It’s definitely a tough time to be an artist. Not due to a lack of resources, inspiration and certainly not a lack of information. It’s a particularly tough time to be an artist because artists leave school with a degree in their hands but no substantial guidance on how to be a confident entrepreneur. The idea that entrepreneurship and the field of arts are part of two opposite worlds is very dangerous to artists themselves.
There’s an extremely important missed idea in the current art education standard: teaching artists from all creative fields the business skills they need to succeed. Artists rarely see themselves as entrepreneurial types, even though they are usually forced to be highly innovative when making a living. Side jobs, several short-term projects, freelancing, scattered schedules – these are common coping mechanisms that creatives face in order to continue making art and not starve. In fact, the “starving artist” stereotype is directly connected with this lack of entrepreneurial education from art institutions. Inadequate working-life preparatory skills is not only evident amongst artists but sadly expected. The reason this happens is because of the way we as a society understand the meaning of entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is usually identified with being competitive and working on specific fields, such as traditional corporate jobs. Entrepreneurship is perceived as a solely economic phenomenon and that pushes out a significant portion of the workforce to the margins – including professionals from creative fields.
How exactly can we change the way we perceive entrepreneurship itself? The shift must come from what we consider to be entrepreneurial and what we don’t. Bringing back in the cultural, social, ecological and artistic aspects of the workforce and seeing all of them as part of the same vital organism: it’s all entrepreneurial. Every single section of our current society is responsible for important contributions to the way we live our lives. No single part deserves more attention or effort; one part does not makes us whole. Collaboration increases the likelihood of our successes, especially for artists. Exchanging ideas, nurturing healthy conversations and building a sense of community can make lasting impacts on the artist’s path to success.
To create is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, take risks and present the world new ways of understanding – it takes an incredible amount of courage and discipline. Art making takes on many forms and shapes, and often comes as social change. Unfortunately, far too many artists have struggled more than needed just to make ends meet.
What if we could re-imagine our definition of success? What if success could be found in everyday life? As writers Chris Steyaert and Daniel Hjorth defined on the book Entrepreneurship as Social Change: “entrepreneurship is about the everyday, daily life; the civic practices of living, rather than an extraordinary accomplishment.” Art making is a radical act, an extraordinary accomplishment in itself, but entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be. Instead, entrepreneurship could be the missing tool for artists to successfully deliver their message to the world. It’s only a matter of collaboration.
Artwork by Evan M. Cohen. More about his work here.