Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for August, 2007|Monthly archive page

A Town Named Nowhere: A Story from the Blue Bike Shop

In Author: Lisa Canning, THE BLUE BIKE SHOP STORIES on August 31, 2007 at 7:27 pm

For five generations the LeBleu family has lived in Nowhere, Virgina.

Miya’s great-great-great grandfather had come to America from Normandy, France in 1801. He and his wife came to America by boat with three trunks filled with only their most precious family possessions and a few articles of clothing. After being processed at Ellis Island in New York, they headed toward Washington, D.C. in search of a distant cousin named Henri. Cousin Henri was their only hope of finding temporary shelter until Grandpa and Grandma LeBleu could find a place to call home in America.

But with a 10-word English vocabulary between them, finding Washington D.C. proved to be far easier than finding cousin Henri.

Like nomads, they wandered. Hungry and tired they dragged their ever-dwindling number of belongs behind them, selling and trading what they could for food to survive. Then, one night, Grandma and Grandpa LeBleu found their home.

The story goes something like this:

Grandpa LeBleu had pitched a tent along the Potomac River not far off the path of the Old Dominion Trail in Northern Virginia. I am sure you know the spot I am talking about. It’s the only place on that dirt road, Rural Route 7, that comes close to the river on your way out of town.

In the middle of their third night of peaceful and much needed sleep, a loud man’s voice startled them both. Grandpa LeBleu rose quickly, grabbed his gun and marched out of the tent, as the man in an angry tone said, “Where are you going?” Or at least, at the time, that’s what Grandpa LeBleu thought the man said.

Raising his right hand up toward the twinkling bright white star-lit sky, as if to summon the heavens by his side, Grandpa LeBleu with his left hand, cocked his pistol, looked squarely into the man’s eyes and in his thick French accent replied, ” Nowhere.” Grandpa LeBlue then fired twice at the man who stood before him.

Most say that man was a drunken squatter. Shocked by the sound of the gun firing, the angry fool flew backwards, falling down flat on his back hitting the ground as if he were already dead. But you see Grandpa LeBleu was a pretty bad shot. He had actually missed the man entirely.

Realizing what had happened, Grandpa LeBleu laughed out loud at the silly sight of the drunk slithering off the land that Grandpa LeBleu would legally claim as his own 40 years later. He and two other families bought the majority of land that we now call the town of Nowhere from the government in 1841.

“Ok Dad,” Miya said as she sighed deeply, expelling all of the air she had been holding tightly. Miya’s new boyfriend, Sam Miller, had heard more than she feared he might have wanted to know. “Will you be telling that story to my grandchildren too?” she then muttered as her fingers spread across her lips, intent on covering up the smirk on her face.

Miya had heard this story countless times. Each time half of her filled with pride, because of how much her Dad loved to tell it, while her other half filled with embarrassment for exactly the same reason. But Miya LeBleu was definitely part of The LeBleu family lineage in Nowhere.

Miya LeBleu, at 23, was already a permanent fixture in town and she was the next generation. Miya not only was fixing up an old house on Water Street, but she had also just opened The Blue Bike Shop.

“Dad, Sam and I should get going now. Right Sam?”

“It sure is nice to meet you Mr. LeBleu,” Sam said extending his hand quickly before he turned and headed toward Miya, already waiting by the car.

“Miya, you will have to tell us some of your own stories, if my silly old tales bore you,” Mr. LeBleu retorted.

“I will Dad. I will start my own tradition, with my own stories. Mine will be about how to escape from Nowhere. But for now, that will have to wait. I have to be to work in 10 minutes to open the bike shop.”

6 E.T.A. Rants

In WEBSITES & BLOGS on August 28, 2007 at 6:57 am

#1 According to HEADS, The Higher Education Arts Data Services Project, a joint effort of the National Association of Schools of Music, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the National Association of Schools of Theatre, and the National Association of Schools of Dance, the United States currently produces more than 100,000 graduates with fine arts degrees annually.

Yet by stark comparision The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2006, states that only 1,727,380 reported being employed, largely self-employed, in an artistic related field.

So what exactly are the majority of universities that offer all these graduates fine arts degrees preparing their students for?

Day jobs?

#2 As big as you can dream it, you can have it if you try-
Remember Nia Vardalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and more recently Lonely Girl 15, Jessica Lee Rose, or take a look at chocolatier Katrina Markoff, who is turning chocolate into a sweet success.

#3 Creativity is considered today to be critical to financial success in corporate America.

NY Times best selling author Richard Florida, The Rise of The Creative Class has shown us that we are, in fact, living in the new creative economy- the 21st century.

How can you use creativity to capitilize on corporate America’s new value?

What motivates you or stirs you up in your art-form? What are you nerotic, passionate, agitated or mad as hell about, but that you still enjoy using or doing regularly in your life? Whatever that is, “IT” can transform your art into a business.

#4 The missing link-
You need to PLAN your creative entrepreneurial life. A good start is with a business plan.

#5 Become a hammer and all you will see is nails
– Cingular Officially Announces Music Initiative
– Coca-Cola Spins Unsigned Artist Downloads, Podcasts
– Best Buy to launch music service with Real, SanDisk
– Starbucks Positions Catalog Within iTunes Music Store
– Cingular Initiates Flash Concerts, Taps Leading Artists
– Red Bull Energy Drink selects BIG HOUSE for Its Cutting-Edge Multisensory Marketing Program
– Red Bull MusicLabs
– Musiwave Powers Upcoming Vodafone Music Services
– News Corp, China Mobile Strike Music Partnership
– Mercora Announces Key Mobile Music Distribution Deals

From a music career perspective, all of this is good news. It means that everyone with a love of music are no longer limited to traditional “music companies” for employment, sponsorship or support.

With the right pitch, and fit, you can potentially partner with any company, smaller ones than Cingular too, seeking to add your creative art form into its mix.

And from an economic perspective, it means that at least music consumption throughout the world is heading north (not south), boding well for both musicians and music entrepreneurs alike.

You see, we are passing through a period of creative destruction. We are presently watching the death of the arts like a present day dinosaur; many of whom we have known and loved. It is difficult watching them self-destruct before our eyes and expire.

Future generations will talk about the state of the arts, during this period of time, like we talk about the day JFK died or John Lennon was shot in Strawberry Fields. We are watching, right now, the creative world search for dramatic change.

What new world emerges, ladies and gentlemen, is up to us, and what we do with it and about it.

#6 Find a good use for your creativity that can earn you a living and use it over and over again.
Joseph Barbera and William Hanna sure did exactly that by creating Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Do, Yogi Bear and Jonny Quest.

What real life cartoon character can you become, that the world can enjoy and love, while you creatively thrive?

More than a Bite of Progress: August 07

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on August 21, 2007 at 2:14 pm


Business plans are a work in progress. Think of them like a lens on a camera that is out of focus. At first, you describe what you can see and as you work to bring the lens into focus, it becomes clearer and clearer. My Bite-Size Arts Ensemble has been going through this exact process. Finally, I have been able to move the lens of the camera to a place where I can see a sharp and clear image, thanks to my trip to Italy.

As a highly trained artist I have been taught to get things right on the first take. When I strive for that in the business world I find myself impatient and frustrated.

Business plans typically do not work well at first. In fact most plans fail, as do most small start-ups, because their creators do not take the time needed to sharpen their vision before they start spending time and money. The biggest financial mistakes are usually made at the very beginning of a venture.

My goal for Bite-Size has always been to promote the arts in a new way and build a solid audience base. Finally the pieces are coming together to do just that.

I have the musicians ready to play when called on, I have several venues identified, but need to still find more. I have a board of directors assembled to help make decisions for the organization, and I have worked to develop some potential donors to initially fund the organization.

I have a former student, who works for Edelman PR in Chicago, hired to build a PR campaign to tie Build A Blue Bike and The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble together. I also have the assistance of a recently graduated freelance journalist to help identify newspaper and magazine contacts and write articles, who too shall be paid. Recently I have identified a professional photographer who will creatively contribute to the actual production development in exchange for recognition and the cost of film. I am now in pursuit of a filmmaker who will also creatively contribute to the production.

I must raise enough money to pay for the promotion of the ensemble. Fortunately, my board will donate money to help with this as soon as I ask them to.

My very next steps are to build the website and build a PR campaign in the City of Chicago. The PR campaign will initially focus on asking for submissions from artists, in any discipline, who excel at their art form, but need help developing the business and marketing aspect. A panel of judges will select these artists, and over the course of 6 months, a production will be built to entertain, enlighten and educate our audiences to the possibilities in the arts. This production will initially be showcased in different venues around the city of Chicago, with the goal of taking it on the road. My ultimate goal is to build workshops in universities for students to build their own Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, creating a franchise paid for in creative currency.

Just like my book, the development of this concept has been a slow, agonizing process. Every aspect of its development must fit all my various interests, purposefully help others and have the ability to generate an ample amount of income. For me, these are the rules of entrepreneurship in the arts.

I believe this ensemble and my concepts are original. By promoting the ensemble alongside my book, I create human interest stories that will attract an audience. Audiences love to get close to artists. By promoting the ensemble production as part of what I offer in services to those who hire me to speak and do workshops, I also believe I will be able to attract grant money and certainly donations from individuals for the development and service of helping artists thrive. I also believe I will inspire schools to build their own Bite-Size Arts Ensemble and maybe even rethink the content of courses offered, to help graduates with a degree in an artistic endeavor thrive.

As an artist who has been highly trained and repeatedly asked to get it right the first time, the process of working slowly through all these issues and allowing them to find their resonating spot has been very difficult for me. I am impatient and have been trained to do things well, quickly and the first take– not an easy thing for me to live up to in business.

It has been a blessing and a curse for me to have such high expectations of what I can accomplish. A blessing, because I shoot for the top and have the discipine to reasonably think I can get there; from learning how to develop an art form to a high level. It has also been a curse, because business simply does not work that way.

It takes time to build something of worth and value. You must often stumble, trip, do a 180 and be unsure. Through planning and research, if you do these things, you discover what will work and what won’t and must adapt accordingly. Thus one’s emotions and passions must not be the entire guiding force. The plan must be well defined to financially support your passion and emotion and allow it to flow like a river into the venture’s structure.

When you learn to combine entrepreneurship with creative passion, you learn the power of both business and art. You also learn when you need to think like a business person– allowing yourself the room to trip, stumble, sit still and adapt.

You also learn when the time has come to allow your creativity to set you free and float over what all that pondering has produced as a financial vehicle- your foundation from which to build your creative venture. I am done pondering The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. A foundation has been built and now comes the time to have some creative fun!

That’s a Good

In Emotional Intelligence on August 18, 2007 at 3:33 am

Italy was an amazing experience culturally and socially. I was a soloist with a wind ensemble that was hosted by the city of Olgiat Comasco in Northern Italy in the Lombardie region. That particular area is the home of George Clooney on Lake Como, the centerpiece of the area.

Let me tell you, George is one lucky guy. Villa’s hang from road side cliffs that weave around mountainous terrain. The lake, like a deep blue pearl, twinkles with white boats as they saunter leisurely across windless calm waters. It IS God’s country- heavenly and divine.

60 musicians were put up with host families who lived in the neighboring town of
Olgiat Comasco. Each family opened their homes, providing us with a place to sleep and shower. The wives and husbands who served as hosts also took turns cooking 3 square homemade Italian meals for us at The Sportiv Centre- the equivalent of a community center. Espresso, pasta and wine were daily rituals.

We performed 4 concerts in several good size piazzas and had 600-1000 at our concerts. Our audiences were all locals who came with their families and lawn chairs to enjoy an evening of jazz, classical and pop music under the stars. Grandma, Grandpa, grandchildren of all ages, dogs, their parents, village officials and the town mayor were all there. The applause were plentiful and the silence while we played noticeable.

I would like to tell you we all played impeccably, including myself, but we did not. Most of us were tired because Italian hospitality runs at a relentless pace.

During our days we were taken by tour bus to many of the surrounding jewels of Italian pride. We were taken to see Michelangelo’s original Last Supper at the Santa Maria
delle Grazie Church in Milan, and to the stunningly beautiful Duomo di Milano. This cathedral is famous throughout the world for its significance in the promulgation of the Christian faith, for its role in the establishment of Catholic traditions of worship, its outstanding musical heritage and the splendour of its Gothic architecture.

We were taken to the historic Villa del Cardinale (Villa Balbianello) last owned by explorer Guido Monzino and left upon his death to The Italian National Preservation Society in the late 1970’s. Seen in the movie Casino and one of the more recent James Bond movies, we were guided through the rooms of the elaborate villa, monestary, church and scenic gardens overlooking the lake.

By boat we spent a day in Bellagio, a resort town that by car can only be reached driving on a 1 1/2 lane road on the side of a mountain with no guard rail. Sauntering across the lake by boat while being served a 3 course lunch with wine was definately a far more enjoyable way to get there.

Our hosts were unbelievably gracious, generous, and warm.

It was amazing to see them embrace 60 perfect strangers with open arms to share our imperfect but passionate expression of our art with them. We were treated like important guests in each of the various communities where we performed, regardless of our lack of star status.

And an Ah-Ha Moment.

So there I stood with the last note played of my solo and all I could think about was the mistakes I had made: I had rushed in the 2nd variation and the high A in the cadenza did not speak just right and…

But the Italians in front of me, not heeding to the loud noise of my internal criticism, would not stop clapping. I stood there smiling and bowing and the more they clapped the more faint the voice in my head got. They clapped so long and with such joy that I simply had no choice but relinquish and accept their praises.

And then came the Ah-Ha…..

How easy it was for me to get caught up in the perfection of my art. I was reaching for perfection and my audience wanted my pure imperfect human expression. Thank God,
in-spite of myself, it had come out.

How quickly I had forgot the potent magical electricity produced between artist and audience when we express ourselves honestly and passionately. The only one who cares if its perfect, is us. Perfect will never pay our rent, but magical electricity will.

In that moment I remember why I am an artist. I remembered why I believe in art and the power it holds to change minds, hearts and restore faith in ourselves, our lives and our work. Italy was the breath of fresh air I needed to put me back on my creative path.

And as the Italian’s say in their heartfelt broken english, “that’s a good”.

What will I be when I grow up?

In WEBSITES & BLOGS on August 14, 2007 at 9:02 pm

It seems that college is a wonderful place to learn but not necessarily a place to decide what you will be when you grow up. I know from my own experiences teaching college students that many in the middle of their senior year where still trying to decide what their next step would be.

I recently have stumbled into a fairly recent college graduate that has taken the discovery of his future to the farthest extreme I have ever seen. His name is Brett Familoe and along with a few of his friends he started Pursue the Passion. The mission of this project is to travel and interview people who are passionate about their careers. Their passion is pursuing what others are passionate about.

I will be participating in their project along with a long list of others. Check out their ability to attract great press and how they have turned their obsessions with the passionate pursuit of others into a working enterprise. Here is an excerpt from their site as well as the link to their site.

Pursue the Passion started as a group of three recent college grads who embarked on cross country roadtrips to interview passionate professionals about their career paths. We created this site because we felt that others could benefit from these interviews, and use them to determine a direction to take their careers.

It’s our belief that everyone should be passionate about their profession. We have made it our mission to provide inspiration, guidance, and community support to help you find work you’ll love.

Inside our site you will find all of the interviews we have conducted on our summer journeys, along with a blog that captures the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

We want this site to be a resourceful destination for aspiring individuals to learn about life, passion, and careers, and for you to share your experiences. We welcome you in being a part of its success.


Brett Farmiloe

Faced with a career decision upon graduation in May 2006, Brett conceived the idea of conducting exploratory interviews with influential professionals to discover the path to a passionate career. As founder of PTP, Brett’s goal is to create and develop resources that help individuals not only identify their passions, but also assist with the pursuit.
Brett loves to receive random emails from people, so send him a message with anything that’s on your mind. He can offer insight on the “what should I do with my life” dilemma, and is always willing to share his experiences that range from roadtrips to cubicle claustrophobia.

Brett’s duties on the 2007 tour include conducting interviews across the nation, writing about them on his Journey Blog, and “steering” (both literally and figuratively) the Pursue The Passion team in the right direction.

James Whiting

James has aspired to open his own music recording studio since the age of 13. Now 24 and recently graduated from the University of Arizona, he hopes to gain insight on how to make that dream materialize.

Noah Pollock

As a student of creative writing and Spanish linguistics, Noah realized long before graduation his areas of study could be broadly applied to many fields—to which field they will be applied, however, remains a bit of a mystery.

As one-half of Class Project, Noah has been recording music for five years and is now ready to take to the road, supporting those travels as a writer on the Pursue the Passion team.

Zach Hubbell

Zach left his position as an auditor one week before the 2007 tour launched to serve as the utility player for Pursue the Passion. Zach edits video, writes summaries, cold calls lots of people, takes the wheel every once in a while, and does whatever is necessary to make the tour a success