Business and Art studies – a Powerful Combination

February 2, 2019 at 2:33 PM
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Business and Art studies – a Powerful Combination

Kimberly Durma UA’17 and Jim Stellar


Kimberly made a presentation at a Blackstone Launchpad event when I was Provost, before I returned to the faculty.  I was so impressed with how she handled herself, like she was 35 years old & not a recent alum, that I asked her what was her secret.  She said “art.”  That led to this blog as a way to explore how some training in the arts could produce a professional maturity in students as it did when this Marketing and Management major took an Art minor. 

My first question is to tell us why you took an art minor.  Did you always have an interest in art?

My first memory of art and being artistic was when I was three years old, sitting on the floor in front of the couch in the living room. In front of me I had a little mermaid coloring book, a box of crayons and my mother. She taught me to love and appreciate art. She taught me how to color within the lines and how to take my coloring to the next step. She taught me to draw a dark border then shade in the interior lightly and evenly. I remember taking so much pride in this. Ever since, art has played a major role in my life. From drawing still-lifes, and painting silly faces on pumpkins, to making kites out of printer paper that never made it off the ground. It’s something that’s woven within fibers of my very being. Throughout grade school, I’ve always opted towards the art classes. Jewelry making, a class I was very skeptical about taking initially, was one that impacted me greatly. In fact, I now own a store on Etsy making and selling jewelry.

Fast forwarding a bit, I started my first semester at the University at Albany and was a little lost. I had no idea what I wanted to pursue as a career in the future let alone what I wanted to major in. I was told by some people very close with me that I should go for a degree in art. The life of an artist didn’t appeal to me. I was looking for a more stable source of income. With that being said, I couldn’t abandon art totally. Being creative is like an itch that I have to scratch. It was then that I decided to take on art as my minor and business admin as my major. I took many art classes but finally found my passion my sophomore year when I took my first sculpture class.

Very interesting.  You had a natural background.  Now you ended the description above with your most recent interest in sculpture.  Can you say what attracted you and how you see it as related to the structure of entrepreneurship that the Blackstone Launchpad is supposed to produce.

I was drawn to sculpture because of its hands-on nature and the versatility of it. You can take something completely mundane and turn it into something amazing or beautiful or weird and crazy. You can take nothing and turn it into something. You are the creator, the mastermind behind it. My best works always happen when an image pops into my head, an idea of something to create. Entrepreneurship is the same way. An idea pops into your head, or you have a dream and wake up with an idea. Then out of an idea from a dream, something others would see as nothing, you can start to build or sculpt that idea into reality. Over time you keep manipulating that idea into a more viable business. It’s a lot like working with clay. If something doesn’t quite go as planned, you can keep manipulating it and working it. As an entrepreneur with a start-up, a business plan is ever changing. In both cases, it is up to the creator to work and sculpt the idea into something.

I like this “an idea pops into your head” parallel between entrepreneurship and art.  Where do you think that comes from?  Is it the same place as “the itch I have to scratch” as you said earlier?

 “Before a child talks they sing. Before they write they draw. As soon as they stand they dance. Art is fundamental to human expression.”- Phylicia Rashad, 2/4/19. It is woven into who we are as humans to be expressive in various ways. That is where that “itch” comes from and the ideas that pop into your head. It is very much the same place. These moments frequently happen when you least expect it, when you aren’t in deep thought. I believe that all great ideas and masterpieces come from spontaneous thought.

To me, this answer sounds like the 2011 David Eagleman book Incognitowhere he argues that much of our mental processing occurs in circuits outside our awareness or the famous discussion in the 2005 Malcolm Gladwell book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinkingof the art expert’s rapid judgement on the purported authenticity of a Greek Statute with which the Getty Museum had been struggling.I think it is the same intuitive process that analyzes people and situations. Maybe it is where the benefit of direct experience happens, especially if one is not sure from where the idea came. Here is why internships are powerful in helping a student go beyond the classroom and see what fits with them as a potential area of study or even a career.  What if you went to law school when you hated the law but did not know because you never experienced it in action?  Even more interesting, maybe this is where the Phylicia Rashad quote you cited above about the origin of the artist’s “itch.”

There is much to write about creativity and insight into how it combines with other fields such as business and how that same process can reach people in a business presentation, which goes to how this blog got started.  But we decided to stop here and let you, the reader contact us to carry on the conversation in the comment section.

This is a topic to which we will want to return here as we have already written about wisdom here, and in other blog posts that you can find with the search box. Somehow it seems to overlap with what students take out of an internship when they start to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom.

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