Shattering the myth of the starving artist

Shattering the myth of the starving artist

Posted on April 06, 2015 by Judy Sedgeman

The ideas that creativity, design thinkingservice design, visioning and working from vision are key elements in business success and critical skills for leadership have firmly taken hold. This has led to an explosion of demand for people who are original thinkers, who represent a marriage of the arts and business. This new concept is replacing the old notions of “patronage” or corporate philanthropy as the primary relationship between art and commerce.

The myth of the starving artist, a cliche of Romanticism and the rise of Bohemianism in the 18th century, is no longer turning young people away from pursuit of their creativity, or the study of art and design as a career-building endeavor. And now, an ongoing study from Indiana University is proving without a doubt that those who graduate in the arts pursue fulfilling careers both within the arts and across many endeavors.

The Collaboratory at Ringling College of Art & Design is riding the leading edge of this wave by integrating within its curriculum an opportunity for every student at Ringling College to participate in real-time, real-world work with private, public and nonprofit enterprises. Ringing College President Larry Thompson has long maintained as a vision for his college -- one that is “shattering the myth of the starving artist.” Starting in fall 2015, he has been able to make the Collaboratory Commitment, a promise to all students enrolling at Ringling College that they will have chances to learn how their creativity will come to light in diverse real-world situations.

The Collaboratory started in 2013, after a year of developing the concept in a partnership between The Patterson Foundation (TPF) and Ringling College. TPF has funded the Collaboratory since inception with the intention that the Collaboratory become fully self-sustaining within five years. Already, under the leadership of Associate Vice President for Collaborative Enterprises Cynthia Gravino, it has generated sufficient external engagements for Ringling College to make the Collaboratory Commitment -- every Ringling student who enters the program in 2015 and who wants the experience will be able to work on a real-world project within their four years at Ringling.

Collaboratory partners run the gamut from small local and regional businesses to major national and international corporations and big players in the creative industries. Students from eight of the 11 majors at Ringling have already participated in Collaboratory work, which has ranged from designing the branding for a new beach bar in the Bahamas and re-branding and developing a community interaction campaign for the Sarasota Police Department to creating a viral ad campaign for a new product and working on the development and launch of a major new game with a Hollywood studio. The students are wildly enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn by working with challenging, demanding and success-oriented business partners, as well as learning from each other, since Collaboratory projects bring students from several majors together to accomplish client goals.

The Collaboratory makes it clear to every student at Ringling College that the world is full of unlikely and unexpected places where art and design is a crucial and valued skill, and where they can exercise their creativity and earn a good living for the rest of their lives.


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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