Why Tech Needs Art and Art Needs Tech

by Lisa Temple

posted on 07-25-2016


It’s a hard time to be an artist in San Francisco, harder than it’s ever been. A recent survey of 600 working artists by the San Francisco Arts Commission found that 70 percent had been, or were being, displaced from their workplace, home, or both. The other 30 percent were, not surprisingly, losing sleep over the threat.

Most of us here in the Bay Area have at least overheard the debate: who’s to blame for our skyrocketing housing costs and the growing disparity between working classes and the tech industry?

At Adobe, we occupy an interesting intersection in the debate. We are a technology company that makes products for creative people. The arts lie at the very center of many of the products we create. And we have the ability to leverage this position to contribute to solutions. We have to contribute to solutions, because the arts matter. They matter to technology. They matter anywhere innovation is taking place. There is no climate for creativity without them.

As Head of Adobe’s Community Innovation and Collaboration, it’s my job to build strong collaborations with the community around us. That means I think about San Francisco’s artists and what they’re going through, a lot. Last year, I started a conversation with the folks at the Minnesota Street Project. They’ve launched a brilliant new initiative to keep artists in the city and help them flourish. They took over three warehouses—over 100,000 square feet of space—in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood, and turned them into a hub for artists, art galleries and creative services. This first-of-its-kind project also includes collaborative workspace, special event space and even for-profit businesses. They are building a new kind of financially sustainable model for the arts in an expensive city, so the arts don’t just survive, but thrive. And they’re doing it right in Adobe’s backyard.

I knew right away that we had to be involved, but we had to do so with more than just money. So today, we’re unveiling a collaboration with the Minnesota Street Project, where we are sponsoring the artist studios program at 1240 Minnesota Street – not just with dollars and cents – rather, we’ll actually be a resident “artist” ourselves, with our own studio space. Our teams envision the space as a hub for cross pollinating ideas and experiments with the creative community ranging from experience design work, innovative tech such as VR/AR, machine learning, 3D printing and educational programs. We’ll also be on hand for mentorships—any artist who requests it will be given a free year-long Creative Cloud license and a one-on-one mentorship to learn the tools.

This is our chance to step out of our pixel-only universe and draw inspiration from people with different perspectives. We’re giving keys to a strategic cross-section of our creative employees, and we hope artists will come into our space and talk to us, experiment with us and incubate ideas with us. In return, we’ll work to build the technology that empowers artists to create in new ways. The goal goes way beyond being a tech company that supports the arts—we’re embracing the value of what we offer each other.

Our dream with the Minnesota Street Project is big. We want to create a model for how corporations, nonprofits and local communities can work together, and to show that community organizations can approach businesses in ways that go beyond just asking for money. This is the moment for tech to recognize that our success is tied to the creative world beyond our walls. It’s time for the Minnesota Street Project, and for many more bold, inventive projects that will nurture creativity and strengthen entire communities.

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Topics: Art