Monday, February 8, 2010

To my fellow artists – a call to mentoring and networking

I believe it’s important to understand the larger context in which we operate today (whether as business, arts org,anization educational institution, artist or audience).

As you know well, across North America, folks are
• struggling to reconcile diminished arts funding and broken governance models,;
• questioning how business sees the role of arts,;
• wondering how arts and business can forge new relationships across funding, skills, education and experimentation/research possibilities.
These questions are my passion – and a driver behind my blog and personal network/community.

Business and post-secondary educational institutions alike are struggling to address ever-changing needs - that encompasses the evolving ask of students, communities, partners, consumers and audiences.

As recently illustrated by the global economic crisis, the world at every level - down to the macrocosm - is in a paradigm shift. The truth of this new paradigm is that change is the new constant – change at levels we’ve not experienced before.
• Careers exist that weren’t on anyone’s radar 10 years ago.
• Access to information is changing.
• Economic dependencies are emerging.
• Environmental considerations are changing our sensibilities.
All these and more are going to keep changing and moving – and our solutions have to be as flexible.

Therefore, it is no longer about what an individual can contribute or what one institution can gather within its own walls – but about how we can build better networks and bridges to tap into and share information to grow and succeed together.

For small example, the debate around social media – from the understanding the technology itself to how it’s affecting our disciplines – is not one we could solve in isolation. What does an e-reader mean to publishing? How does writing for print differ from writing for screen? How can theatre productions incorporate the medium? What does this mean to PR and communication? To how we share knowledge or educate people?

Everyone is asking. But we need to provide forums and open the door to the experiments/thinking of artists and the debate of our audiences and partners. We don’t have to solve it – we have to offer a means of participating in the debate.

To paraphrase Michel Tremblay – our best chance to be universal is to be local.

Another example - that terrific study by Canada Council in 2007 – Next Generation Dialogues where artists and funders were interviewed regarding their thoughts around what it takes to have a successful career.

Findings included the need to build community: better networks that included not just artists within the same discipline, but other disciplines, funders, business partners and audiences. They talked about the need for ongoing skill development and a broader definition of what is a long-term artistic career. They requested mentors and training in the business of art as well as the art of business. One participant said “You really need to feel like you are in a strong network to feel professional, because it’s hard to feel like you are an artist in general society. “

While pointing out the challenges, this is also creating amazing opportunities.

It’s increasingly evident that this culture of change has brought a societal awareness of the importance of creativity and the creative mind.

It is now recognized that creativity is key component of problem solving and big thinking. Non-linear thinking is now recognized as part of success in the business and commercial worlds. We’ve long recognized it within the discipline of art itself. Artists and those trained in an artistic discipline are uniquely positioned to fill this identified gap.

That’s another bridge to help folks access – how to transfer arts skills into other disciplines and broader careers.

Consider that artists are less than 1% of Ontario’s workforce – and even smaller portion of the overall Canadian workforce – considered marginal contributors to the GDP.

Consider that we can raise visibility of both by leading the discussion and showcasing how to build better networks and bridges. We can teach folks how to thrive within a world of change. We can create advocates to speak on behalf of arts.

The thing about a vision is it is like the outline for a fabulous painting – I may suggest all the lines and even grind some of the colours – but it will only work if we all pick up a paint brush and finish it together with all the changes and decisions of the group dynamic that shape the final product. I’m offering a vision but need the alignment and input of all the people who will be affected by it.

You have to join the discussion. You have to find like-minds and then use the collective voice to reach others and allow others to reach and influence you.

Mentoring and networking are an essential component of artistic success in this century. Start reaching out.


Anonymous said...

Often we forget the little guy, the SMB, in our discussions of the comings and goings of the Internet marketing industry. Sure there are times like this when a report surfaces talking about their issues and concerns but, for the most part, we like to talk about big brands and how they do the Internet marketing thing well or not so well.

Dennie Theodore said...

And yet almost everyone starts out as a little guy... especially in the arts.
Everyone is someone if we can figure out how to include them in the equation.

michele said...

Finding a company that is willing to hire or listen to someone who "colours outside the lines" is a challenge. Old habits die hard, and bosses who are afraid of doing things differently are digging thier heels, resisting the change that is happening around them.
Fresh crayon, anyone??