the imaginative, clever new idea which will bring them recognition as a supporter of the arts.

In Canada, our answer to these challenges is artsVest™, a unique program of Business for the Arts which combines in-depth training in sponsorship development with a matching incentive grant and a toolkit for securing and sustaining successful new partnerships, and brings local arts and businesses together at special events. Read the rest of this entry »

Choose Your Own Adventure: Innovate or Bust (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On May - 22 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

(Author’s Note: The ArtsFwd team invited me to respond to their NextGen Quick Poll because of my knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing young leaders today gleaned in my role at Americans for the Arts.)

Pretend you have two job offers in front of you (I know, we’re just pretending here, okay?!)

  • Organization A is a respected organization that has been producing high-quality artistic work for the past 50 years. You get the sense that your role in the marketing department will be to continue business as usual to an audience who can afford the organization’s $150 per seat tickets. There is no social media campaign, something that you are very interested in starting. However, it’s unclear whether the organization’s leadership understands social media, or if they think it’s a good use of time or energy.
  • Organization B is a start-up organization that is three-years-old. The social impact is clear—Organization B is providing a safe space for children from dual income families to go after work. The children are exposed to art, music, and dance classes at an affordable rate. Your job would be to launch a social media presence, but you’d also be tasked with finding new untapped sources of revenue and creative partnerships to help sustain and grow the important work this organization is doing for the community.

So, which position would you choose? (By the way—we’re also pretending the pay scale, benefits, and title level of both positions is the same, although we know that in reality, this would not be the case).

If you choose Organization B (which we’re defining as the highly-innovative organization), then according to ArtsFwd and EmcArts recent NextGen QuickPoll, you may find yourself feeling 80 percent more likely to want to “move up” in the organization. Granted, this is not a scientific study, nor was it intended to be. Also, I made up those above case organizations. But, the survey and exercise itself brings up some very interesting questions and illuminates some issues in our field that I believe need addressing. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning That Gets You New Partners (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Robb Hankins On April - 27 - 2012

Robb Hankins

Most community leaders don’t think about the arts much and most don’t really believe there is a link between arts and economic development.

I try to change that by hosting my own arts and economic development planning process, but I do it on a shoe string—quick, dirty, and cheap. It’s exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last year we started 20/20 Vision—the ten year plan for arts and economic development. On March 20, 2012 we unveiled our ten strategies: five community strategies and five county-wide.

20/20 Vision has already dramatically changed the landscape for the arts in Stark County (Ohio). We have new partners (and new dollars) available for the arts from places we’d never touched before.

Business leaders like Robert Timkin, managing director of Cormony Development, are leading the effort by planning to increase creativity and innovation in business through arts-based workshops, and increase cultural tourism by creating a marketing partnership between five major nonprofit tourism attractions in downtown Canton.

This strategic marketing partnership hopes to dramatically increase the number of visitors and increase overnight stays, as well as create day trip opportunities for arts destinations throughout the rest of the county.

Here’s the quick story on how we did it: Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Education

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 5 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

The realm of combining arts and education is vast. I do not intend to address this vast landscape in a modest 600 words. However, I will highlight two of my favorite approaches to arts + education in the Los Angeles area.

Inner-City Arts (ICA) offers a variety of programs—school field trips, afterschool and weekend workshops, teacher training, programs for parents—to give children in one of the nation’s poorest areas opportunities for skill-building, artistic expression, and a safe environment.

ICA backs up its work with phenomenal statistics and partners with UCLA, Harvard, and the Department of Education to publish research that others can leverage. In addition to their excellent work and partnerships, the stories from Inner-City Arts are a never-ending source of inspiration.

Arts for All is the mothership for organizing sequential K–12 arts education in Los Angeles County and our 81 school districts. (Yes, eighty-one.) More than half of these districts have signed on since 2003. In addition to providing half a million students with arts education, the organizations backing Arts for All actually agreed on a definition of “quality arts education”.

Despite amazing organizations like Inner-City Arts and herculean efforts like Arts for All, we’re still fighting for the arts’ righteous place in society and education. We do have reason for cautious optimism, though. The #1 most-watched TED talk is Sir Ken Robinson talking about the faults of linear-based education, a product of the industrial revolution. He illustrates his point with the story of a dancer, which gets us artsy types all atwitter. Read the rest of this entry »