What are emerging approaches to incubating creative work?

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The goal of this project was to develop partnerships with US-based arts incubators in New York and Los Angeles and connect them to those doing arts incubation work here in Canada, specifically Artscape Daniels Launchpad in Toronto and Artengine in Ottawa .

Transformations in technology and society are motivating changes in how creative work is organized. Structures that privilege collaboration and ingenuity are emerging that reveal new opportunities to create value and to reach new audiences. Spaces are being created, often described as ‘incubators’, to support creative work and the models to sustain them. The language of ‘incubation’ can be problematic in the arts, however, as the term has fast become a fixed format in the technology world.

In 2013 there were 47 identified arts incubators in North America. At that time, arts incubators were primarily concerned with providing artists with the skills to turn their art into a means of making a living. Since 2015, however, there has been a proliferation in incubators concerned with the emerging needs of creative practice and the effects of technology on both creativity and commerce. As New Inc. describes,

“because they are exploring new modes of cultural production, the professional landscape in which they (creative entrepreneurs) work is still undefined, and few resources and systems exist to support these enterprises, or to address the unique challenges they are encountering”.

As disciplines converge and as new technologies are integrated into existing and new practices, appropriate approaches to support incubation and collaboration will be needed.

What are the new approaches to incubating creative work?

This project allowed ukai Projects to explore domestic and international models of arts incubation that reveal new possibilities. As dominant organizational designs in the arts are being questioned, we need to leverage the lessons being learned elsewhere and share that information to Canadian creators and incubators.

The STATE Festival Foundation (Berlin) established a committed space in Los Angeles to incubate projects and approaches around transformational themes of science and technology through citizen engagement, open science and art.

Similarly, in New York, New Inc. and Prime Produce, a creative ‘decelerator’ in mid-town Manhattan, represent emerging models in arts incubation. On-site research with these incubators (and others in the New York area) provided invaluable insight into the possibilities for Canadian incubators.

Serendipitously, connections to the TED Residency in New York, the Los Angeles Cleartech Incubator, and discussions at the New School and the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship augmented the learning from this project.

Jerrold McGrath