The Intrinsic is Enough

Contrary to popular belief, the intrinsic is essential. 

It forms our individual and collective compositions, yet in political and economic discussions on the arts and culture, we diminish that which makes us whole. 

As we explored in last week’s post, we are overly reliant on the quantifiable.  We revere that which is separate from ourselves simply because it generates visible results.    Since it is not seen but felt, the intrinsic is considered less significant, or even meaningless, by market forces (and therefore the political sphere).  These beliefs lead many artists and culture bearers to, in their fundraising efforts, clumsily yoke their work to extrinsic benchmarks that can never convey their power and influence. 

What do we search for most ardently in life, if not meaning and feeling?  It is the arts and culture’s rooting in sensation that makes them meaning full. The intrinsic holds the ultimate significance.

After the recent passing of artists David Bowie and Natalie Cole, the discussions that bubbled up had little to do with “the numbers”.  Their art weighted trillions of moments for people across the globe, across generations and across sensibilities.  Bowie and Cole’s lives’ work formed the foundation of billions of stories that, when shared, healed, buoyed and connected their mourning fans – and created new ones posthumously.  The music business may promote extrinsic benefits, but the greatest value of its products is intrinsic. Its current crises may be resolved by an industry-wide deference to this reality.

Management guru Dr. Nancy J. Adler has written often on the arts and leadership in the 21st Century.  In her work, she implores business leaders to uncover beauty, to seek direction from artists if they desire to succeed in ways that benefit the world broadly. Acknowledgment of the intrinsic’s primacy to our fundamental selves and our collective sense of community, will facilitate the development of an economy that is accountable.

Think Like a Poet

If we all begin to think more like poets, contemporary communication will be transformed.

I don’t mean to say that texts should rhyme, nor that Instagram captions should be written in meter.  What I mean is that before writing anything, we should pause briefly to reflect on the moment and choose the right words to convey what we really mean.

The poet is a shape-shifter whose work can be approached as imagery, song, story, performance or even a sort of science (scansion analysis).  Above all, though, the poet’s work is personal – to the poet him or herself and to the reader.  This multiplicity lends itself naturally to the complexities of the modern identity

Poetry is, like say, Facebook, a social media. It records an instant, can spur people to action, bridges vast geographic areas.  Unlike say, Facebook, poetry – even bad poetry – is viscerally evocative. Its power is in the poet’s pause, in the poet’s vocabulary – things that we can cultivate easily.

Perhaps if we thought more like the poet, even our mundane conversations would mean more.

Perhaps if we thought more like the poet, even ugly moments would be infused with a little beauty. Perhaps if we thought more like the poet, if we expanded our sensibilities in similar ways, we would find more reasons to create and edit in our daily lives. 

Perhaps if we thought more like the poet, the weight of our carefully chosen words would bring us light.

Perhaps if we considered our words more carefully before putting them out in the world, we would stop taking for granted that we are not listening to one another.  That we are not listening to ourselves.

Six Things We're Thankful For in 2015

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the U.S., we celebrate the many people we are thankful for: our friends and family members, our advisers and clients, and everyone who has joined us on our journey. 

There are also a lot of things we’re grateful for this year, and we’d like to share our top six with you:

  1. We’re thankful for the New York City MTA’s Poetry in Motion, for providing inspiration during our daily commutes.
  2. We’re thankful for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art’s Louisiana Channel. It provides us with introductions to new perspectives from our favorite artists, and introduces us to artists we would’ve been unfamiliar with otherwise.
  3. We’re thankful for Sarah Stodola’s “Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors”, for drawing attention to the routines, rituals and practices that resulted in the creation of cherished literary works (and for reminding the world that the muse is one hardworking mother!).
  4. We’re thankful for Elsie’s Parlor, for providing us with delicious, caffeinated fuel for early morning brainstorms.
  5. We’re thankful for Bevy Smith’s Instagram page, for its continual reminders that a "gratitude attitude" will get you everywhere.
  6. We’re thankful for Americans for the Arts’ Art and Business Council, for facilitating creative partnerships that unite culture, commerce and communities.

What are the things you're thankful for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo by Comstock/Stockbyte / Getty Images

Ancient Traditions, Contemporary Technology

Although many artists and culture bearers lament the advent of digital technologies, their ascendance trumpets a return to ancient storytelling traditions that were disrupted by the printing press.  Online stories are subject to interpretation and are transformed through personalization and participation.  The story is enlivened.

If stories are our original means of communicating complex ideas, entertaining ourselves and connecting with one another, armed with access to the internet, the artist/culture bearer has the power to change the world.  The mutability of the digital story lends itself to egalitarianism, because it’s owned by all and its meanings are myriad.

“Storytelling” is now a buzzword in marketing, public relations and advertising, but to be truly effective it has to do much more than just sell something.  If it’s not artful, it won’t resonate authentically.  Modern storytelling is a collision of new media and ancient tradition that is most effectively commanded by the artist, who is skilled at challenging us to look at the world in new ways.  The artists helps us to helps us reach others by examining ourselves. 

Photo by WÆRK

Is Hipster Culture Bad for the Future of the Arts?

Photo by OliaFedorovsky/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by OliaFedorovsky/iStock / Getty Images

Is hipster culture detrimental to the arts sector?  

In spite of its significant contributions to contemporary creativity – the transformation in the ways we think about and consume food and drink, technologies that have turbocharged social activism – the hipster generation has done remarkably little to empower professional artists.  After 20 years after the culture wars of the 1990s, too many arts and cultural organizations are forced to run on fumes in the name of passion. The arts and culture sector remains tethered to the limiting grant funding apparatus that inhibits financial operations, and therefore prohibits both opportunities for expansion and the ability to offer competitive wages.    Technological advances have led to an increase in art production, but it's incredibly difficult to make and sustain a living as an artist because of the parasitic nature of the contemporary audience (everyone wants art, but no one wants to pay for it.  Everyone enjoys art, but few appreciate the work that goes into its production). 

A generation that prides itself on advancing a sharing economy and congratulates itself on valuing experiences over things, has not used its penchant for innovation to elevate the arts and culture - the ultimate in shared experiences. 

Popular culture is largely reductive these days. Writers are recapping television shows after they air instead of creating more meaningful original content.  Successful films from decades past are half-heartedly rebooted for contemporary audiences.  Design trends are direct, sometimes ironic, rehashes of items from previous eras. We need to encourage artistic innovation that is not driven solely by immediate return on investment or number of unique visitors. 

Are hipsters too concerned with using art to curate their own images to truly empower the arts sector?  

The technology sector advocates for its workers to “fail better".  It's only fair that artists should be provided with the same "draft better”.