Tagged Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations

Arts Entrepreneurship in a Low-Growth Economy

It is time for the arts community to heal and abandon deficit thinking.  If the arts constitute a driving force of the economy, then let’s come together and do it as entrepreneurs.

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk given by Tim Jones of Artscape. This session was part of the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations’ annual conference in Toronto, Ontario. Tim restated a statistic* that I had placed on Facebook earlier that week (or maybe it was the week before). The workforce is now comprised of 30% self-employed workers and growing. That is a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. What does this mean for the arts sector? Are artists (and arts organizations) prepared to keep pace with the “new” economy?   Picture of a to-do list. Says, "to do: buy milk, pay rent, earn a living as an artist..."

Traditional hierarchical structures of business are crumbling. There is a fundamental shift taking place within the American workforce. B-school experts like Michael Porter are talking about entrepreneurship as a way to redefine capitalism. We cannot be the last sector to notice this shift. How does the shift from working for a large company to working for one’s self affect those of us in the arts? How does it affect donations, patronage, etc? Does anyone in the arts community notice the shift in our economy? Tim Jones is talking about it as well as Richard Florida.

Arts businesses are poised to help create solutions for societal problems, but this is not just a trend among mission-based businesses, such as nonprofits. With the emergence of B-Corps, L3C’s and other hybrid entities, we are seeing that traditional businesses (and the people behind them) are being held to a higher form of societal accountability. Arts-businesses have the advantage of creativity and innovation, but all too often they lack the vocabulary to understand and manifest best practices in entrepreneurship. In my opinion, learning business skills is a much easier fix than learning how to be a creative thinker. After all, a majority of businesses fail because of bland, mediocre models.

Corporations are being held to a higher accountability to not just a local economy but to the entire world ecosystem. The environment, employees and the consumer are part of the new bottom line. This is a result of the inevitable pendulum shift toward a more networked society. What about arts businesses?  Where are the women playwrights? How about diversity within our arts organizations? What relationships exist currently between artists and arts organizations and why as an ASO are we asked to serve one or the other? Maybe… there are lessons we can take from collapsing corporations. If I had to sum it up in one word: relevancy. Entrepreneurship can help us stay relevant. We are not exempt from changing tides.

If self-employed, entrepreneurial businesses are going to drive the economy of the future, then how do artists fit into that context? Without essential skills and a support network…they don’t.

As a community, we must embrace entrepreneurship in the arts, in food service, in technology, in health care, and so forth. We cannot afford to get left behind. Arts organizations, as well as service organizations, should support a network of professional, business growth. Arts entrepreneurship benefits all. We know the studies about what a thriving arts ecology can do for a neighborhood, city or region. And the problem is more systemic than just lack of funding. That may be a part of the puzzle, but it is just a piece that is reflecting what is valued in our community.

After working with Board Fellows from Emory’s MBA program, surveying the arts community, and looking at trends across the board, I felt additional validation from the keynote from Tim Jones. C4 Atlanta must keep entrepreneurship in the arts as a focal point of its mission. We will continue to provide a safe place for artists and arts administrators to try new ideas, to lean on peer-to-peer learning and to envision a future for a better Atlanta. Innovation must be on the lips of every board member, staff member and funder. It is time to stake our claim and spur innovation and entrepreneurship in a low-growth economy.

*Actually, Tim Jones stated 40% of the workforce is self-employed. This number fluctuates between 30-40%, depending on the source. The main point is that it is trending toward an increase.

Atlanta Spaces – A Venue Market Place 4 the Arts

I have a confession. C4 Atlanta hasn’t been spreading the word very well about Atlanta Spaces. Not lately. We’ve been crazy busy. We got an awesome intern from Emory to help out. If she calls you, please call back.

Just a little reminder: C4 Atlanta and DanceATL are working together to bring our community Atlanta Spaces:

Atlanta Spaces is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art, searchable database of arts venues and facilities in the Atlanta metro area. The website lists venues that offer space for classes, workshops, auditions, rehearsals, performances and more.

A screen shot of Atlanta Spaces homepage
Atlanta Spaces Homepage With Slideshow

Part of what stumped me was how to really message Atlanta Spaces. I see its long-term potential for the Atlanta arts community. Fractured Atlas built the software and they have a great vision for how Spaces will fit into an entire ecosystem of data collection. 

It wasn’t until I had a recent phone conversation with Lisa Niedermeyer, Fractured Atlas, that I realized C4 Atlanta has been messaging the value proposition all wrong. A light bulb went off when Lisa described Spaces as a “market place.” It is not just an online directory of venues. Even though our database only has 36 spaces marked online, that is still more than any other site in our region offers with the same amenities that Spaces provides.

If you rent out your venue, how can Atlanta Spaces help you?

Think about trying to find a space to rehearse a show, host a meet-up, hold a film screening, or even a place to have a wedding. How do you start? Google. Maybe. If you are familiar with arts venues, then you have a one up on a majority of people in the metro area. But let’s say you aren’t. You would have to know the name of the company’s venue or space you would like to rent to get to its website. With Atlanta Spaces, the end-user doesn’t need to know your company’s name–she just has to know what she wants out of a space. Atlanta Spaces becomes an access point. It works for people looking for space in the industry, but it also helps those who are not directly connected to your organizations, like a patron or volunteer. It’s about expanding reach and connecting to the greater community at large. It’s about creating exposure for the vast resources available within our arts community.

Example search of dance space. Shown: Google Map & results text
Search Example for Dance, Rehearsal Space

Other cities are using Atlanta Spaces to reach out to community. Like to see some examples? Check out Philly Space Finder and D.C. Space Finder.

Next week, Joe and I will be in Toronto for the Association of Performing Arts Service Organization’s annual conference. I look forward to hearing about how other cities are utilizing this tool. More to come…

In the meantime, list your space. It’s free. It’s easy to list. It does take some time if you want to flesh out your listing, but it is worth the effort. We will be promoting Atlanta Spaces more over the coming months. In August, Lisa from Fractured Atlas will be in Atlanta to talk more about the goals and benefits of this project. Get on board! One of C4 Atlanta’s goals is to connect Atlanta’s arts & culture scene to the rest of the United States.

TIP: List your rates! Imagine going to Company ABC’s website and you can’t find a price for a new shower curtain. Or you visit the local theme part site and no admission prices are listed. Frustrating right? Put yourself in the place of the end user and think about what he needs to see in order to make a decision about purchasing.