Posted by: Liz Massey | June 20, 2009

Surf’s Up: Top Creativity Links for June 20, 2009


Photo courtesy SXC.

NEA: Art Creation Up, Attendance Down
This link is to an audio file for an NPR story by Elizabeth Blair on the National Endowment for the Arts’ recent release of a brochure containing highlights of their 2008 national arts participation survey.  Blair’s story asserts that more people are interested in creating, and participate in activities such as playing an instrument, taking photographs or participating in a local theater troupe, but fewer people are interested in paying to watch a arts professional (or group) perform.

The NEA’s press release on the highlights document goes into a little more detail and is actually a little less optimistic about even the personal participation part—the release notes only the share of adults doing photography has increased – from 12 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2008.

While these findings are dreary for those who are professional artists, there are some good take-aways from the report for artists and innovators:

Get thee on the Internet. About 70 percent of U.S. adults went online for any purpose in 2008 survey, and of those adults, nearly 40 percent used the Internet to view, listen to, download, or post artworks or performances. If you don’t have significant online outreach to those people most likely to appreciate the art you make, you need to start planning how you’re going to do it, now.

Find ways to share your artwork virtually. This goes with take-away number one. According to the NEA survey, 30 percent of adults who use the Internet download, watch, or listen to music, theater, or dance performances online at least once a week. More than 20 percent of Internet-using adults view paintings, sculpture, or photography at least once a week. Obviously, to safely sell your work or share it without people pirating it, you have to do your homework. But more and more people are consuming and producing art and sharing it online, and this needs to be part of your plan, even if your art seems resistant to digital and virtual reproduction.

Consider teaching or acting as a guide to your art or craft. The upside of the continuing interest in producing art and participating in art-making activities is that it creates opportunities for more-experienced artisans to serve as teachers or “gatekeepers.” The NEA survey found 33.7 million adults reported listening to, or viewing programs or recordings about books/writers and the same number enjoyed broadcasts or recordings about the visual arts. That’s a lot folks hungry to know more about an art form—and potentially many opportunities to provide a service to them in the form of education or commentary.

You can download the NEA’s Arts Participation 2008: Highlights from a National Survey brochure for more information on this topic. More detailed study results will be available later this year.

Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical Innovators
Marketing strategist Umair Haque, writing over at, asserts in this recent post that Twitter isn’t just changing how we communicate, it’s changing how we innovate.

Haque lists 10 ways in which the way Twitter operates is shifting the innovation landscape. One of his items that I find most dead-on is his assertion that Twitter has caused two-way circuits to triumph over one-way channels:

“Circuits beat channels. Twitter isn’t building a new media channel. It’s turning yesterday’s channel into a circuit. Oprah doesn’t broadcast to you: rather, the innovation is that you can talk to her, you can talk to your friends about her, she can talk to all of you, and anyone can talk to everyone.

“Twitter has dropped a neutron bomb of real-time feedback into the heart of media: yesterday’s inert, rigid channel becomes a flexible, ever-shifting, reconfigurable set of circuits instead. Efficiency is gained — and monopoly is vaporized — as demand coalesces around supply, and vice versa.”

I also loved (and agree with) his assessment that being “lazy” can lead to truly innovative products and services:

“Laziness beats business. Twitter hasn’t rushed to cram a ‘business model’ down peoples’ throats. Instead of back-slapping each other after cutting deals, the Twitter guys are lazy. Why? They’re waiting to play, experiment, see what offers utility, creates value, and makes people truly better off. Business is too busy, most of the time, to care about any of that. Laziness says: ‘business models happen.’”

If you’ve wondered how anyone could ever find Twitter useful, much less groundbreaking in its approach, this article explains it beautifully. After reading it, you will “get” both the zeitgeist of Twitter and the style of business innovation that it is fueling.

Snail Mail And Twitter
While the deadline has passed for participation,  I couldn’t help but admire a post by Janice Cartier on her blog about a snail-mail-powered art project she is organizing that was originally suggested to her on Twitter by @Art_News.

Janice has gathered about a dozen artists in her mail circle, all of whom have committed to making visual or other sorts of art on a postcard and mailing one postcard to each person in the group by July 1.

She waxes on about what the project offers to her as an artist:

“Now why this is so cool. I now will have the opportunity to do a limited series in this Across the Tracks Series that will also have an event attached to it. And it will be scattered almost to the wind….

“And the second cool thing is I get to show you how Jacob Lawrence did his Migration series. 60 paintings done to look like a cohesive print series, but stand on their own too.  I am so psyched. Yep. Labradoodle wiggling psyched. AND whoever gets these gets a part of history. And a collectible that no one else will have. No one. Free. Or at least in exchange for something of theirs.”

What I love about this project is that it uses all these new-fangled social media tools (blogs, Twitter) to do something very old fashioned: inspire and gift fellow artists with a small bit of your creative self they can hold in their hands. (Many thanks to Joanna at the Confident Writer for tipping me off to this project.)

Bonus Links!

Announcing the launch of TEDx

The TED conference, whose tagline is “ideas worth spreading,” announces a network of local, self-organizing groups that plan to help people have an in-person TED-like experience.

Articles About Creativity — HBS Working Knowledge
A wonderful treasure trove of research-based articles about creativity from the Harvard Business School. Most are available in PDF or HTML format for free!


  1. Nice Post. I will bookmark this post to my favorites.

  2. Liz,
    (Better late than never ) Thank you so much for mentioning the snail mail and twitter project here. We have had an incredibly exciting response. The cards are beginning to arrive… as much as what they are is exciting and surprising to see, what they are doing to everyone’s personal creativity is hugely rewarding for me at least. This is a keeper. I’ ll be doing it again… all best, Jan

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