Hi, this is Amy Whitaker, the author of Art Thinking.
Here is how I came to write this book: I got an MBA in 2001, thinking I would become a museum manager. The plot of my life splintered — professionally and personally — the summer after I graduated from business school. A year after that, already trained to think like a rapacious capitalist, I made a leap and enrolled in an MFA in painting, at the Slade School of Fine Art in London.
Halfway through art school, I started giving lunchtime lectures to fellow painters in all the different parts of the MBA curriculum…. I would tape the Financial Times to my own very large paintings triple-ply to use as a blackboard. (There was never extra wall space in art school.) My classmates would pull up rickety, paint-splattered chairs, and we would talk about big questions of how and why the economy is the way it is. It was fun to hear them think about business from scratch, the way they would think about oil paint or any other medium.
Those lunchtime talks became my life’s work. I teach and write at the intersection of business, creativity, and everyday life. I think business can be both a creative and a liberal art. And I think that creativity is a human birthright. I find that a lot of people feel the way I did after business school — cut off from their creative selves. But success in business depends on creativity, and the only way to protect space for creative work — especially in its early, messy stages — is with the tools of business. What is actually surprising is how connected creativity and commerce are for all of us.
My secret first love is political science. I believe that art and business are both vital to democracy. Art is a proxy for independent thinking, and independent thinking is the most powerful lever in any democracy. (It doesn’t matter what you think. It matters that you think.) But it is also a huge social problem that more people do not understand business. More and more, democracy can’t function without a broader understanding of business.
In the decade since art school, I have taught and lectured widely, including at schools like Williams College, California College of the Arts, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts, and at companies like Marakon, IBM, and Google. I currently am entrepreneur-in-residence at the New Museum Incubator and principal in the curriculum design firm Eggshell Knight.
My first book Museum Legs — about why people get bored and tired in art museums and why that matters — was selected as the freshman read at RISD in 2010 and included in the Authors@Google program. My teaching has been mentioned in Forbes, Corporate Counsel, the New Yorker blog, the New York Observer, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. My writing has appeared in Fast Company and the New York Times, among other publications.
In addition to working in art museums — the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate, and for the artist Jenny Holzer — I also worked for the investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co., L.P., the financial services start-up Locus Analytics, and as an Olin fellow in economics at Yale and a researcher at Harvard Law School.