Book Review: Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon


I have a summer reading list, and this book was not on it. I moved it into the pole position when I found this on my local library’s shelf. I wasn’t disappointed by the read. Art Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as An Artist is a “getting started in your career/business book” — except this book has great design and color throughout. The chapters dealing with the specifics of the art world and the business of art may not have appeal for many people who are not attempting to do that work. The other parts of the good contain solid reminders and sage advice about getting started on a new path.

Moving to a mindset of being a thriving and successful artist and academic entrepreneur requires the same effort and energy to crush the obstacles, myths, and “erroneous assumptions about the way the world works.” The conventional belief about the art world is that “only starving artists create great work.” Entrepreneurs are told to “follow their passion,” and academics are often told that “doing what you love means that you shouldn’t be paid well.” All of those are bad notions and bad ideas. Following your passion can be a bad thing; Cal Newport talks about that. Other scholars have tackled the “doing what you love” mythology. I’m not going to get into that.

What I do think we, as starting entrepreneurs grounded in academia, is to think about what we want to do and what are the mental things blocking us from that. What will it take to be a thriving tenured entrepreneur? Congdon provides some key thoughts that thriving artists should have. I have repurposed them for the tenured academic:

  • “Putting effort toward making a living from my moonlighting/side hustle/gigs/consulting allows me to do what I love.”
  • “I proudly and actively share my talents and skills with the world. Doing this helps me to earn income so I can achieve my goals.”
  • “There is no single ‘perfect’ way to be a successful tenured entrepreneur. I will allow myself to explore and discover new creative avenues I might enjoy or I might make income from.”
  • “Making good work comes from passion, talent, and hard work.”

I appreciate the wisdom I received from this book and will apply this on my own journey. Art Inc. was worth moving up on the reading list.

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