Steven D. Lavine on building resilience and being bold in the arts

Steven D. Lavine is the former President of the California Institute of the Arts and he is currently the chairman of the American advisory board of the Thomas Mann House. 

The interview covered a wide range of topics, including Lavine’s lifelong influences, the recent release of his new book Failure Is What It Is All About, and advice he would give to any aspiring artists.

Steven has published a book on his life, the influences on him, and the ideals that shaped his thoughts about what art should be. The book tells a number of essential anecdotes about on-the-job learning, about uncertainty and fear, and how we learn to deal with them. The book is essential reading for any young student interested in pursuing a career in the arts.

Throughout the interview, Steven offered a lot of advice to prospective artists interested in any aspect of the arts.

  1. Never let yourself be intimidated – remember many professionals in their respective sectors learn as they go. 
  1. Don’t get swamped by the noise – if you just do what other people do, if you follow the course, you are up against the crowd. Figure out what you have distinctly, that you can contribute. 
  1. Be open to the people around you –  be open to the influences around you. It will increase your capacity and capability if you are open to other people’s opinions and ideas.

Who were some of the most influential artists in your life?

Steven was quick to point out that all of the arts provide the same thing; a deeper understanding of human life. In addition to providing a deeper understanding, the arts also provide a spiritual uplift. Johann Bach, Bertolt Brecht, and even Steven’s mother were among the most influential artists in Steven’s life. Bach sustained him. Brecht, on the other hand, provided him with a socially engaged form of art, one that forced him to question his worldview.

What piece of advice would you give to young students if you could?

Never let anyone intimidate you. By all means, approach the world with respect. However, never waste your time by being intimidated. 

‘Art brings us back to ourselves’

 With art you can leap forward, and imagine what else is possible with the world.

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