Professionalism is not enough?

8 Nov

Guys guys guys – crazy news! I’m done my MBA! Isn’t that crazy? I think so. An arts administrator and artist with an MBA… it sounds like I should walk into a bar and be the start of some joke or something. A very expensive joke. Maybe the joke will end with me running the bar? I don’t know. Ideally it will end with me making more blog posts because I have more free time.

In other news, I am very grateful to the Canadian Museum Association and the Department of Canadian Heritage for providing me with a travel grant so I can attend the Are Curators Unprofessional? conference in Banff I posted about awhile back. I am also grateful for my awesome parents for footing the rest of the bill as a graduation present! Nothing like professional development after some scholastic development. While in Banff, I will also be participating in the Matthew Higgs Curatorial Workshop, where I am looking forward to meeting lots of awesome emerging curators, and presenting the work of emerging Toronto artist Zak Tatham.

So anywho, on the heels of all this, I thought it was interesting to come across this excerpt by graphic designer Milton Glaser, from part of AIGA Talk in London. I intend to take this nugget to Banff with me and keep it embedded in the back of my head.


Early in my career I wanted to be professional, that was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything – not to mention they got paid for it. Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation. After all, what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks. So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time. I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn’t want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings. Please do it in the way that has worked in the past.
Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative – I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.”

via one of my favorite blogs, pageslap, by one of my favorite people, Nicole Stamp.


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