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Re: Not-for-profits & private enterprise



Morning, and Happy Holidays to one and all.

Richard's posting on this subject was, as usual, interesting and
insightful.  The distinction between a n-f-p educational organization and
a for-profit enterprise which may also provide education and the
opportunity for experimentation is important, and poorly understood by
most people.

I find myself on the other side of the coin of this whole issue, as I am
preparing to launch a new for-profit business that is an expansion of
my bindery, with a major focus being the establishment of a web site to
handle the display and sale of artwork, including fine book arts.  I have
recently gone through the necessary steps to incorporate, am in the
process of attracting investors (if anyone is interested, send me a
personal message), lining up artists (likewise), renting retail space,
procuring tax ID numbers, employer ID numbers, et cetera, et cetera.

More important to this discussion, we just sent off a nice fat check to
procure web space from a commercial server for our web site and related
facilities.

Having University support to encourage and promote the book arts is
extremely valuable, and I had the good fortune to study at the University
of Iowa, and so am a beneficiary of such support and encouragement.
Likewise, continuing support in the form of web pages to teach and expand
the pool of information is a logical extension of the University's
traditional role as depository and access point for knowledge.  It is not
unlike any University press, which provides a printing outlet for books
that may not otherwise be available.

However, the idea of a University providing commercial web space is
another matter entirely, particularly if that University is going to
bring its economies of scale to the benefit of individuals who will be
operating under its umbrella.  That does give the University an unfair
competitive advantage that Richard perceives as being a source of
conflict.  Handling credit card transactions, providing free (or greatly
subsidized) web space, offering access to support personal and equipment
(computers, photocopiers, FAX machines, photography equipment & side
digitizers) means that those individuals who are beneficiaries of the
Universtiy are instantly at a competitive advantage over myself, my
shareholders, and the artists we will be including in our enterprise.

I like the idea of new artists having access.  But artists being
commercial beneficiaries of a University system seems to me to be beyond
the scope of the University, both in philosophy and tradition.  Further,
it raises real concerns about free expression and censorship, in an era
when the governmental bodies that fund and control any University are
likely to scrutinize the activities in which the University engages.
Artists particularly are prone to such interference, and if a subsidized,
University-based system has come to dominate and displace entreprenurial
endeavours, where will those artists go when their work is no longer
acceptable to the politicians?

Some thoughts...

James T. Downey / Legacy Art & BookWorks, Inc.
jdowney@mail.coin.missouri.edu

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