Monday, September 22, 2008

Business and Arts in the Mirror Effect

Business and Art: The Mirror Effect Goes Both Ways

David M. Boje

I want to thank all the students, faculty and the Dean of the Business College for coming here tonight. I want to thank the artists, Arts Organization leaders, and the leaders in government for being here tonight. I want to thank the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce for coming tonight to speak to us. I particularly want to thank Virginia Maria Romero of Talking Stick Institute, for getting the ball rolling, to bring this Arts Convention into being. And thanks to Joe Gladstone for co-facilitating with me tonight.

I being my storytelling by telling you about how Virginia Maria Romero came to the Dean of the College of Business, and to the Associate Dean, and asked them to help her arts business.  And the Deans enrolled her project for Retablos in the Arrowhead Center, and the entrepreneurship of a win-win partnership began.  And after last year’s Talking Stick Institute brought some artists together to decide what to do about the arts economy, Virginia Maria called me, and said, TSI could do lots more.  And the rest, as they say, is history. She became a board member of TSI and helped in a big way to get this Arts Convention off the ground.

Tonight, I want to talk about something that Friedrich Nietzsche (1882/1974: p. 297, The Gay Science) called the “mirror effect.”  The best art for business is the Mirror Effect – to hold a mirror up to those who command and control. Art holds up a mirror up to those who obey and those who resist.  Art holds a mirror up to utilitarian, instrumental kinds of ethics, so that a more caring and social and maybe even natured ethical consciousness is apprehended.  And Business can hold up the Mirror of more prosperity, better plans and implementation in the Arts Scene. A vitalized Arts Scene is important to business. Arts Tourism in New Mexico is a five billion dollar industry. And there are more artists per capita in New Mexico than any other state, and New Mexico leads the nation when it comes to arts tourists.

When I say to students, visit the local Arts Scene. They reply, too often, “What Arts Scene?’  Have you been to Arts Ramble, to ArtsHop, to Love of Arts Month, or visited the Museums? No, I did not know about any of that?  How do I find out? That’s the main problem. There just is not enough marketing, not to students, not to arts tourists in Europe, not to the State government, who tends to see art as something, up-North.

The Mirror Effect brings about a bet on the future, what I call an “antenarrative” (Boje, 2001, Narrative Methods for Organization & Communication Research). An ante means a ‘bet’ and a ‘before. Antenarrative is a bet about the future that comes before a narrative petrification is constructed.

This evening we make some antenarratives, some bets on the future of the Arts Scene.  We dream our bets about the future we want this Arts Scene to bring into being. As for me, my antenarrative is that Business can interplay with Art in ways that help them both comprehend and know the Creative Economy in a more subtle way.

In The Arts Convention for Las Cruces & Mesilla Valley, we are holding up two mirrors.  The first mirror reflects the Arts Scene through a kaleidoscope of business facets.  The second mirror reflects Business through the kaleidoscope of the Arts.

Looking at the Arts Scene through the Business Mirror

Business is all about utility, the economics of the arts from its revenues, costs, wages, to its strategic piloting indicators (what Dean Carruthers calls the ‘dash board indicators’).  The theme of this Arts Convention: how artists and arts organizations can make a living. We think that is by marketing Las Cruces and Mesilla Valley as an “Arts Destination” and by Business, Arts, University, and Chambers of Commerce (we have 2) coming together to market the arts.  Tonight we will do some storytelling about what is possible in the Future of the Arts Scene, and then build some strategic piloting indicators.

Some major indicators are arts buying and selling.  What I hear is arts is just not selling, artists and galleries are not making a living. There are over 250 artists, some 130 organizations in the arts scene (including 87 arts service organizations, 36 galleries,  & 7 museums), but arts are not selling, not well enough for those who want to, to make a living.

What are these Strategic Piloting Indicators? 50,000 people will visit RenFaire, and 230,000 will visit museums, and another 10,000 will visit 36 galleries this year. ‘So what’ says Business? What counts is the number of people that buy, and not just how much art they buy, but how many meals, hotel rooms, and other kinds of consumer purchases such as rental cars, clothing, etc. There are both qualitative and quantitative piloting indicators used to assess if missions, goals, and plans are coming into existence, bearing fruit.

The missions, goals, action plans, and piloting indicators are the way Business looks at the local economy of the arts scene.

What does Arts see reflected in the mirror Business holds up to its Scene? The Business Mirror Effect would look at overlap, at duplication of mission by this or that organization with other organization, and call for more win-win cooperation by respecting niches.

Classism There is some snobbery, and some classism. The MFA artist does not associate with the hobbyist. The Town, Mesa, and City artist is outside the social class of the University artist.  There is a socioeconomic reflection of the Arts Scene in the Business Mirror. There is high, middle, and lower class art. The lower class buys its Wal-art at the two local Wal-Marts. Couch potatoes of all classes do not frequent the Symphony, Opera of the plays at the community theatres. The upper class does not frequent many galleries locally, but do attend the fundraisers at the animal shelter, and some give to the Symphony to defray costs of the program. The middle class, by in large heads to Silver City, to El Paso, or even Santa Fe to buy the more expensive art.

Water colorists and sculptors share their ways of doing art, but the oil and acrylic artists keep trade secrets. Some galleries, and certainly the symphony cater to the upper class, maybe to the upper middle class. The Crafts and Farmers’ Market caters to the people who want affordable arts and crafts. Some arts associations don’t sell visual art for more than $200. Other arts organizations would never sell so cheaply. There is a sort of classism in the arts and culture here, maybe everywhere. Business looks at classism in the arts in terms of pricing strategy.  There is ageism. Young students rarely venture beyond the castle walls of the University, to attend an Arts Ramble (first Friday of each month) or the annual ArtsHop, or the Love of Arts Month. These are pursuits of much older people.

The Business Mirror Effect gives a glimpse why the arts scene must be compellent so that University students, faculty, and staff will become consumers in the Arts Scene. Art as a product must compel the buyers to buy so that artist can make a living, arts galleries and theatres a profit, and museum gift shops revenue to supplement shrinking budget from the State. 

Let us do the Mirror Effect the other way: What can Business learn from the Arts?

Art is often used by business in very utilitarian ways:

*    How to make organizations beautiful (oftentimes when they are not).

*    To dilute what is bitter is the feat of inventive artists.

*    Seeing Things around the corner that a linear plan cannot fathom.

*    Making products into brands, and corporations into images.

*    Spinning a story to reinvent a tarnished image.

*    Using architectural perspective, tinted glass and shadows to conceal much from public view.

Some say the measure of a strong corporate culture, is a portrait of the CEO, University President, or General is visible from the entry way of headquarters. An artist has made such a portrait, and it serves a very instrumental purpose: a referent to the founder’s, and to successors’ core values, and a glorification of the legitimate leaders of an enterprise.

Art can also make Business conscious of some very Ethical things. Nietzsche (p. 235) says of the artist, “their best art would not really profit others.”  Many in Las Cruces and Mesilla Valley would agree that their art does not bring them profit.  But that may not be their intent. Art can help business to comprehend, to feel a sense of caring, to know itself beyond instrumental, utilitarian, and impersonal indicators. Those who are called artists in the best sense of that term can give business an ethical appreciation.  For example, Mark Medoff wrote a play and it debuted locally, called “We Are Enron.”  The play is the Mirror Effect of Arts’ perspective on Business, on Accounting, on Free Market Capitalism.

More than being instrumental, utilitarian or a spin, art can develop a perspective that peers beneath the spectacle masquerade.  Art can get beneath the superficial, and way down to the soul of business. Art, when used by Business as a tool, misses this deeper more answerable ethical perspective.

Apollo and Dionysus Perhaps when Business looks in the Arts’ Mirror, business sees a reflection of Dionysus. For Nietzsche there is Apollonian art and Dionysian art. Apollo art is all about hierarchy, status, and class. Dionysian art is about change, revolution, and destruction of the old hierarchies.  The Arts Scene will grow out of the interplay of the Apollo and Dionysus artists. Artists can help business, to draw from a drained cup of worker’s labor, another drop of joy that tastes sweet to the soul. When Art is incorporated into Business, not as a tool, but as inspiration, things that were previously inexpressible become storyable.

Business is About Cause and Effect.  Business without art, or only art as a tool, can only see cause and effect (Nietzsche, p. 204, 235). With Art in the Mirror Effect, Business can see its antenarrative, its ways of ‘Becoming’ its bet. Nietzsche calls it a “river of becoming” (p. 163).  The problem is that Cause and Effect logic misses most of the subtle aspects of becoming. Business infers an effect, and then looks for a cause (the most basic duality), and then the cause of that cause, until a linear causal chain is constructed as a BME (Beginning, Middle & End) narrative. The problem with cause and effect duality reasoning is that it is without Art. With the Mirror Effect of art, it’s possible to see more than linearity, and to include more subtle patterns.

Arts and Business in the Mirror Effect We are witness to the birth of a new perspective, Arts, Business, Government and Education working together, in a win-win relationship. We are witness to the birth of a new and different Arts-Business aesthetics.  This Arts Scene will grow and prosper. This is the arts scene of Southern New Mexico. It’s an Arts Scene at the crossroads of Hispano, Anglo, and Native American cultures.

A vitalized Arts Scene important to business. Artists can help Business to see the suffering of souls in visual arts, to hear the tones of suffering of souls torment in business.  This occurs when the instrumental reasoning of cause and effects appears to come unhinged (Nietzsche, p. 143).

Thanks one and all for making this Arts Convention a great Hall of Mirrors.

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