Upstart Co-Lab Wants Businesses to Hire More Artists

We’re used to the common narrative of the artist as someone so inspired that they simply can’t stomach a drab office job, preferring to ditch the cubicle for the white cube. And yet, research has found that employers almost universally report creativity is of increasing importance in the “traditional” workplace.

According to a 2008 survey, 85% percent of employers looking to hire creative employees reported were “difficulty finding qualified applicants.” Yet the same survey found 57% of respondents citing arts degrees as being reflective of creativity. More recent research from IBM found that CEOs think creativity will be the most valuable skill around the office. But that begs the question: if there is a purported interest on the part of companies, why aren’t there more arts majors actually working in offices?

Partly, it’s because the value and importance of integrating artists into their existing structures is still not fully embraced by businesses, argues Laura Callanan, founding partner of the non-profit Upstart Co-Lab. Along with Emergence Creative, a creative agency, Upstart Co-Lab is creating a three-part campaign to “highlight the massive potential of artists as innovators,” according to a document accompanying the first part of the initiative released this summer. The campaign will promote the idea of what Callanan dubs the “artist-innovator” in order to increase opportunities for individuals and to bring additional investments to the creative economy.

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