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Infiltrate the Business World in the Name of Art—Noah Scalin

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Noah Scalin headshotNoah Scalin is an artist based in Richmond, Virginia, whose sculpture, installation, and photography use everyday items reassembled in new contexts. Noah did a major installation in Times Square in the winter of 2019, and is working with The Krause Gallery in New York City. He is also a corporate consultant at Another Limited Rebellion with his sister Mica Scalin. The firm specializes in using art and creativity in leadership development, and clients include Coke, General Electric, and Intuit. Noah was the first artist-in-residence at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, where he is now an adjunct professor.

Discover A Market Through Creative Practice

  • “I ended up doing this project called Skull-A-Day where I got myself out of my creative rut and inspired again. And one of the really strange outcomes of that was that I started getting asked to talk to businesses about my creative practice. And so that turned into me doing a side-job initially of me going and doing these keynote talks and consulting, and all of a sudden I found myself, you know, really enjoying that work.”
  • “I like to say that not only was I the first artist in residence at the VCU School of Business, but possibly the first artist in residence at any school of business anywhere. […] A few years ago the school realized that creativity was one of the principles that they needed to be teaching their students to be successful in business—and that’s a pretty radical idea, but it’s also backed up by a lot of data.”
  • “I was like, ‘I didn’t go to business school, I don’t know anything about this.’ But I do know about how the artist’s skills set is valuable in business.”
  • “And especially the process we use, which is: do something, and then reflect on it, and share that with other people as the next step; that that process especially—making more things and putting more things in the world—gives you more opportunities. Just sheer numbers. You know, if you do want something you measure, that’s what it is. The more you put out, the more opportunities you get for something to come back.”

Top Companies Want To Learn About Creativity

  • “Anybody in any industry right now is seeing some form of automation coming into play. And certainly, with advances in AI it’s going to be an entirely different world we live in very soon, science fiction is becoming fact very quickly.”
  • “Certainly the jobs that are going to go last are going to be the ones that require people to creative problem-solve and come up with unique new ideas.”
  • “It usually starts with a person of vision within the company, somebody who has recognized that creativity is one of the top skills that leadership needs to survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
  • “One of the talks I do is actually called The ROI of Creativity. And what I talk to people about is that business wants to do this measurement and wants to have these numbers and wants to be like what’s the benefit of this. And it’s really a narrow view of what we’re talking about.”
  • “What I talk to them about is sustainable innovation and the people that need that and know what that is, they’re on board.”

Creativity in Business Begins With Education

  • “Most jobs don’t give you a chance to really develop your creativity, you’re expected to bring that to the table and have it there. And even now in the business world when they’re asking executives to be creative they’re not training them, they’re just going, ‘Start doing this, be creative, creative problem-solve!’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t know how to do that’.”
  • “Because we’re presenting such an unusual story, people pay attention and we usually can get inside their heads and plant some seeds that they’ve needed to hear for a while; maybe the opportunity to start seeing things differently and behaving differently.”
  • “The reason you learn math is not because you’re going to be a mathematician. And the reason you learn art is not because you’re going to be an artist, but because of how it creates neural pathways—how you think—and this form of thinking is unique and special and different. And so what I love is seeing these businesses that do have a lot of power, recognizing it, and I’m hoping they’ll use that power to advocate, certainly, for a shift in our educational system, but everybody needs to be doing that.”

Engage Businesses On Art and The Creative Capacity

  • “Artists were taught to be innovative in school and that’s the skill set we’ve got honed and business people haven’t. And so there’s this great exchange now that we’re able to do.”
  • “Artists get asked all the time to speak about their work but they haven’t been trained to do that, and the language that we use as artists in a school setting or with other artists is different than what you need to use in a business setting. First of all [it’s about] understanding the audience you’re talking to—what are they looking to learn?”
  • “We have a motto at our company that we say basically, creativity is a practice. That’s our simple concept that people can grasp and we can talk about that, hey, if we accept it is not a challenge but a skill, you can develop it and from wherever you’re at—you have a capacity. We know this from human history that there is, within all of us, this seed of creativity. We can grow it from where we are to wherever else we need it to be.”
  • “So really what I’m doing is sharing the artist’s story, artists as creative individuals and who use their creativity very well on a consistent basis, but not as the owners of creativity.”

Balance A Career Between Art-Practice & Consulting

  • “There’s a Venn diagram in my head […] and I’m trying to have these two circles: one of which is consulting, teaching and educating; and art-making as the other circle. And my goal is the push those two together and overlap as much as possible. And so our company is in service of teaching these things to other people, but also supporting our abilities as artists to continue making art. Because really the insights we’ve discovered and share with people come from our own process. And we want to continue to practice that and grow our own abilities, and in turn, share that back out with the organizations we work with.”
  • “What I love is being able to prioritize art-making and my own discovery process and practice, and getting to a different level. Because those new discoveries are things that are valuable to me—as well as to others, when I share them. ”
  • “I had this crazy idea [Skull-A-Day] and I followed through on it, and it was the work that I did on that idea that gave me all these other opportunities. So it’s a tough one…I think about it all the time when people put out books like ‘I’m Successful and Here’s My Success Story’—that it’s impossible to replicate their story, as much as it is when I share mine. […]”
  • “There is no magic plan other than a) trust your gut: if you like something, you’re going to find an audience who likes it; and b) to practice being open to the things that happen to you, because the opportunities are there, but are you cultivating an acceptance of the random things that appear as possible benefits, or are you seeing them as negatives—like, that’s not what I want to do or where I want to go—and missing the really great opportunities?”
  • “Marketing is always your job as well. And you should never feel bad about promoting the things you’re doing. I often tell people: turn it around and think about what do you dislike, how often is somebody emailing you and you’re like: gosh I hate hearing from this person…What’s the right amount? You’re going to know it by your own experience, but it’s generally more than you’re doing right now.”
  • “You have to think of making money as an artist as a multi-streamed thing, and so there are several different ways to do it, one of which is gallery sales. Obviously, when you’re partnering with a gallery, they are investing in you and you are making a commitment to them, and you’re giving them a large chunk of money from your sales. But they’re also developing an audience and understanding what that audience’s needs are.”

How to Sell More Art

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AvatarDaniel DiGriz
Daniel DiGriz is CHF's Creative Director and Director of Educational Programming. He's a founder at corporate consulting firm Free Agent Source Inc., and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe which provides creative direction and marketing leadership to multiple firms. His background in Fortune 500 life is in sales and education. Daniel is a corporate storyteller and collector of brand stories who speaks at conferences and hosts podcasts, including The Thriving Artist™ Podcast. His personal website is DiGriz.com.

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