Marc Lipson / Darden

Overview      Business leaders need to be innovators. My Dream Idea is to enhance Darden students’ understanding of economic innovation by exploring creative aspects of innovation in non-performance fine arts. Specifically, I will organize four seminars for a group of eight Darden students with local artists to discuss how they approach creativity in their work. I will take this group of students to Washington D.C. to visit museums and gallery shows over two days to deepen and enhance their learnings by evaluating the work and careers of acclaimed masters and rising artists.

Students will certainly confront the well-known fact that artistic accomplishments, like economic innovations, arise from major insights (inspiration) and the steady, thoughtful exploration and extension of initial ideas (perspiration). More unusual, and the true focus of the seminars, is exploring a third element that is underappreciated – that both artists and businesses innovate in environments with constant criticism and feedback.


Background      Most successful artists seek out and value criticism. Sharing work for critique is standard in arts education. Criticism drives artists to focus and elicit the best of their abilities. Businesses also realize the value of faster innovation cycle times. In fact, there is a growing movement related to rapid innovation; e.g., lean startup, design thinking, and minimal viable product testing. Central to this movement is an appreciation for the value of feedback at every step of the innovation process. Parallels in the world of fine art are less often acknowledged and rarely discussed, but of no less importance.

Much of the Darden curriculum explores innovation activities within the firm and expands the innovation skills of our students. To the extent that fine arts are included in the curriculum, they are used to build leadership skills and, therefore, have emphasized performance. Non-performance fine arts are little used, and no art-focused activities have been included in the development of skill and knowledge related to innovation.


Dream Idea     My Dream Idea provides a novel and powerful context in which students can debate drivers of innovation and engage with faculty outside of class. I will include art faculty in the artist pool along with non-faculty. My Dream Idea will provide multiple points of faculty-student engagement across two different “worlds” at the University – Darden and McIntire (Art).

I have found that the very best faculty/student engagement outside of class involves a shared passion. My Dream Idea allows an opportunity to share with students an important and meaningful aspect of my non-academic life. I have been actively engaged in the arts: I was on the board of the UVA Art Museum and the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative; I have lectured on financial management of arts institutions and on collecting art to UVA students; and my wife and I have been long-time supporters of the UVA photography department. Cultivating an appreciation for art and the role of art in enhancing our individual and communal lives is a dominant objective of my non-academic life – this Dream Idea is an opportunity for me to share a bit of that world with my students.



Food and beverage for four seminars ($200)

Honoraria for non-faculty artists ($400),

Travel supplement for the group to DC and back ($400)

Hotel accommodations for one night in DC ($1,200).

Total $2,700