Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

An Essential Question When Applying to Arts School

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Music on September 12, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Not all arts schools are the same.  Where you study will have a huge impact on the kind of artist you become, skill sets you develop, and network you cultivate.  In order to make a wise decision, many important questions should be posed during the application process.  Who will be my primary teacher? How rigorous is the curriculum?  Which courses are required? What kinds of experiences are offered? How much scholarship money is available?  What’s the town like? 

But if you’re serious about the prospect of becoming a working artist (as opposed to a really accomplished hobbiest), here’s an essential inquiry: What kind of career training do you offer? This is particularly critical for those with majors like music performance/composition, acting, painting, and dance, where few traditional full time jobs are available and competition is fierce. Insist on specific answers.

This week, I phoned over 100 of the top music schools in America and asked exactly that. Some were quick to illuminate the many wonderful things they were doing to better prepare students for professional life.  These conversations were exciting and inspirational. (For my next post, I’ll outline some innovative and forward thinking initiatives.)

But, to my great disappointment, many institutions do next to nothing.  In some cases, they didn’t even understand the question. With a little digging, it became apparent that little time had been spent pondering this issue. A couple of people commented “huh, that’s a great idea…” As if it never dawned on them that students—who are taking on enormous debt in exchange for educational guidance—would benefit by developing marketable skills during their college years.

Of course, few simply admitted “we don’t do careers here.” After fishing to find a suitable response, several explained that “each private teacher works on that in lessons.” Implying that this priority is so central to their mission that every student gets one-on-one career training. Sounds great!

But I know better. In an overwhelming majority of cases, this statement is simply false. Don’t just believe me. Ask any music school grad. With few exceptions, these conversations do not happen. Private lessons address performance excellence, developing “chops,” learning literature, and other wonderful things. That’s what they’re supposed to do. But few teachers devote significant time to marketing, developing a niche, building an audience, creating opportunities, personal finance, raising funds, branding, contracting, etc. Many applied teachers, though wonderful musicians, don’t even have a grasp of these issues.  And when career matters are mentioned (by good luck as opposed to design), discussions are typically limited to 1-2 lessons out of four years of study. 

Of course, budgets are tight.  I’m sure every school would love to expand in a thousand directions if they had unlimited resources. But they don’t. So universities hire only the faculty they can afford, focusing on topics they value.

Every music school offers applied lessons. This means they want students to become better players. All curricula require multiple semesters of music theory and history, demonstrating a commitment to creating well rounded musicians.  Feel free to draw analogies to your own field of study. The implications are clear.

If a school truly prioritizes preparing viable professionals, in addition to outstanding artists, doesn’t it seem logical that they would hire at least one employee to address this issue? Yet many don’t offer even a single-credit elective course, let alone mandatory training for all.

I do not wish to endorse or discount any arts school in this blog. They are all made up of good people, and it is my sincere hope that within the next decade, every program will prioritize the all important subject of careers. Those that don’t simply won’t be able to attract students.  But we’re not there yet. Far from it.

If you’re a prospective student hopeful to make a living through your art, be sure to choose a school that values career development. And if you’re a faculty member concerned about the future success of your students, but your school fails to deliver adequately, consider broaching the topic with your colleagues and administration.

I look forward to the day when every music school insists that career training is just as important as augmented 6th chords, the three stylistic periods of Beethoven, and playing a perfect scale. I can’t wait until dance programs teach the choreographic stylings of Balanchine AND how to market a show, or painters are educated on water colors AND running a nonprofit. At that point, there will be one less question for prospectives to ask.  But we’re not there yet.  So do your homework…

 

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, info on the most relevant music career book in print, and more.

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The Art of Evolution and the Evolution of Art

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on September 11, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Tonight only!
Are you in Chicago? Are you thinking to yourself “It’s a Friday night- I should get out of the house and see a movie or a show”. Looking for a bargain on a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
If you answered “yes” to all these questions then this is the answer to your entertainment dilemma:

Ekphrasis-poster-web

Friday September 11th, at 7:15 when the Sideshow Theatre company and Blue Damen Pictures will be doing a special double feature of “Ekphrasis” (the play) and “The Visionary” (the film).

This sounds like a pretty good deal but it gets better: tickets for “Ekphrasis” are normally $15 each and can be purchased in advance at http://www.ekphrasisplay.com/index2.html. On September 11th, not only will you get TWOshows for the price of one you can ALSO get a discount if you are part of the theatre or film industry by bringing two copies of your resume to the screening itself.

MW Reel Shorts

Blue Damen Pictures is also honored to be presenting our newest film “The Visionary” at the Chicago REEL Short Film Festival. Sunday September 13th at 3:00pm, College Film Row Cinema at Columbia College.

Admission is only $20 for a weekend pass ($7 for an event ticket) and considering that there are almost 100 films showing, that is about 20 cents per film- talk about a bargain!

For more information on the festival you can visit http://www.projectchicago.com.

Busy weekend! We’ll see you there!

Right Brain Workout

In Author: Whitney Ferre on September 11, 2009 at 8:02 pm

This exercise is from Chapter 11 in my book The Artist Within, A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit.  This was great this morning!  It took me about 10 minutes total.  Enjoy the pics!

This is just my Moleskine sketchbook (that I love!) and some scrap paper.  I used some plain glue and a paint brush to glue them to the page.  I tore the paper very randomly, trying to get different kinds of shapes. This is just my Moleskine sketchbook (that I love!) and some scrap paper. I used some plain glue and a paint brush to glue them to the page. I tore the paper very randomly, trying to get different kinds of shapes.
I only used soft pastels (more like chalk) and crayons for the colors.  Watch the layers! I only used soft pastels (more like chalk) and crayons for the colors. Watch the layers!This is when I started to use crayons.
I layered more soft pastel over the crayon. I layered more soft pastel over the crayon.
This is where it stands now.  I could always go back and layer it on!  Layering is key!  It is hard sometimes to keep adding to it.  You are scared that you are going to "mess it up".  Face that fear and then add the layer! This is where it stands now. I could always go back and layer it on! Layering is key! It is hard sometimes to keep adding to it. You are scared that you are going to “mess it up”. Face that fear and then add the layer!

 

Join my facebook fanpage at:  www.facebook.com/TheArtistWithinU for step by step like this of my paintings! 

Try this workout at home, in the a.m. or after a long day.  Or, start your next meeting with this creativity workout!  You will be amazed at the different results and ideas you get.  It’s about equality for both sides of the brain.  Your right brain/Artist Within has a lot to offer you: energy, intuition, inspiration, new ideas, purpose-driven action, centering, peace….Try it.

~Whitney

Creating from Unconscious Thought

In Author: Jim Hart on September 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

Entrepreneurial Arts Training must have equal parts artistic and entrepreneurial techniques. We must invest deeply in each or one will suffer.

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

I want to discuss a phenomenon, which is one of the keys to artistic freedom and greatness. Though I give examples from theatre, it is a phenomenon that can be experienced in dance, in painting, writing or any other art form.

  • The Japanese call it Mushin.
  • Joseph Campbell refers to our brains being a secondary organ.
  • The Balinese Topeng dancer transcends present consciousness, becoming a conduit for the Gods.
  • Actors refer to this as “going up”.

This all points towards this phenomenon.

This state of mind, what the Japanese call “Mushin”, is where the gems of the creative process occur. What happens in this state is that our conscious mind ceases to attempt to control the creative process and “something else” takes over. We commit to risk. We free-fall, trusting that we will be safe, that there is a net, trusting that the words will come, that our bodies will kick in and that all of the rehearsing we have done, what the French call répétition (repeat) will enable us to let go and release.

We must learn our varied techniques to the degree that they become second nature. We must develop these skills to the point that we do not have to think about the mechanics of our technique. Ex. A master woodcarver does not think about how they are holding the chisel and hammer. They do so naturally, as a result of much practice. It is ingrained within them and no longer needs to be at the conscious level. If one is thinking about their technique, they will not be free and ultimately, their performance or creation will have a stifled quality and not be as dynamic as it can be.

Each of us understands what an impulse is and what it feels like. I like to refer to impulses as being the lighting-quick voice in our heads that says, “Do this. Do this”. In the words of my college theatre professor at SMU, Dale Moffitt, typically, there is a second voice that arises, which he calls, “The watcher at the gates of the mind”. This voice tells us, “Don’t do that. You aren’t doing that right. Everyone is judging you. You aren’t good enough”, etc. It is our job to push this voice down and listen to the constant stream of creative impulses—and here is the trick—to do so without first judging them or being fearful of them.

Often, when creating, we are “mind-full” of external and internal matters, which restricts our ability to create in a fluid, dynamic fashion. To arrive at this state of creating from a place of unconscious thought, we must focus deeply, in an outward fashion and allow ourselves to turn our “minds” off. Using theatre as an example, we cease to be mindful of the audience, of our lines, what action we are sending, the agent or casting director in the audience, etc. Instead, we focus so completely, that all of that fades out of consciousness and we begin to create from “another place”.

Typically, an actor who has “gone up”, only realizes that they have entered this state of consciousness, once they fall out of it. Typically too, one is not entirely aware of the minute choices they made within the moment of this state, as they are no longer observing and controlling, but have released and become a conduit.

It has been my personal experience that when a performer enters this state, the audience cannot help but be sucked in. People, after the show, will often talk about “that moment”, as being amazing. It is during this state, that one expresses “truth”–or so much as can be expressed in the creation of illusion.

The great irony is that if one tries to get to this state of consciousness, they are guaranteed to not get there. Why? Because they are controlling the process. This place is achieved when we free-fall, when we get out of the way of ourselves. We get there by trusting that all of our technique is there, that we are going to be safe, by accepting the inherent risks (which typically translate to mean potential embarrassment). The greatest way to get there is to invest completely in play. We must play as children do.

Surely each of us has engaged in some creation, where we are so engrossed in the process that we lose track of time and find that hours have flown. This is the land of Mushin.

Play is the reason we do what we do, as artists, yes? We can convince ourselves, and others, about all of the higher ideals and purposes we have, being the real reasons we create (social change, to enable others to have catharsis, etc), but the real reason, at its base level, is because it is fun. It gives us bliss. That is why we artists do what we do.

We have fun playing King Lear and tearing at the heavens. We have fun playing Hamlet and experiencing a range of emotion in a few hours that few people experience in a year.

Play, bliss, joy is the way. Controlling, intellectualizing, playing technique, being too mindful is the problem.

Let yourself free-fall. Believe me—there is a net. Once you experience Mushin, if you have not already, you might, as I have, make this state of consciousness, freedom of expression and release the goal and the measure to which you strive in all creative processes.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and  ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010. To reach Hart,  email    jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

What Type of Artist are You? What is your Function?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 9, 2009 at 5:49 am

Artists can play many roles in our society and have, throughout history, been thought to exist somewhere between high priest and prostitute.

When we look to cultures past, attempting to understand their values, their thinking, often we look at their art for insight.

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

Artists, unequivocally, play an valuable function in society, one that often achieves the test of time and promotes change and cultural identity.

Some artists don’t give a second thought as to what specific role they are playing or what impact their work might be having. Many do not know, specifically, who the audience is that they are trying to reach, to speak to and serve.

Here are some questions I encourage you to ask of yourself:

What role are you playing?

•    Are you serving to aide your audience to experience escapism? Do you help them to forget their troubles and be transported to fantasyland, to the realm of the imagination?

•    Do you serve as an agitator, to cause people to think, to stir up preconceptions?
•    Are you politically oriented, attempting to promote change?
•    Do you serve as educator?
•    Are you a conscience to your society, serving as a mirror, holding up what you see and reflecting it back to your audience?

There is a wide range of options.

In fact, one can play many roles, simultaneously.

In Bali, Indonesia, a culture I have had the privilege to spend a good amount of time in, the Topeng dancer serves as a literal conduit for the gods. The Balinese believe this dancer serves as a channel, through which, spiritual forces enter and exit, blessing the community in the process (this is a theatre of necessity). But these village rituals are not just spiritual ceremonies, but are entertainment as well. Like Shakespeare would craftily do, they speak to many audiences, simultaneously—from the educated higher castes to the peasant lower cast. These dances can, in the course of one evening, go from trance-induced performance of ancient ritual to bawdy genital humor. It serves a spiritual function AND as escapism. These ancient dances, repeated for literally thousands of years, give a sense of cultural identity to youth. It teaches them about who they are as a people and gives them a sense of communal pride and interconnectivity.

If you are not already doing so, I encourage you to be specific about what role or roles you would like to play. You do not have to wear the same hat each and every time you create. You can wear a different hat for each collaboration that you take part in.

Here are some more questions:

How might you like to be remembered, should your work stand the test of time?

What impact on your audience, culture, society, nation, and world would you like to have?

Do you have any interest in your work standing the test of time? Though that is something that we can never personally control, here is a clue in how to increase the likelihood of your work lasting some time: Speak via universal themes. Open your message to humanity. Speak to the human condition. Appeal to that which is universal to the human animal.

Do you have a message?

Do you have a voice?

What role will you play?

Jim Hart  is the founder of The Hart Technique, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more information on these endeavors and Hart, see www.harttechnique.com

You Fail! But Are You Doing it Right?

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Outside Your Comfort Zone on September 8, 2009 at 8:00 am

Most artists I know are terrified of failure. They beat themselves up for each mistake, and suffer bouts of depression with each rejection. Failure is viewed as the enemy, and one to be avoided at all costs. So they play it safe.  Really safe.

But everyone fails. This is a simple fact of life, and there’s no way to avoid it. The important question—what kind of failure are you experiencing? 

  • Type A Failure stems from action. You try something, give it your all, but it doesn’t work out. 
  • Type B Failure stems from inaction. You do little or nothing, even though it’s important to you.  Often this is because you’re paralyzed by the prospect of (ironically) failure. 

Disenfranchised artists have typically experienced few Type A failures. Expecting a near 100% success rate, they view each bump in the road as an omen. When something doesn’t work out, it causes them to retreat and become a little less ambitious. These individuals start blaming society, the educational system, government, a lack of personal talent, or even the art itself for their disappointments. As a result, a Type B failure of the largest order is suffered. Their career doesn’t work. Their income doesn’t grow. Their dreams aren’t realized.

Successful artists have typically experienced an enormous number of Type A failures. Expecting a 1-5% success rate (one triumph out of approximately 20 to 100 attempts), they are shocked and delighted when the results are anything better. Each bump in the road is interpreted as an opportunity or necessary step in the process. When something doesn’t work out, it fills them with determination and ambition. In fact, some successful artists actually proudly maintain rejection letters as badges of honor.  After all, they’re out there working to make things happen!  And by lighting that many fires, some will surely catch. As a result, their career, income, and dreams build momentum. 

Everyone hates Type B failures.  They may not have the immediate sting of a Type A, but they’re much more damning in the long run. The resultant sense of helplessness and deep dissatisfaction takes a devastating toll over time.  

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Nobody likes Type A failures either.  It’s always nicer when things work out the first time. But success can be really hard to achieve when you place all your eggs in one basket (or no basket at all!), especially in a field as competitive and challenging as the arts.

On the other hand, the more failures you allow to accrue, the more successes will likely be picked up along the way. And success begets success. So allow yourself to fail. Hundreds and hundreds of times. Maybe more. With those kinds of numbers, I bet you’ll be impressed with the results.

If you really want to succeed, be willing to fail. 

 —–

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, info on the most important music career book in print, and more.

Definitions are……finite

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on September 8, 2009 at 6:48 am

Last week, I led p.a.v.e.’s semi-annual workshop on arts entrepreneurship and grant writing. Like most entrepreneurial activities, I didn’t do this alone. I was joined by my p.a.v.e. colleagues Lynne Aspnes (music), Muriel Magenta (art), and Miguel Valenti (film). The past four workshops we’ve held started with a brief history lesson and some standard definitions of entrepreneurship like “undertaking risk for monetary gain.” This time we switched it up a bit and each one of us shared our personal definitions of arts entrepreneurship. Needless to say, the discussion was much livelier. It was also a lot more useful for our audience.

My colleague from art talked about entrepreneurship as the “but then what” moment that extends the art process from exhibition to something beyond that. My colleague from music talked about finding ways to be a catalyst, to turn events into actions, taking the artist out of the practice room and into the world. My film colleague discussed entrepreneurship as creating one’s own opportunities. I talked about arts entrepreneurship as propelling oneself forward and using art for social transformation. I did eventually sneak the two-second history lesson in, explaining that French economist J.B. Say first coined the term “entrepreneur” very early in the early nineteenth century. Because the first English translation of the word was “adventurer,” I was also able to extend our multiple definitions of entrepreneurship to include “adventuring.” Aren’t artists all adventurers, boldly going where no artist has gone before?

As the free-formed discussion continued, I realized that to attempt to distill all this down to one single definition of arts entrepreneurship would be restrictive, and therefore anti-entrepreneurial. To define one meaning is to eliminate the potential for all other alternative meanings – we need not do that. In a recent post, Jim Hart asked “is Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?” Much as he suggest that artists need a wide perspective, so too do we need a wide perspective on arts entrepreneurship. Innovation can and does flourish within parameters of need and resources, but not within limitations of thinking.

Dynamic Exposure Gives Dynamic Results

In Author: Jim Hart on September 7, 2009 at 7:23 am

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell, also author of bestselling books Blink and The Tipping Point, makes the case that success is less about talent and more about

Develop discipline like a marathon runner.

Develop discipline like a marathon runner.

opportunity. He argues that those who are exposed to more and greater opportunities have a greater likelihood of being successful. Makes sense, right? We are each products of our experience and if we receive rich opportunities (schooling, exposure to influential people and elements, etc), we have a greater likelihood of accomplishing goals that are above the ordinary.

I believe we are not destined towards a certain tier of accomplishment because of our childhood backgrounds, necessarily, but that we each have the potential to gain greater opportunity, by exposing ourselves to environments that are rife with possibility and opportunity.

The richer the environment, the more focused our effort, the more we may yield.

If we place ourselves in environments that are dynamic, we have the potential to gain in a dynamic way.

Gladwell also argues that mastery is largely due to logging the hours—10,000, to be precise. Again, makes sense, right?

If you log 10,000 hours, doing any sort of development training, your skills are likely going to reach a masterful level. If one does not reach mastery after 10,000 hours, one needs to choose another discipline (if, in fact, mastery was the goal).

Artists have, forever, used the technique of purposeful isolation to reach a near super-human level of skill. When one focuses very deeply, consistently putting a high degree of concentration, thought and effort into an endeavor (not succumbing to distraction, hesitation or sloth) and do so with consistent effort over time, they are likely to develop and improve quickly and in profound ways. I refer to this type of focus as a “laser point focus”.

The Hart Technique and entrepreneurial training for the arts develops individuals who have a phenomenal degree of discipline. One needs discipline, in order to log the 10,000 hours. I like to refer to this type of discipline as that of a marathon runner. The marathon runner does not have the luxury to take a significant break from their training or they lose endurance, stamina and strength. They must, more or less, be running consistently. That takes fierce discipline.

Another reason that we must be consistent in our efforts is that our techniques (or our talents and skills), will dull and rust over time, if not used. If an artist stays in constant form, their technique will be sharp and they will be able to best express themselves. If they do not stay in proper shape with their technique, when opportunity arises and they call upon their technique, they will likely be self-conscious and not be able to express themselves as well as they desire. Their form can return, but they will likely have to log considerable effort with their technique to get to the place they were before.

Here is an example: When I was young, I was very active in martial arts. One summer, I was training for a national tournament and trained, literally, all day and night–some 10 or 12 hours a day—6 days a week for the entire summer. I was, then, in the best physical shape of my life. Following the tournament, I took a break from training for three months. When I returned to the studio, I found that my endurance, flexibility, strength, speed and stamina had all suffered. When I would spar others then, I would lose to those I consistently won against, when I was in such good shape.

At Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, we provide a dynamic environment, which enables students to focus deeply, to develop discipline and to utilize their skills—constantly, so as to make significant headway towards acquiring their 10,000 hours of effort. We expose these students to the highest quality of teachers possible and place them in the market, while still in school, so that they interact with professionals, expanding their networks in the process.

This combination of influence, opportunity and student effort, yields, for many, a phenomenal return on their educational investment and increases their likelihood of success.

Students gain a sense of empowerment, first hand experience of how to create opportunities themselves, and a high degree of technique; enabling them to manifest and realize whatever impulse they feel.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and  ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010. To reach Hart,  email    jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

Entrepreneurs change the world

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on September 7, 2009 at 12:55 am

I came across this movie about entrepreneurs and I liked it …

Free Sales and Marketing Class- Chicago- Starts Oct 5th

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Marketing, Writing on September 7, 2009 at 12:32 am

Are you a visual artist? Do you paint? Knit clothing? Make greeting cards or jewelry? Would you like to turn your passion into profit but need help?

Flourish Studio’s located at 3020 N Lincoln Avenue, is accepting new products for their retail floor. Gain exposure and credibility for your artistry in this top notch retail and art gallery. All artists approved for Flourish’s Artisian Program will be eligible for a FREE 8 week sales and marketing class offered by Lisa Canning.

Topics will include: How to price your product, create your identity to the public, as well as develop selling and marketing techniques to build demand for your product profitably.

All artists accepted into the program require 5 hours weekly of unpaid retail floor time and a 50/50 revenue split. Classes start Monday October 5th at 7pm.

For more information email me at Lisa@EntrepreneurTheArts.com or call 847.774.2938. This is a great opportunity to gain support for your ideas and begin your business in a first class location and neighborhood in Chicago.
Picture 6

What kind of artistic life in the future will you live?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Health & Wellness on September 6, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Lisa 2009What kind of artistic life in the future will you live? What does the rest of this year, 2010 and beyond hold for you? Can you describe it to me?

Do you see yourself becoming more involved in the creation of your artistry, do you see greater connectivity to others, what about the twisty- misty road called your creative journey finally occupying center stage?

Does your future artistic life need more time, more money, more training, more love, less self-loathing, more what… to achieve what it most needs?

I think every artist I have ever met has said, in one way or another that for them, their artistic life is about making a difference. But exactly how big of a difference were you thinking you will make and for whom? Will that difference be for you, for your immediate family, for your friends, your community, for the world?

What arts entrepreneurship training offers- that NOTHING ELSE IN LIFE that I have discovered yet does- is a way to achieve, shape, re-shape, define, re-define, refine and live the artistic life you have always wanted to live– exactly as you see it from moment to moment, day to day, week to week and year after year.

Albeit, just like most things in life, enjoying the journey to your destination is the most important part of the ride, but entrepreneurial training offers you a blank map to start and re-start until you create the perfect road to be able to. A road that feels and looks exactly right for you to take- one that you will find infectiously helps you learn how to truly enjoy looking out your window as you tavel along your way.

The trick is.. how many roads are you willing to try and create? If you keep designing, unknowingly, roads that turn out to be dead ends how much gas, time and energy are you willing to sacrifice, with an open-mind, before you simply become another believer that an artists life is a dream, a hobby or nothing more than a disjunct, disconnected, endless string of failed attempts and not a life?

How many years will it take before you start telling yourself, and then your family and friends in so many words, ” I cannot indulge myself with this expensive addiction any longer. Who am I kidding- it needs to be controlled and limited..”

When we passionately decided we love the arts, it can happen at any age, and we naively declare our hearts intentions to our family and friends- in those following moments, days, weeks and years after, how often do we give thought to exactly how to protect our love– let alone build an artistic life that still makes our knees buckle, our hearts pound and makes us coo “After all these years I am still madly in love with you. You give me everything in life I need. If it were not for you, where would my life be?”

(Pause)

It is almost hard for me to write another word following that thought. It gives me a big lump in my throat as I let those words sit with me.

It’s an understatement for me to say that I really hope you feel this way and always do.

And yet, if I had not thought long ago carefully about what kind of artistic life I wanted to live and then developed my entrepreneurial skills as a vehicle to achieve it, I am not sure where I would be today.

I love the view from my window. How about you?

The Grass is Always Greener (for making green)

In Author: Melissa Snoza, BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Interesting Articles, Legal, Marketing, Money on September 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

First, a big thanks to fellow ETA blogger David Cutler for featuring Fifth House Ensemble in his new book, the Savvy Musician, advance copies of which are available on his website prior to the full release in November. If you’ve been reading his posts, you know that David brings an incredible energy to the concept of being a working, entrepreneurial musician, and his book is sure to be a great resource all of us who are working to create new opportunities in the field.

In an article published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, David’s mention of 5HE’s dual business model was mentioned. When we formed in 2005, we created both a 501(c)3 nonprofit (Fifth House Ensemble) and an LLC for our private events business (Amarante Ensembles, LLC). Same folks, different purpose.

As a young group, we knew we wanted to provide a wide variety of services, including those that would serve the public good (performances, educational programs), as well as those that would help to keep us fed (weddings, private events). We formed both businesses at the same time in order to be able to keep these activities separate financially, and in order to be able to market them in completely different ways.

Since the article was published, I’ve been getting many inquiries from arts organizations both established and emerging about how and why we did this, wondering if the same model would work for them. Interestingly, in most cases the concern is less about the types of services being provided and the best business structure to manage them, and more about how to raise the most money in the shortest amount of time. Inevitably, those who began as a for-profit think that they will raise more from donated funds as a non-profit, and vice-versa.

My first question is always, “why do you want to do this?” A business structure is about the most effective way to manage the types of services you want to offer, so you have to consider what is a good fit for your goals, not just your bank statement.

If you are a performing arts organization that is committed to work in the public schools and bringing performances to underserved audiences, changing from not-for-profit to an LLC will not help you raise funds from venture capitalists, unless something changes about the services you offer. What will you tell them about their return on investment? And do the people you are serving have the resources to pay big bucks for what you do?

Conversely, if you are a for-profit company that has been successful selling tickets to shows, merchandise, and DVDs, and you are attracted to the extra money you think you will bring in as a non-profit but loathe paperwork, is switching to 501(c)3 status really a good fit? Given that you don’t want to be the one to do grantwriting, annual reporting, financial management worthy of public scrutiny, board agendas, and all of the other tasks that go into managing a nonprofit, you may end up paying staff a large part of the added revenue you would see from changing structures.

The only real reason to have a split structure (in my opinion) is if you have services that are distinctly different enough to warrant that. If there is overlap, not only is the purpose for your choice not clear, but you also risk running afoul of the IRS. I remember fondly the conversation I had with Mr. Botkins, the IRS agent who reviewed our 501(c)3 application, about how we had created these two entities for the sole PURPOSE of keeping for- and non-profit activities separate. The IRS doesn’t like seeing for- and non-profit organizations to be connected in any way, via common control (similar officers/managers), contracts, or other financial arrangements.

Know yourself, the type of work you want to do, your tolerance for paperwork, and the types of people you want to serve. Be realistic about how much you have the potential to earn or raise. If the structure you are considering isn’t a good fit for your services, don’t be tempted to follow what you perceive to be the greener pasture, or you may certainly find yourself out in the cold. The best way to get more green is to make sure that what you do is serving the people around you in the best possible way, which will inspire customers to pay for your work, or donors to support its creation.

Melissa is the flutist and Executive Director of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit www.playingclosetothebridge.wordpress.com, brought to you by members of 5HE.

Do You “Play” Music?

In Author: David Cutler, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music on September 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

In my experience, few things in life are more enjoyable than the act of making music. Music is fun!  How wonderful it is that we use the verb “play” to describe this endeavor!

Yet for too many musicians, the activity pursued when singing or touching their instrument couldn’t be further from play. Instead they tense up, get nervous, or even break down. “Musicing” is used as a vehicle for proving self-worth. Obsessed with impressing others and (more importantly) themselves, damning condemnations come with every mistake or less than perfect articulation.  Each time a note sounds, the ego’s Gestapo-like jury weighs in. And the verdict is usually—guilty.  No wonder so many performers look miserable on stage. No wonder so many fail to connect physically with the sounds they create, or invoke even a smile. Who could possibly enjoy this kind of constant, brutal self-interrogation?

 But take a step back.  You’re not exactly doing hard physical labor, fighting a war, or stuck in a boring office job. You get to make music!  So love every moment.

 Successful musical performance is not about perfection. It is about connecting with others. It’s also about empowerment and liberation and a spiritual journey into an extraordinary place that no other human experience can deliver.

 Music is a blessing.  Remember this, with every wrong note you play.  Remember this every time you lose a competition or perform less than your best.  Be thankful that you can participate in such a miracle. And when you exude exuberant joy through your art, everyone around will cherish the moment as well.  We can all use more blissful energy in our life, and music is an ideal tool.

 So relax. Enjoy. Play!

I had a revealing exchange with an Indonesian gamelan composer a few years back.  He told me that after each performance, the players gathered around and discussed how things went that night.  Just like we do. They would recall bloopers from the performance. Just like we do. But then the conversation would take an unfamiliar turn: “Did you hear when I clammed that note during the quiet section?”  “Yeah, that was awsome!”  And they’d laugh about it. Laugh until they turned purple. No apologies.  Ever. Because music is fun. Because music is play.

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success and impact with your musical career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com, “Home Base for Music Careers,” for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, information about the most important music career book in print, and more.

Is Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 4, 2009 at 6:30 am

A lot of people define their sense of self, based on what they do for a living. Artists are notorious for this. They think of themselves as, “I am an actor” “I am a dancer” “I am a writer”, etc.

Tricky thing about such a line of thinking is that if you are not working, what are you then?

Most Americans will have 6 careers in their life.

Many Americans have up to 6 careers in their lifetime.

Defining one’s identity via what one does can lead to identity crises over time.

Certainly, most of us ask what it is we want to do, numerous times in our lives. I have heard that many Americans will have up to 6 careers in their lifetime. This further illustrates that we are all in a constant state of change.

Of course, each of us “is” more than just what we do. Still, many artists feel so passionately about the work they create, that they identify themselves strongly with their art. In such cases,  I encourage the individuals to not just identify themselves by the type of medium they practice, but, as Artists–creative artists, at that. One may be a creative artist who acts or paints or does photography or…all of the above.

I believe that artists are artists are artists. Every artist creates from the same place
–we simply have different tools to express ourselves. Some of us use our bodies, some film equipment, some computers, etc.

Mastering technique in one form or discipline will enable one to pick up other mediums of artistry. When we hop mediums, we need only learn the new tools or “rules” of the medium.

Another tricky thing about identifying oneself as, say, “an actor”, is that it can cause the artist to mentally rule out other possibilities and potential–like writing or directing, teaching or producing.

Nearly everyone in the field of theatre, began in an acting class. Acting classes are the window into the medium. Many leave acting to pursue directing, design, producing, writing, technical theatre, stage management, etc. Once again, change is represented. One who begins in an acting class and discovers a passion for directing or design is not a “failed actor”. They are creative artists who direct or design.

Most artists today cannot afford to think in such a limited fashion. There are not enough professional opportunities to do so. The markets are over saturated. We need to be teaching our artists to have “a wider directional perspective”. Rather than thinking about what opportunities exist in a narrow sort of thinking, (ex. Do these few things, via these few paths to find work in your medium), we need to teach them to broaden their perspectives and ask the question, “What can I do with my skill sets”? What opportunities exist? Where are there needs to be filled? What gives me joy? What are ALL of my interests? How do I synthesize my many interests, into a single endeavor?

Such a line of thinking and practice will lead to more artists with unique voices. New aesthetics will emerge. Greater innovation will occur and these students and graduates will dramatically increase their potential to make a living via their creativity.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway, and The Hart Technique.  www.harttechnique.com

A Visionary at The Sideshow

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Current Events, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on September 4, 2009 at 12:16 am

Save this date:

Friday, September 11, 2009, 7:15 pm

You’ll be glad that you did and here’s why: Back when I was studying theatre in college we used to say “If you want to be famous then go to New York, but if you want to work, go to Chicago”. Chicago is home to dozens of boutique theatre companies that you may never have heard of, but if you haven’t heard of the Sideshow Theatre Company you’re truly missing out. Their motto says it best: “Familiar Stories. Unorthodox Methods. Perpetually Curious”, but their work really proves the point. Their current show “Ekphrasis: Cave Walls to Soup Cans” is a wonderfully creative and slightly condensed journey through the history of western art, on a mission to understand exactly where it comes from and what drives our desire to create.

Ekphrasis-poster-web

This show is a hoot, and it’s not too late to still see it. Running through September 20th there are still a number of performances available but if you need a little something extra for incentive to make the trip all the way into the city then you’ll want to come out on Friday September 11th, at 7:15 when the Sideshow Theatre company and Blue Damen Pictures will be doing a special double feature of “Ekphrasis” (the play) and “The Visionary” (the film).

This sounds like a pretty good deal but it gets better: tickets for “Ekphrasis” are normally $15 each and can be purchased in advance at http://www.ekphrasisplay.com/index2.html. On September 11th, not only will you get two shows for the price of one you can ALSO get a discount if you are part of the theatre or film industry by bringing two copies of your resume to the screening itself.

So remember:

“Ekphrasis: Cave Walls to Soup Cans” and “The Visionary”

Friday, September 11, 2009 7:15 PM

Viaduct Theatre 3111 N Western Avenue, Chicago, IL

Admission: $15

The New ETA has Launched!

In Author: Lisa Canning, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on September 2, 2009 at 12:40 am

eta-logo-revisedTake a moment and check out the new ETA website.

The ETA Resource Center is now open too!

How to Have Vision

In Author: Jim Hart on September 1, 2009 at 9:40 pm

What is Vision and how do you have it?

Experience Vision Making

Experience Vision Making

I am sure each of us has heard that “He/she is a person of vision”. This phrase has a mystical quality to it, as though there is a type of person with the ability to see what others cannot. I believe most people are capable of having vision, but hey need the proper stimuli. They need the proper influence and training.

We love our visionaries. We need our visionaries. We need to train our artist to have vision.

Vision is lucid dreaming. It is about dipping into your imagination, while you are still awake and conscious. It is allowing yourself the mental space and flexibility to see pictures in your mind.

Visionaries are much like entrepreneurs, with many being entrepreneurs. Both dreaming types develop their ideas or vision through their imagination, creativity and filling in of gaps.

Such gaps can occur in any number of fashions. Typically, they are a response to status quo and serve as offerings, outside of the norm.

How does one have vision? How do you create a profitable vision? Can the ability to have vision be taught? Absolutely. ACPA, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, as part of its curriculum, will offer such training.

Here are some basic steps in How to Have Vision:

1. Answer this question: What is the status quo? This can be represented in your work life, your country’s cultural artistic offerings, communal values, political scenario, etc. Which area or areas do you like to spend time thinking about? Which areas do you have opinions about? Which areas do you feel something about?

2. How did the status quo come to be?

3. Is their something missing as a result of cultural, communal or institutional investment in the status quo, whatever it is? Let me ask this in another way: What do you wish were available/offered/existed, was a new standard? What is missing? What are the gaps? What do you wish would come to be?

4. How is what is missing different form what currently exists, specifically?

5. If you were to fill that gap, what would the filling component look like? What would it be? What function or role would this gap-filler serve?

6. How might you, personally, do it? Remember that there is no right or wrong. We are brainstorming here and brainstorming is a building of ideas (sometimes dynamic ideas come out of flubber). How would you, personally, do this, if could, if it were possible?

7. Is it possible? If not, why? Can those obstacles be overcome? Have they been overcome in the past by anyone? We know that if something has been done before, that it can be done again. If it has been accomplished before, how?

8. What would you need to accomplish this goal?

9. Can you acquire what is needed? What would that take?

10. If you were to scale down your larger vision and reduce it to a vision that utilizes only the resources you have at hand, right now, or can readily acquire, what might that look like?

11. Who else is addressing this need?

12. Who else feels passionately about this need? People like to help those who share their passion, especially if it is a unique passion.

13. Who else needs what is missing?

14. Can your vision match their needs?

15. Is there value to filling the gap you have perceived? Can you put a value on it? What is it worth to the people who need it filled? Are there people doing similar gap filling, anywhere? Have they found a value to such activity?

16. What would it take to begin, if it were to be begun?

17. Are you willing to commit to filling that gap? If not, why? Is it possible to work with whatever obstacles you face? Are they possible to overcome or meet the needs of, as well?

18. What steps can you take right now? An old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.

19. Create a To Do list. If you were to accomplish this dream, this vision, this goal, what 5 things (baby, beginning steps), can you begin today—and realistically achieve?

20. Complete your To Do list and start again tomorrow.

These twenty steps can serve as your window in. Once you see the dream, you see the gap and have an idea of how to fill it, begin. You must develop momentum. To develop momentum, you must commit to action, unequivocally.

I like to say that the hardest part of planning an extended trip abroad is to buy the ticket. Once the ticket is bought, you have overcome the initial hurdle and have started your adventure. You have committed. You have invested.

In having and building vision, you may offer your culture something it needs. There could be social and financial benefits to such thought and action.

Invest in your dreams. Doing so can make you feel, deeply. It will, inevitably, expand your awareness of what it is to be alive.

If you want that, begin today.

James Hart (Jim) is the founder of TITAN Teateskole (The International Theatre Academy Norway), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts.  To contact Jim, email him at jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

Riding the Arc of the Story: Inciting Obstacles

In Author: Amy Frazier, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Writing on September 1, 2009 at 6:54 am

All of a sudden, you have it: a beautiful idea! It comes to you full blown and shimmery. Perhaps something brand new you’ve never before conceived, or perhaps the result of pondering long and hard. Regardless, there it is: exciting, and full of energy. Your idea can do no wrong. The world is its oyster. It is your helium balloon.

Ideation. What a great place to be.

You, and perhaps a happy gang of fellow-ideators, begin to bring this effervescent, brilliant idea into being. Plans are drawn, schemes concocted, url’s purchased and celebrations forseen. It’s all a giddy whirl.

Until the obstacles start to arrive. Perhaps not with the first obstacle, or the second, or the third. But eventually it happens: something comes up and you don’t know if you can get around it. As sure as ideas are born, obstacles come in their wake. It is like a natural law.

In the move from ideation to implementation or execution, the emergence of obstacles can tell us many things. It can be a reality check, or a good moment for redirection. A serious obstacle has the power to derail the entire scheme.  Most people, I think, realize that when ideas hit the real world, they are reshaped, and sometimes with difficulty.

But how do we respond when it happens? Think especially of group endeavors. How do different personalities react to the emergence of a serious obstacle to implementation? Can you think of a time when someone has thrown up their hands and said: “At last! Now the real story has begun!”

That’s what the narrative arts have to show us. If we look at the implementation phase through the lens of narrative structure, we can see how stories don’t really get started until the first big whammy. There’s even a term for it: the inciting event. Anything before the inciting event (also sometimes known as the first plot point), is merely background, setting the stage. The action does not really begin to elucidate meaning within the framework of the story, until something unexpected shows up.

The arrival of obstacles which appear to thwart our plans does not necessarily mean that the idea wasn’t solid or real enough for the real world. In fact, it might be just the opposite. The natural pairing of idea and obstacle, story and inciting event, can give us energy for the next phase: the rising action.

I’ll be exploring other narrative structural elements in later posts. I’ll also be giving a workshop on the use of the narrative arts in effective implementation for the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation, in Brussels in late October. And, as befits the theme, I’ve been noticing that since I had the idea for the workshop…well, let’s just say that I’ve been keeping good company with some of my favorite obstacles. But more on that to come…