The Future of Arts Entrepreneurship: A Conversation with Baruch College Provost Linda Essig
January 18, 2022
How will artists of the future make a living? How will rapid technological change impact the economy of art and the ability of artists to “survive and thrive”?
These are questions that Linda Essig, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Baruch College, has wrestled with throughout her academic career. Her new book, which will publish this month and is titled Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action, offers case studies examining the relationships between art, innovation, entrepreneurship, and money.
Dr. Essig’s research on this topic has landed her at the top of her field, widely recognized as one of the foremost scholars seeking to explain how artists live, work, and monetize their art in the age of neoliberal economics.
Dr. Essig recently sat down for an interview with David Milch, a distinguished lecturer at Baruch and the College’s MA Arts Administration Program Director. In the interview, Dr. Essig articulates her vision for the future of arts entrepreneurship, both as a field of academic inquiry and as a practice for artists to live by.
Voices of Baruch: A Conversation with Provost Linda Essig on Arts Entrepreneurship
An Expert’s View on the Arts
Throughout her conversation with Milch, Dr. Essig draws upon the concepts and themes in Creative Infrastructures: Artists, Money, and Entrepreneurial Action.
Artists face unique challenges when they seek to make a living from their creative practice. As Dr. Essig says, “Often in the relationship between arts and business, people think about the artist ‘selling out,’” suggesting a concern that “the business will drive out the art.”
The book seeks to redefine this relationship. Dr. Essig uses the metaphor of an ouroboros –– the serpent eating its own tail –– to suggest a different approach: “The art is the head [of the serpent] and the tail is money, which is eaten by the head to nourish the art and the artist. Between the art and the money is innovation, the new idea that the artist puts out in the world. Entrepreneurship is part of this body as well. The artist is putting their work out into the world to generate the money that they can then use to create more art.”
Ultimately, Dr. Essig’s scholarship seeks to understand how artists will navigate a changing economy and continue to produce great art. She says, “It is important to me, as Provost of Baruch College as well as somebody who thinks about cultural policy, to think about what our possibilities might be 20 years from now. We might be in a slightly different policy environment or economic system, there might be some changes…that would enable artists to do things differently. I wanted to think about what’s next.”
An Educator, a Scholar, and a Practitioner: Three Decades of Leadership
Dr. Essig leads this conversation with three decades of experience as a scholar, faculty member and administrator at major public institutions and as a professional lighting designer who has designed for theaters around the country.
Raised in New York City, Dr. Essig’s distinguished career includes tenures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Arizona State University, and California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA). As an academic leader, her work has focused on the mission of inclusive and transformational education, especially for traditionally underserved students. With degrees in the arts and in public administration and policy, she is a true multi-disciplinarian who has an impressive track record fostering academic innovation through interdisciplinary partnership.
With a PhD in public administration and public policy from Arizona State University and an MFA and BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Dr. Essig’s scholarship and teaching experience have focused since 2005 on entrepreneurship and innovation. She has been published extensively, with articles appearing in such refereed journals as Cultural Trends, Entrepreneurship Research Journal, Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, and Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, which she launched in 2012.
Creative Infrastructures is Dr. Essig’s fourth book.