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For artists, taking risks is a necessary motivation
Watch: "For artists, taking risks is a necessary motivation" | 5:14

Sustained by risk

The Kauffman Foundation focuses on education, entrepreneurship, and programs that support our hometown Kansas City, so why a package of stories about the arts?

In thinking about how to best illustrate the concept of risk-taking, it became clear that no storytelling about the topic would be complete without looking to the arts.

Artists who are successful at producing work that taps into our emotions have honed their crafts through, yes, practice, but also through trying and failing, over and over again. That’s a lesson that anyone, from students to business founders can learn from.

Beyond what artists can teach us about taking risks, the Kauffman Foundation recognizes how important the arts are to the vitality of a community. Even if funding of the arts is not directly within our mission, we do support Kansas City institutions such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, where Alexandra Wilson’s dance company, Störling Dance Theater, performs Underground this week. And, through our Entrepreneurship grantmaking, we’ve supported Artists INC, a program of the Mid-America Arts Alliance that arms artists with the pragmatic business skills any entrepreneur needs. Both Calvin Arsenia, a singer and harpist, and Kathy Liao, a painter, have benefitted from that program.

These organizations address the foundational needs of artists, while also taking risks themselves to stage productions that might not make money, or to put up shows that could stir controversy, but also public dialogue.

For artists, risk-taking is the oxygen that sustains them, and success isn’t just measured financially. By pushing themselves through their own boundaries, not only does the artist get better, but so too does the art, as new styles and techniques branch off from the tree, new ideas are explored, and things are said that no-one else is brave enough to say.

In the compelling video, above, Arsenia, Liao, and Wilson help us understand how risk is a motivating force for artists. They provide insight into how it feels to make yourself as emotionally vulnerable as their arts require, but also the excitement they get from forging new territory, embarking on journeys where the destination is unknown.

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