What makes an artist?
Lately, I’ve been looking for a set of criteria that feels right to me personally, and is relevant to my mission professionally. Of course, you can be an artist who works with oil paints, marble, film or other media. There are artists who work with business models, strategic plans and user experiences. Given the events taking place in Philadelphia this week (and all of the time), it’s clear there are also artists who work inside politics, challenging us to join the fight for greater human and civil rights. So, how do we begin to define what makes an artist?
Art is about intent and communication, not medium.
As a former Industrial Designer in New York City, and in my current post as Executive Director of the Arts + Business Council (ABC), I’ve gotten to work with some of the world’s brightest thought leaders (and doers) in the area of creativity and innovation in the workplace, including Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek, Sheryl Sandberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Amy Cuddy, Majora Carter, Bruce Mau and others.
I’ve also been lucky to be able to bring design skills and approaches into The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, and design new programs and services as well as new ways of developing value-driven products. The Chamber challenged itself to adopt a design thinking approach, and as a result, a 215 year old organization is now, more than ever, “at the heart of good business.” Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed The Chamber become more responsive, more agile and add significant value to members.
So when I find myself exploring a big question like “what makes an artist?”, I often consult my favorite “creativity gurus.” Among them, I find Seth Godin’s take to be pretty accurate. In one of his many brilliant books, Godin writes:
“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.”
How does this definition resonate with you?
How do you challenge the status quo, at work, at home, in your community?
If you could design bold solutions to some of your biggest challenges for your team, for your company, for your community, what would they look like and where would you start?
And, more importantly, what’s holding you back?
In the past few years, these are just some of the questions I’ve asked myself and my team at ABC, as we’ve (ad)ventured to design new programs and services like CreativeXchange, which help to unleash the power of creativity, design thinking and art thinking, for leaders, teams, organizations and companies.
Relaunching again this fall, CreativeXchange brings together some of the region’s most exciting and impactful artists and creatives – design thinkers, marketing experts, visual artists, theater directors and more – to increase your capacity for breakthrough ideas and moments of inspiration that lead to success by challenging the status quo.
You could almost call this program a new kind of art school, open to everyone!
I invite you to a dialogue with me and my team about what you think makes an artist. While you’re at it, go ahead and share some of the most rewarding and challenging moments you’ve experienced exercising creativity in your life.
Together, let’s: Lead. Serve. Inspire.