What inspires artists, musicians, and other “creators”?

Conversations inspire artists. Works of love and labour do also. Living in a place with panoramic views in Maui is another.

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“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Thomas Edison

Creativity requires inspiration. It takes a spark to light a fire. Where does that spark come from?

Maybe it’s more like 20% inspiration that fuels the 80% perspiration — the 80-20 rule. One idea may start a chain of events, like the idea of getting a guitarist to go on a solo concert tour by himself. Most of his time is spent practising, preparing CDs for sale, getting concert bookings, making travel arrangements, and doing the actual work of performing and traveling.

Inspiration comes from conversation with people who stimulate us, like the recent gourmet dinner in the home of a composer and his chef-turned-knitter wife. That evening in Kula led to a private viewing and a house concert the following week.

Works of love and labour inspire us to try something of our own or remind us when we were in the “flow.”

Some people move to environments that are conducive to their creativity.

Every morning we wake up to the following scene, when the sun appears above the slope of Haleakala in Maui.

Dawn in Maui, from our balcony
Dawn in Maui, from our balcony

Even from inside the apartment, we can look through the floor to ceiling glass and admire the harbour and the volcano. This is what inspires me to write my blogs. This is what inspires Robert to create the CD covers and concert posters.

View from inside the apartment looking out
View from inside the apartment looking out

Every visitor that has come to our intimate house concerts in Wailuku has marvelled at the spectacular view from the balcony. From here, we can hear the outdoor concerts at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Elton John is visiting on 24th and 25th of February 2011. Perhaps that’s an occasion to discuss what inspires artists, musicians and other creators — on our balcony.

Balcony view of Maui Arts Cultural Center
Balcony view of Maui Arts Cultural Center

Deciding which cultural economics session to attend

Economists spend a lot of time figuring out the factors that influence a decision. They determine which factors are more important than others and to what extent they contribute to the decision making process. The availability of information is key to informed decisions. Also important is awareness of one’s preferences and values. On the third day of this international conference on cultural economics (ACEI 2010 in Copenhagen), I had to choose one of 8 parallel sessions to attend

Economists spend a lot of time figuring out the factors that influence a decision. They determine which factors are more important than others and to what extent they contribute to the decision making process. The availability of information is key to informed decisions. Also important is awareness of one’s preferences and values.

On the third day of this international conference on cultural economics, I had to choose one of 8 parallel sessions to attend from 09:00 to 10:30 before a half-hour coffee break and one of 3 panel discussions from 11:00 to noon. The rooms were dispersed on the ground floor, first floor, and second floor of the impressive and spacious building of Copenhagen Business School.

As a musician, I am interested in the topics to do with music, performance, concert production, marketing, copyrights, and musicians’ careers. As an individual, I am also curious what I could learn from areas outside of music, especially topics I have absolutely no background, on the assumption that I might be surprised and learn something useful.

In short, I could find every topic interesting. The 8 parallel sessions were arranged by topic. Each session offered three to four papers. The titles, authors, and abstracts were available online weeks ago. A majority of the 185 papers submitted for presentation (which ranged from a few pages to 30 or 40 more) were available as PDF download from the ACEI 2010 website.

If only I could clone myself or send agents to the ones I did not attend, I would be quite happy.

In the end I used the process of elimination to eventually narrow down to two sessions. Can you guess which session I chose to attend?

Cultural tourism 1:
care of historical belongings, good practice in Europe, cultural heritage routes in South Africa

Creativity 3:
cultural clusters and the example in Copenhagen, sustainable town development example of a Japanese town, Italian viewpoint of culture-led local development

Copyrights 3:
license and rights distribution for copyright uses on the Web, intellectual property rights case of 19th century Italian operatic music, effects of early music copyrights on composers’ careers

Art market 2:
role of digital information sources in the art market prices, expert evaluations in the Low countries, investment in visual art

Media 1:
influence of funding by advertising on diversity of TV broadcast, how broadcasting quotas harm program diversity, control European TV in the digital age

Funding 3:
do policy reviews matter study of arts in Australia, sponsoring in times of economic crisis

Demand 2:
threatre participation through attendance, consumer choice of theatrical productions, democratisation in the gastronomic market

Museums 3:
who contributes to the British Museum, pay as you go for museum pricing, causes of variation in museum attendance rate in USA, museum demand function estimation

Creativity and economics in Crete and Belgium

Half a year later, I wrote a short text on creativity and economics for exhibition at the Artonivo art centre in Bruges, Belgium. The owner, Fernand, considers the exhibition his personal hobby, i.e. to bring creative people together and display their work. The gallery is open from 15:00 to 18:00 every day until 5th April 2010.

I was reading “Freakonomics” on my way from Amsterdam to Crete last August (2009). I wanted to talk about it with the other participants of the 14th Levka Ori Creative Encounters in Crete. But they were more interested in creativity than economics.

Anne Ku at the Creative Encounters exhibition at Artonivo
Anne Ku at Artonivo art centre in Belgium, photo credit: Dorit Drori

While I struggled with creativity, the other participants actively created. While I argued about the economics of creativity, the others expressed their creativity in different ways.

Half a year later, I wrote a short text on creativity and economics for exhibition at the Artonivo art centre in Bruges, Belgium. The owner, Fernand, considers the exhibition his personal hobby, i.e. to bring creative people together and display their work. [For easier reading, click here for a PDF of left-hand side text and here for a PDF of right-hand side text.]

Creativity and economics in retrospect by Anne Ku
Creativity and economics in retrospect by Anne Ku at Artonivo, Belgium 26 February - 5 April 2010

Hopefully my text will produce food for thought for some of the visitors. The gallery is open from 15:00 to 18:00 every day until 5th April 2010. It is above the Callebert family shop whose motto is “everything you need for a modern life.”