Why Artists + Bankers Should Communicate
Oscar Wilde said, “when bankers get together, they discuss art; when artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote over the past week as I’ve had conversations with different organizations about the future.
I’m going to expand the definition of artists a bit to include any person or group of people who create something driven by their passions. The interesting thing about the quote above is the natural tension in each part of the sentence — and how differently these words can resonate with different groups.
The force of the quote resides with how available resources are to each group mentioned. Bankers typically have access to money and may long to focus on art or their passions, while those who create or have access to art — or, by extension, projects, occupations or outcomes they are passionate about — desire the security and freedom that having sustainable finances provides. I think that could apply to just about any type of organization.
Strategies for Artists + Bankers
The strategy component of this falls into a couple of different buckets. The first is focus. We tend to focus on the things we do not have, sometimes taking the things we do have for granted. Resources can be hard to obtain or access, and that creates stress points for organizations. We start to overemphasize them, to the detriment of the main focus of why we exist in the first place.
I’m in no way arguing that someone pursuing their financial goals to support their passion project, art or nonprofit should ignore that component of what they do — nor am I saying that if you work for a financial institution that you should put passion above financial viability. That would result in entropy for both systems.
What I think is interesting is that we are constantly trying to find the right way to fill the second bucket — balance. Well-designed strategy takes into account that there are many different things for an organization to focus on — some are mission-driven, some are financially motivated. Finding the right balance means you are able to match resources with efforts, with minimal negative interference.
The third bucket is collaboration. The way to reach an equilibrium between focus and balance is by maintaining objectivity. This is where conversations between parties with distinct viewpoints are valuable; some will be motivated by financial considerations; some will be motivated more by their artistic inclinations, creativity, the mission of the organization or their passions. Those are the best conversations to have as an organization. In physics, the countermeasure to entropy is to introduce enough energy into a system that it is able to do directed work or movement toward organization and predicted outcomes.
I think there is a strong case for the artists and the bankers to start having dinner together. The artists can talk to the bankers about money, and the bankers can talk to the artists about art. If these conversations happen separate from one another, they will almost exist at one and another’s expense, when so much more could be achieved and accomplished by having them together.
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Header mural image from Ben Schuh.