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Title: The art of innovation - How fine art graduates contribute to innovation
Author: Kate Oakley, Brooke Sperry and Andy Pratt


Year: 2008


Subject/Type: Innovation
Focus: Arts, Success Factors
Country/Territory: United Kingdom
Objective: To examine how fine arts graduates contribute to innovation in creative industries and beyond, and what policymakers can do to support their contribution.
Sample: 508 alumni who have studied fine arts
Methodology: Online survey, face-to-face in-depth interviews

Main Findings

The study finds three mechanisms through which arts contribute to innovation, by which artistic labour is absorbed in the overall economy.

Firstly, fine arts graduates have attitudes and skills that are conducive to innovation: openness to new ideas, divergent thinking, ability to see things from multiple viewpoints, working across disciplinary boundaries. Working across boundaries, they often perceive themselves as brokers or interpreters between disciplinary specialities. It is believed that the traditional arts school education, with its emphasis on self-discovery, unstructured learning and the social processes of working with other students in a studio, is in part responsible for the development of these particular skills.

Secondly, artistic labour is organised in such a way that it offers a prototype for other forms of work: networked structures (social and professional connexions) and informal labour foster innovation.

Thirdly, creative inputs have become an important part of everyday products: the expansion of cultural markets has opened up opportunities for fine arts graduates in everything from pop music videos to urban regeneration. Interactions from the cultural sector with other sectors are commonplace: the networked nature of the arts market and the need to supplement income at various times by multiple jobholding ensure that fine arts graduates often work beyond the boundaries of their specialisation.

The authors highlight the following implications for policymakers: realise that artists have the skills to work in other fields and that they may play a brokerage role within the wider cultural sectors; ensure that artists’ skills (critical thinking, learning by asking around, the ability to understand divergent viewpoints) get wider recognition from skills bodies and remain a core part of arts education; reform arts education to fit into the age of mass higher education, but without sacrificing the best of the traditional art school education; make sure that policies to encourage crossover recognise the complexities of artists’ careers and the need for artists to maintain their identities.

[Date Added: Dec 1, 2008 ]