“Arts” Creative Entrepreneurs
Raising nearly $3 million in private investment and support over the past six months, Meow Wolf — Creative Startups Accelerator 2014 Top Finalist–is off like a rocket. We made a $25,000 investment from our tiny fund. Investments in creative startups are on the rise. Which I guess could mean that I don’t need to make an argument on behalf of investing in the creative economy; except I do.
See, just this week an executive with a national arts foundation told me that “The creative economy is no longer in vogue…” Which is odd because three of the IPO’s of 2014 that made vc investors money were WhatsApp, Seamless, and GoPro. All creative industry companies. And therein lies the story.
There is a growing gulf between the traditional “arts community” and the creative economy. The recent article in The Atlantic does a nice job of laying out the market shifts that have influenced the rise of the creative entrepreneur.
Here’s my take: previous generations of artists created art primarily to express themselves. To share their interpretation of the world. The communication was unidirectional. Today’s artists create art as a platform for exchange and interaction. The goal is to co-create a shared interpretation of our world. That’s why online communities of “artists” are exploding. Dribble, Behance, Picsart, and DeviantArt to name a just a few. And then of course, the offline communities of CreativeMornings, 99u are booming, too.
So why is it that the traditional arts community is on a different wavelength – and likely to be left behind? I propose the disconnect stems from the fact that the people in charge (foundation program directors, wealthy donors, museum leaders) are entrenched in a system in which they have power and influence. There is no obvious benefit or gain for them if they embrace the creative entrepreneur and economy. But what they may be missing out on is having a voice in the formation of the emerging creative entrepreneur as a dominant agent of social change and communication. (If you think the rise of the creative entrepreneur is slowing down anytime soon stop for a moment and consider the total upheaval of just one creative industry: photography. Pinterest. Flickr. Shutterfly. Picsart. Oh, congratulations to Picsart on raising $10million in vc funds this week!)
But, the old guard never just drops what they know for the new. That is the job of consumers. And in this new creative economy markets (i.e. the masses) get to determine what is art, what is creative, and what merits our attention. And this means that, yes, a lot of creative economy products and services will be crap. And, some of it will be incredible. And, in a few rare and beautiful moments, the creations will inspire humans to share their thoughts, dreams, emotions and aspirations.
Don’t believe me? Ok. But then you haven’t seen Meow Wolf yet. So hold off on what you think about creative entrepreneurs and whether they merit your investment until you do. Because its a brave new world and you don’t want to be left behind with your polaroid in your hand.