michael naimark

Arts Lab

The Vision: A laboratory for useful, esoteric, and activist creative projects which is fast, competitive, market-savvy, and not-for-profit.

Background: Several months after Interval Research abruptly closed in 2001, I wrote an open letter to the Presidio Trust proposing an "arts lab" in the Presidio. It began: "An extraordinary opportunity exists... Actually, several opportunities converge, including 1) filling a open niche in the U.S. arts community, 2) creating value for industry and commerce, and 3) demonstrating not-for-profit financial sustainability." The Presidio is chartered to be financially self-sustaining by 2013.

No reply from the Presidio Trust, but a proposition from the Rockefeller Foundation: it would fund a one-year "feasibility study."

In 2002-2003, I traveled extensively around the US, Europe, and Japan visiting art centers with a research component and research labs with an arts component and listened. The Arts Lab report was published under the auspices of Leonardo/MIT Press in 2003.

The upshot is that several different means for financial sustainability exist, which are very likely symbiotic: pursuing commissioned research, selling art, seeking grants, licensing IP, and finding sponsors all under the same roof could create a truly enlightened environment. It's also never been tried.

It would also provide an alternative to chosing between the blockbuster mentality of the for-profit world and the pledge-drive mentality of the not-for-profit world. Exemplars exist on both side of the fence, such as The New Press (not-for-profit but earns 75% of its revenue through the marketplace) and Newman's Own (for-profit but has donated over $200 million to charities). Nothing like either exist for the creative or research communities.

Next steps: Either find a patron (could be for a loan rather than a grant, since the goal is sustainability) or produce an exemplar arts lab project.

(last updated 2 April 2006)


4 Aug 2007: Chairing an art panel at Siggraph for Leonardo journal entitled "Artists have changed: Art, Science, Technology Interaction" and will present Arts Lab findings, 7 August 2007, San Diego.

3 Aug 2006: On closing panel to present the Arts Lab report at PICNIC '06 Cross Media Week, Amsterdam, 27-29 September 2006.

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