The Arts Incubator

14Nov11

This week, I found an interesting article about a new arts incubator to set up shop in Fort Collins, Colorado. The city recently won a $100,000  “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Part of a collaborative public-private “creative placemaking” initiative, Fort Collins will soon develop the Arts Incubator of the Rockies, otherwise known as AIR. The NEA defines creative placemaking as “using smart design and leveraging the arts to create livable, sustainable neighborhoods with enhanced quality of life, increased creative activity, distinct identities, a sense of place, and vibrant local economies” (Rocky Mountain). AIR will not only exist as a place for artists to work on their crafts, but the initiative plans to expand to a whole host of other areas to benefit artists. These areas include: “delivering online classes, hosting networking events in communities throughout the region, offering reduced cost business-coaching and consulting services…free access to an online database of resources, and a monthly e-newsletter” (Rocky Mountain).

Arts incubators are nothing new. The concept is based on the “business incubator” model from the 1950s, where creating shared economies and working in warehouse space supported entrepreneurs and other small business.  Collaborators could also share costs on administration and accounting among other things. The arts have since taken on this model and used similar concepts to cultivate new artists. Incubators are no longer just affordable spaces, but they have evolved to help artists learn the “business of the arts” by offering courses, professional development workshops, and networking events.

Incubators are not only being formed in communities like Fort Collins. Fractured Atlas is an example of a virtual arts incubator based out of New York, and it is designed for individual creatives, which provides tools such as free online classes and a database of empty rehearsal spaces. Fractured Atlas’ mission states that it helps “artists and arts organizations function more effectively as businesses by providing access to funding, healthcare, education, and more, all in a context that honors their individuality and independent spirit.” This is a great organization for artists who want to succeed in their field but at the same time want to attain skills for them to have a successful “business” as an artist.  The website directs users to Fractured U stating, “Do-it-yourself artist? Accidental administrator? Online courses teach you what you never learned in art school.”

Examples like AIR and Fractured Atlas seem like great ideas for the creative industries to teach artists certain management skills, even if it is only managing their own businesses as an artist. There are also overarching management principles at play here. For example, Fractured Atlas has its own business model and must administer its artistic members accordingly. This week’s reading states, “creative organizations have had to become increasingly businesslike as a result of public sector accountability and private sector competition” (Bilton 34). Additionally, “separating out managerial and artistic functions can…be seen as highly uncreative ways of thinking” (Bilton 35). It seems like arts incubators attempt to achieve success in creating a businesslike framework that aspires to foster artistic creativity simultaneously.

-Sarah D.

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