Said Eric Booth, an actor, author, businessman and arts educator at Rackham Amphitheater last Wednesday in his keynote address, “I was as engaged and challenged creating a marketing plan for my company as I had been when I played Hamlet.”
Booth’s Residency was among a series of events co-sponsored by the Ross School of Business student group Arts Enterprise, formed in 2006, which allows students from the School of Business and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance to collaborate on strategies to unify the arts and business worlds. This is the first Arts Enterprise Week, continuing through Dec. 5.
“These events are not only about how business and art influence each other, but how both coexist,” said Michael Mauskapf, Arts Enterprise’s communications officer and a graduate student in the School of Music.
Rarely do we ever think of art when we solve for x in a math equation or dissect a human brain. Preconceived notions define art as only visually or sonically appealing, like a painting or a poem. Booth’s address prompted the audience to question the ability of art to push its traditional boundaries.
Booth, who believes that art is a verb and not a noun, discussed American society’s tendency to classify art based on the type of work produced, rather than on the process one takes to make a product.
“Those verbs of art – the things artists make when they create those nouns of art – the things human beings do when they enter the world of ‘works of art’ are the same verbs all of us use when we creatively invest in a conversation, and when we creatively engage in an interesting problem,” Booth said.
Through thought experiments and audience participation, Booth demonstrated how creative thinking is something humans have the capacity to engage in on all levels, and how, with practice, it becomes a habit of mind. With this process, we can broaden the ways we perceive artistic experiences. For instance, forming a supply and demand model may qualify as an artistic experience more so than, as Booth suggested, placing your hands in clay and not doing anything with it. It’s the creation of something, the making – the verb, as Booth would say – which results in an artistic experiment.
Problem-solving processes, like analogical and logical thinking, are equally useful for creative output. It may seem contradictory, but the two modes of thought create a balance.
“It’s when the two are in a kind of interactive tension that creative progress emerges,” Booth said.
For example, the logic behind a marketing plan may be useful to an artist understanding the flow of an essay or the structure of a sculpture. Both types of thinking allow businesspersons and artists to learn from each other’s practices.
This activity of trading ideas is what Arts Enterprise facilitates through board meetings, workshops, community service and guest speakers. It gives students a chance to obtain a sense of business savvy while thinking in strategic and creative ways. Music students are given the opportunity to prepare themselves for the musical marketplace. Business students are able to strengthen their artistic mindset as the business world becomes increasingly global and as corporations continue to hire students from various degrees, including the arts. This action-based group will participate in an upcoming project in New Orleans where they will plan ways to readjust the culture of New Orleans with resources in for-profit and government areas of the economy.
“The main perceived difference is that the business world is a for-profit construct, and the arts world is a non-profit construct, and the general consensus among the public is that art groups are there to produce art, and that it is not about monetary compensation,” Mauskapf said. “However, it’s not nearly as black and white as that.”
This misconception only widens the gap between the arts and business worlds, but Booth’s final point is a good starting point for change: doing things out of an intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) motivation. That is, engagement in a task should be the result of a desire one has, not a feeling of obligation. Being intrinsically involved encourages us to creatively engage ourselves and bring to light a problem that’s worth addressing.
Other Arts Enterprise Week events:
-The new roles of artists and administrators in the arts with guest speaker John Mccan: Monday, December 3rd, 6:30-8 p.m. Work Gallery, 306 State Street
Discussion of changing role of artists and arts administrators in various organizations