As mentioned in a previous post, last year I joined an artist studio after having spent more than 20 years in high tech. While I've rubbed elbows with artistic types in the past, I've never been in a work environment with them before, and although this may not come as a surprise to you, what amounts to a revelation to me is this: Artists are not like software engineers.**
This fact first dawned on me during the studio annual meeting (required by regulation because of the studio's LLC status), which was held right after I joined. I'm used to business meetings being called and driven by a major stakeholder or owner of the project under discussion, or at least someone who has a lot of skin in the game. This person sets a formal agenda and keeps people focused on its points during the meeting. The goal is to reach agreement on how each point is to be addressed, and to assign action items to participants. Following the meeting, the owner follows up to make sure each action item is addressed and closed on and the results circulated to the meeting attendees according to an established timeline. (And of course, the fact that time is of the essence goes without saying.)
I submit that if you're a business professional, you've probably read the previous paragraph and thought, "And...?" But if you're an artist, you're likely squirming in discomfort entertaining the image of such an environment, and mentally looking for the Exit door. I could be wrong about this, of course, as I'm just in the learning phases about how artists experience such things. But at least based on my observations so far, artists don't tend to be nearly as linear in their thinking and their goals tend to be somewhat open-ended, allowing for unexpected things to occur. Serendipitous Things. Not that either approach to conducting one's particular type of business is better or worse than the other. The two are just very, very different.
So, back to my first studio meeting. There was a suggested time for us to get together, and when everyone had arrived, about 20 minutes or so after the suggested time (I was probably the only one who noticed), someone suggested that we look at the LLC documents to see what we were supposed to do. The documents were found and dug out of their folder, and it was determined that we needed to elect officers. The current president called for volunteers, and one person volunteered for each spot, while another person wrote down their names and positions on a piece of paper. Because we had a new treasurer, there was some discussion about the bank account and how money was collected and deposited. The departing treasurer indicated that people new to the LLC should go to the bank and sign the signature card. Next, the discussion turned to our studio party and somehow (I was unable to sort out how it happened) the date was picked, and a menu decided upon.
During the entire meeting, I was certain that nothing was going to emerge from this loosey-goosey approach but chaos, but fortunately had the good sense to keep my mouth firmly shut. After a surprisingly short period of time, the business part of the meeting faded into a purely social time, and that was that. Six months later, I can report that everything was carried off flawlessly, and with no fuss whatever. In fact, the way the studio operates is awesome, but I won't take more time for that here. I think I'm still a bit shocked.
So here's my attempt at a visual illustration of the two types of meetings. Interestingly, both software engineers and artists like to draw pictures (although software engineers like to call them "diagrams").
|Typical Business Meeting in High Tech|
|Annual Studio Meeting|
** Disclaimer: Of course, I realize that no person is purely artist or purely software engineer, or purely anything else for that matter. Individuals are always a mixture, and imposing stereotypes ensures that nuances will be missed. Nevertheless, I'm going to do it anyway because, taken as a group, IMHO artists are in fact very different from software engineers.
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