Speaker: Kate Oakley

Good Work? Rethinking Cultural Entrepreneurship
Friday, March 21, 3–4:30 pm
AQ 3182, SFU Burnaby campus (please note room change to larger theatre to accommodate demand) and live webcast
As seats are limited, please reserve online

Vancouver event: The Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology is hosting a simultaneous viewing of this lecture at our downtown campus: Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street, Room 4955. Please reserve online if you would like to attend this Vancouver event.

This lecture will be webcast live and questions during the live webcast can be emailed to gradstudies@sfu.ca or tweeted @SFU_GradStudies (#PDCSFU). We'll read out any questions received during the Q&A period after the lecture. The webcast will be viewable here.

Good Work? Rethinking Cultural Entrepreneurship
The figure of the 'cultural entrepreneur' has been invoked in policy discourse to suggest an image of the self-starting, innovative and independent cultural producer — far removed from the image of the publicly-funded artist or the unionised cultural worker.

I will examine the recent history of this term and consider the paradoxes, tensions and conflicts buried within it:

  • Does 'entrepreneurship' really describe what cultural workers are doing when they are involved in small scale production?
  • In looking at the links between entrepreneurship and the figure of the artist — is entrepreneurship what is needed to address the problems of cultural work and cultural production?

Dr. Kate Oakley is Professor of Cultural Policy and Director of Research at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds. She was previously Head of the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management at City University, London. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts London.

The recording of the webcast is now available on Youtube:

Cultural entrepreneurship – an oxymoron?

  • 14:45 – We’ve got two notions: artists and entrepreneurs. Do they have anything in common? Yes, there’s dissatisfaction with the status quo, the myth (and reality) of self-invention, and creativity and commerce.
  • 18:40 – The desire for artist autonomy is extremely strong, and leads to entrepreneurship; there’s also the autonomy of the artistic realm itself. There’s a deep embeddedness and connection to place amongst cultural entrepreneurs, more so than other entrepreneurs. 
  • 27:10 – Creative economies try to say to artists “be a successful business,” but that may mean doing the same thing over and over again, which isn’t of interest to most artists. There’s a conflict between artistic ideas and ideas of entrepreneurship.

The independents and the creative class

  • 28:45 – The cultural industry is of interest to policymakers because jobs and growth in the cultural sectors outpace other parts of the economy and the jobs can’t be easily mechanized. This is good for local economic growth.
  • 36:22 – Problems with the creative class include: the disintegration of media industries and, as a result, there’s “forced” entrepreneurship via freelancing. There’s a focus – almost fetishization – on these small business, which ignores the larger picture issues, such as the access to distribution and trade.

The realities of cultural work

  • 41:30 – People love it. They’re incredibly passionate, and they overestimate their chance of “making it.” There’s also an ideology of “art for art’s sake,” giving artists a sense of importance. 
  • 46:30 – Willing slaves? Cultural workers willingness to take on free work has a social consequence. Self-exploitation is also the exploitation of other people.

Rethinking cultural entrepreneurship 

  • 49:32 –There’s a perceived ethical importance about working in the cultural industries. For example, cultural workers are both implicated in and critical in gentrification and urban redevelopment.
  • 55:01 – We need a pluralistic notion of entrepreneurship. There’s some indication that is happening i.e. the UNESCO 2013 report took less focus on growth, and more focus on sustainability.

Marcus Price, Bryan Ferry and why we are getting innovation wrong

Kate Oakley on Creative Industries investment