“…how the call for artists to be more entrepreneurial can very quickly be leveraged to the detriment of the arts and culture community.”

Adaptistration People 107Today’s title is an excerpt from Joe Patti’s 12/6/2016 blog post. It examines a recent decision by Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, to dismiss ¾ of the state art council to reconfigure its mission and focus.

In short, Gov. Bevin wants the council to focus on what a press statement identified as a “focus on ensuring that Kentucky artisans have the skills and knowledge to develop and successfully sell their products.”

Patti expresses concern over this direction because it places extraordinarily narrow guidelines on what it is to be an artist.

Perhaps more immediately for me, I realized how the call for artists to be more entrepreneurial can very quickly be leveraged to the detriment of the arts and culture community.

When I have invoked “entrepreneurial” in the past it was with the intention that those in the arts community acquire the skills to manage their careers, not be cheated by others and make opportunities for themselves rather than wait for it to be provided by others.

Adaptistration People 189I agree with Patti’s observations wholeheartedly and would go one step more and assert that the Kentucky state art council’s new focus runs a large risk of devaluing artists by looking at them as nothing more than a mass of aspiring Etsy shop owners who don’t know how to log onto the internet.

In a more abstract sense, this extends to some of the long running stereotypes that professional arts managers are inherently inferior to their commercial counterparts for no other reason than they work in arts and culture sector.

The arts field and its artists aren’t a bunch of damsels in distress floundering around waiting to be saved.

Certainly, there is plenty of potential for applying contemporary entrepreneurial practices to the arts, such as the idea of incubators Patti suggests, but my fear is this wholesale myopic focus being implemented in Kentucky will not only do more harm than good, but it will gradually marginalize the state as a whole from the larger, advancing arts environment.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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