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.

History Repeats Itself – Angelita Teo

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Angelita Teo is the Director at the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage. Her work in the arts and culture sector started at University where she decided to change her major and chose to pursue what she truly wanted. Originally from Singapore, Angelita worked in various locations in the island city that then helped her to grow in her career.

Quick Summary

What is the importance of museums?

Angelita believes that there are two different types of museums, those that deliver to the local community and those that are used as locations for tourism. Angelita says that both have their own functions and purpose however, smaller scale museums are vital for shining light on new and young talent as they will have the opportunity to be showcased there. Larger museums are great for showcasing historical pieces and those that have a name to them.

How should the younger generation approach the issue of parents being against arts?

Angelita mentioned that she faced this issue herself when she first switched her major. In fact, she did not want to disappoint her family so she decided to keep it a secret and not tell them about her switch. She believes that the arts have always had a reputation of being good for a selected few, however, it is much broader than people imagine. She said that the best way to approach the situation is for younger parents to be more open minded and listen to their children.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

“As a person, you should be adaptable and flexible.”