Artists as Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs as Artists

by | Feb 3, 2020 | Features, Spring 2020


Though Adrienne Callander is an assistant professor of art and entrepreneurship, her research centers on challenging the separation of these two processes.

Callander has appointments in both the School of Art and the Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Venture Innovation in the Walton College of Business. As a practicing visual artist, Callander has exhibited in the U.S., Canada, Iceland and Germany. Both her work and her research, which she describes as “very experimental and hybrid,” include publication and art production.

In addition to teaching, she facilitates arts integration and partners with on- and off-campus entities to grow opportunities and engagement with the arts by connecting students with regional and national experts, and with other community partners. The goal, she says, is to extend student experience beyond the classroom.

Callander’s most recent article, “Artmaking as Entrepreneurship: Effectuation and Emancipation in Artwork Formation,” illustrates her push to blend these seemingly disparate concepts. Her article explores the ways that creating certain kinds of artwork mirrors the ways entrepreneurs create start-ups – and vice versa. She points out how two particular models of entrepreneurship – effectuation and emancipation – are also found in the processes of creating artwork.

Callander’s article was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, currently the only internationally recognized arts entrepreneurship journal. It was recently acquired by the University of Arkansas Press, and Callander helped facilitate the transition from Arizona State, liaising between the editors and University of Arkansas Press Director Mike Bieker. This fall she joined its editorial board.

Effectuation is a highly agile process in which the entrepreneur seeks “to build, rather than predict, the future.” It emphasizes exploration and discovery, keeping your options open, and collaboration rather than competition.

Callander says that this is just another way of defining a long-standing art practice: improvisation. “It’s what we do as artists,” she says.

Another entrepreneurial theory she finds mirrored in the art world is the concept of emancipation. In emancipatory ventures, the entrepreneur’s goal is to bring about broad impact and change.

The Art/Entrepreneurs workshop, in downtown Fayetteville, where Callander teaches. Photo by Chieko Hara.

This concept, she says, is frequently found in socially engaged art – that is, artwork that generates human engagement, challenges institutions and initiates change. In both emancipatory ventures and socially engaged art, “there is this idea of breaking up, in addition to ‘breaking free of,’” she says. “You want to break up how things are done.” This is called “disruption” in business vernacular.

She demonstrates that under certain conditions, art can function in distinctly entrepreneurial ways, and that entrepreneurship can be central to making art. Callander cites several examples of what she calls “entrepreneurship as medium,” or socially engaged artwork that erases the line between commerce and the arts: a “charity shop” that served as both an art installation and a thrift store, a “sidewalk sale” of snowballs that critiqued the institutions of art, and others.

The one she focuses on is FOOD, a collaborative work initiated by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden. It began in 1971 and included more than 100 collaborators during its three-year run. Located in the warehouse district of lower Manhattan, FOOD was a “sustained improvisation that integrated cooking, art, architecture and business.” It performed commerce, and commercial processes, as art. Callander says she chose the installation precisely because Matta-Clark was very specific about its intention: “It was as much a conceptual art piece as a restaurant.”

In the space designed by Gordon-Matta, artists-as-chefs cooked “meals of a decidedly artistic bent,” such as plates of various meats that were turned into art after the diner was finished. Instead of being thrown out, the leftover bones were cleaned and another artist would create jewelry or other artwork the diner would wear home. “When does the meal end and the artwork begin?” Callander says. “That was the point.”

For its three-year run, FOOD generated enough income to be self-supporting. It also produced a return on investment in the form of wages for the artists who worked/performed there; affordable, nutritious food; and building community.

 FOOD also had longer lasting, and more wide-ranging, effects. “The things they were doing in the culinary realm – where you can see the kitchen from the dining room, serving seasonal food – is now considered normal,” Callander says. Like entrepreneurship, she says, it was a vehicle for influence and impact.

With more entrepreneurs starting to recognize their connection with the arts, “barriers between these sectors are becoming increasingly porous,” she says. “Right now we are in a time and place where bridging these worlds can have great impact.”

About The Author

An alumna of the U of A who enjoys writing about nearly everything.

University Relations Science and Research Team

University Relations Science and Research Team

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science and research writer

Robert Whitby
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