March 30, 2008

No Handouts Required



I went to a workshop today at Cornershop Projects, an un-gallery on the East-side of Vancouver. It was a good refresher on how to prepare proposals, how to write clearly and how to stalk Canada Council committee members. They also covered a number of useful resources like resartis.org and artipedia.org.

The workshop was similar to a course taught in 3rd year at Emily Carr and got me thinking about a gap in the experience of emerging artists in Vancouver: being an entrepreneur. I wish more effort was spent cultivating students who can live from selling their art, from using their skills commercially, and and from running their own businesses.

I read somewhere that MFA is the new MBA, and I think there's more than a grain of truth to that. A lot of lip service is given to the importance of creativity and innovation in business publications, and yet there's very little awareness of how much entrepreneurial spirit is born from art schools. Damn you, Marx. Artists should be CEOs, not workers.

There's something sad about how so many artists scramble for small handouts from the Canada Council to sustain their practice when there is so much money flowing around society. The beauty of the current period in art is how almost any human activity can be examined from the point of artistic research and almost any activity can stand to gain from artists' interventions. There's no need to be that innovative either, just re-performing the work of past artists can be profitable. Take Mondrian's Grey Tree as an example of how the artist can see and perform abstraction -- how an artist can take something complex and reduce it like a scientist might. Or take Beuys' concept of social sculpture and become an agent of change in an organization. I mean, Laurie Anderson was artist-in-residence at NASA, why couldn't an artist insert themselves into something as seemingly boring as, say, an accounting company?

No handouts required.

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