Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Author: Jim Hart’ Category

My Asian Vision Quest

In Author: Jim Hart on November 18, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Mythic Balinese Barong Dragon

Following graduation from Yale School of Drama, I received a grant to study ritualistic mask dancing with village master teachers in Bali and India, via a Fox Foundation Fellowship. That was a journey that absolutely changed my life. Prior to going on this trip, I worried, having just graduated from Yale and having entered the market, if it was the wisest thing for me to go on an overseas travel, to leave the city and go frolicking in Asia. What auditions or opportunities might I miss? I felt tremendous pressure—most of which was imagined—about what my classmates and faculty expected from me. It took me a good amount of time to get over that nonsense.   Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Money. Symbol of Energy.

In Author: Jim Hart on November 12, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Jim Hart. www.harttechnique.com

In our present day economy, our US greenbacks are no longer based in precious metal. Rather, they are based in what we say they are. Such is the advantage of being a super power. Though…that is likely to change with time…

Money as Energy

Money is a Symbol of Energy.

Money is a Symbol of Energy.

Paper money. Is it not just an agreed upon symbol?

I like to think of money as being a symbol of energy.

People exert energy (working) to earn money (a symbol of energy).

When one has money, they can exchange the paper for other peoples’ services (or their energy). One can also trade this paper for goods (which required energy on other peoples’ part, to construct).

The more money we have, the more energy we can put into action. The less money, the less energy we can put into action. To gain money, our exertion of energy must be of value to others. Is that not what entrepreneurship is partly about—providing value—while assuming risk for financial gain?

I think a lot of artists think of money as something that they either have or do not. This lack of money, often controls whether or not they will work at all. I find that to be a shame and lacking in imagination.

Altering one’s perspective on money can enable one to think of ways to develop value for others. What services or goods can you provide, which will cause others to want to give you their symbols of energy?

What value can you offer? What value might you offer?

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more on Hart, see   www.harttechnique.com

Collective Brainstorming

In Author: Jim Hart on November 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

Just as the energy of moving water can propel a water wheel into motion, so can stimulus engage the imagination and our creative impulses. We need input, in order to output. We need gas in our mental engines, in order to move forward. Group brainstorming can provide such fuel.

Brainstorming. What a great word. For me, it conjures up a storm in the mind. Electricity. One of my favorite acts to engage in, in the creative process, is collective brainstorming. It is an act that can generate phenomenal inspiration and can generate ideas that would not have been possible, without this contribution of multiple minds.

In building my first school, TITAN Teaterskole (in Oslo, Norway), I created a course that was exclusively dedicated to the act of collective brainstorming. I called it Studio Lab.

Here are are some foundation rules that we found especially strong in stimulating constructive brainstorming:

o   Egos must be checked at the door. Each individual in the group needs to sacrifice their personal motivations and desires, in order to act in the service of the larger group/project/idea. We must let go of emotional connection to ideas we come up with or get excited about. In the words of legendary choreographer Martha Graham, “We must kill our children”. I believe she means that we must sometimes sacrifice those ideas that our personal treasures. It is very easy to become married to an idea. Sometimes, in order to create our larger work and to make it as strong as possible, we must kill or sacrifice ideas that we love the most.

o    There is no “right”. There is no “wrong”. There is only what we create. What we create today will be different from what we create tomorrow. Why put value on it so early in the process? One thing for sure…collaboration is a process of evolution. It is a process of change. Sometimes our creations are built upon seemingly non-connected ideas. Sometimes our best impulses are sitting on a foundation of others’ ideas. Ideas are born upon one another.

o    Don’t censor yourself. As long as we are judging and censoring our ideas, they will not see the light of day. Sometimes, we come up with an idea that we are reluctant to share. In such an environment, why would we be reluctant? Typically, it is because we fear the judgment of others. Here is one of my favorite Martha Graham Quotes:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

~Martha Graham to Agnes  de Mille

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and The Hart Technique.  http://www.harttechnique.com

The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ is Alive!

In Author: Jim Hart, Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Health & Wellness, WEBSITES & BLOGS on November 5, 2009 at 7:03 am

IAE logoIn September of 2010 The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ will open its doors at 3020 N Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Our two year finishing program, will teach artists how to make a living from their artistry.

To learn more about IAE check out our website. Applications for early enrollment are now being accepted.

Overcoming Mediocrity

In Author: Jim Hart on November 4, 2009 at 1:08 am
Pic of sheep

Baaahhhh!

In Australia, it is called “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (the tallest poppies get cut). In Scandinavia, it is called Jante Loven (or Jante’s Law). Many countries weave a societal pressure into their cultural fabric, teaching youth to not stand out, to fit in, and to tow the community party line. The goal of such behavior is to promote a sense of “equality”, cultural identity and a feeling that everyone is equal.

However, what these phenomenon’s spell out to me, is a social goal of mediocrity. Shoot for the middle. If you are in the middle, you might feel that that you are gaining a sense of security.

Such social pressures are not only present down under and in the far north. It is found in Read the rest of this entry »

Find Happiness Through Risk.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 27, 2009 at 1:57 am

All entrepreneurs, by definition, must engage with risk.

What is your risk tolerance?image of dice

Let me ask you a few questions.

Are you doing what you love for a living? If you aren’t already, would you like to?

What would you be willing to do to have the happiness that can come from doing what you love for a living?

Almost all businesses require money to begin. Thus begins our relationship with risk.

How much would you be willing to pay to potentially achieve your dream? How important are dreams to you?

Would you spend $1,000? How about $10,000?

Can you place a value on your career happiness and your feeling of work fulfillment?

How about $50,000? If you could make that investment, which would engage you in a process that may lead you to career fulfillment, would it not be worth $50,000? Is it worth more?

Many of us are forced into “survival jobs”, to do work that is not creatively fulfilling and is work we would not do in the first place, if we had another viable income.

If you were in such a place, what would it be worth to you to be able to leave that world behind and make a living from your creativity?

Would you be willing to risk your lifestyle?

If you like to eat out, would you be willing to sacrifice that part of your life? Would you be willing to eat in for almost all of your meals?

Would you be willing to eat less expensive food, if it might lead to your dreams?

Would you be willing to simplify almost all aspects of your life, to decrease your risk in pursuing your dream? Simple adjustments can have profound effects.

Almost all people feel a drive and need to work, to create, and do something productive. A lot of people feel very empowered and…dare I say…*happy* when they are doing the work they love. Then work is less work and more a joy.

If you had to sacrifice your lifestyle and finances for three years or longer, in order to achieve potential long term financial and career success, would you be willing to do that?

Here is the real crux…What if you invest all of that time, money and energy and do not succeed as you desire? What if you don’t fulfill your dream? That is a risk, too.

But what if you do?

Risking and sacrificing are, in some ways, like quitting smoking. For those who have smoked, you will know what I am talking about.

Those addicted to smoking, when they quit, will likely experience the following:

•    Your mind will play tricks on you, convincing you of why you REALLY NEED to smoke, why it is actually good for you.

•    You will profusely sweat and loose significant sleep

•    Your mind will fixate on cigarettes for nearly every thought of your day. One thought after another…hour after hour.

•    But, what one often finds too, is a feeling of empowerment.

These experiences are trying, exhausting and difficult to navigate.

For many ex smokers, 2 weeks was the magical point of gaining strength. If one can make it to the 2-week mark, without succumbing to withdrawal and all the temptation and mind games, they have a good chance of quitting successfully.

Engaged effort over a span of time, can give us a great sense momentum, of accomplishment and of purpose. Over time, we begin to see the fruit of our labors…or at least that the tree is in bloom and may fruit.

At this state, we gain perspective. We realize we would not have made it to even this point, had we not made the investments that were necessary. We are then that much closer to achieving our goal. The beginning risks, at this point, start to seem smaller and smaller, less and less significant.

Effort decreases entrepreneurial risk.

You can’t win the game, unless you play.

For greater happiness and creative fulfillment, what are you willing to risk?

Beginning a new endeavor, one, inevitably, has to sacrifice, has to risk. But, with time and continued effort, the enormity of the task, seems a little smaller.

For more information on Jim Hart and The Hart Technique, see http://www.harttechnique.com

Inspirado, My Sweet Muse

In Author: Jim Hart on October 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

A number of years ago, while at Yale, I had the good fortune to meet renowned playwright, Arthur Miller (author of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons). This was, for me, a truly magical encounter, as he is one of my favorite writers. I asked him if he, in his creative process, met inspiration at the door OR if he consciously sought it out. He responded that it is different with every occasion, but that sometimes one must look for it.

inspired eyeVision Seeking. What a romantic coupling of words. For me, it brings to my mind the mythic vision quest, where a hero strikes out with the express intent to have adventure, to experience new stimuli and to find inspiration.

Not all of us are blessed with a regular muse. Sometimes, we must make a conscious, concerted effort to hunt down the often elusive Inspirado.

For many artists, inspiration is a seductive, but fleeting lover. We bask in this lover’s affection and reap the reward of their presence. But, this lover is rarely around long enough and leaves you longing for another encounter.

Inspiration can come in many forms and ways. Sometimes, I feel that I am holding a very fine silk thread and am gently following it, hand over hand, hoping it does not break. At other times, I feel that I have been hit by lightning and vision unrolls before my like a long Persian rug.

Waiting for inspiration to arrive is a waste of time and creative energy. Why? Because waiting for inspiration is another form of giving away one’s power and most entrepreneurs and independent artists crave autonomy. It is marvelous to have inspiration. But, when it is not present, we must find other ways of moving forward.

Here are some tools I have found useful in luring Inspirado. I hope some of these may help you.

  1. Give yourself time. Dedicate time to actively look. Books, for me, often inspire. My wife and I have a large collection of books that focus on various painters´ works. Also, my wife, having been a professional dancer, has many books on choreographers, companies and dancers. I pour through these pages, seeking stimulation. Inevitably, it comes.

  2. Gardening. In myth, it is a symbol of the soul. For me, gardening is a constantly evolving, living canvas. Structuring a garden is always a temporary act. Nature takes it back so fast. Being in nature and engaging in creation, stimulates me greatly.

  3. Brainstorm. I love this word. A storm of the mind. Chat with a good brainstorming friend (someone with intelligence and their ego under some control). One idea can give birth to another (and often does). In this process, listen a lot, see the ideas in your mind and follow whatever impulse arises (without first judging it). You think it? Go with it. It does not matter whether you think it is a worthy impulse or not. Throw it out, as it may stimulate another person you are working with and may be a better idea than you initially thought. No self-censorship.

  4. Change your routine. We are all creatures of habit. Many of us have a structure to our lives that causes us to not see things around us. We take the typical for granted. Such eyesight can lead to a lack of “seeing”. Meditation can help. Bump up against stimuli you might not otherwise encounter. Walk around the block and go a way you do not normally go. Be open to conversations with others you do not typically communicate with. Go to the magazine rack and pick up a magazine that has nothing to do with your typical interests. Look for text that pops off of pages for you.

  5. Engage in dialog about what interests you with people of like interest. Such talk can serve to stimulate, inspire collaborations and cultivate energy.

  6. Be rested. An exhausted mind and body, often, do not yield inspiring results.

  7. Begin to make something. Create. Develop a sense of momentum. Doing so will help you to begin moving forward. Think of your own energy like that of rolling a stone down a hill. While the stone is fixed in space, it can be difficult to move it. But once it begins to roll, it develops more and more speed as it rolls down the hill.

  8. Find a sense of balance within your life. I have found that if I am not attending to all of my basic needs as a person, that inspiration is less likely to find me. Lack of attention to my needs, for me, creates a feeling of gap or lacking. I will then feel unsettled and unhealthy habits might begin. Such a feeling can slow my momentum and lead towards inertia. Sometimes, we are not able to fully attend to all of our needs. In such a case, try to find a “sense of balance”. Schedule time to commit some small energy towards the filling of your need gaps. In doing so, a greater sense of “wholeness” can arise and, consequently, happiness and better use of ones´ energy and mind.

  9. Go down a rabbit hole. My favorite rabbit hole is YouTube. I like to watch videos of something that fascinates me and then keep following the links.

  10. Play. Engaging in a playful state of mind will, invariably, get our imaginations firing. When I say, “play”, I truly mean just that. Engage in a ridiculous scenario or activity and play with as you did when you were a child. Don’t judge. Engage. Commit to your sense of play with wholly, with abandon and joy.

  11. Play with your imagination. Ask, “What if”? What if you had a million dollars? What if you were elected President. What would your first day of office look like? The more you use your imagination, the stronger it, as a muscle, becomes. The more you use it, the more you are able to use it. The imagination is one of the partners of the dance.
  12. Cultivate your emotional intelligence. Inspiration comes from the imagination (and emotions). When one is inspired, they are emotionally engaged. Emotional intelligence is one of the artists´ keystone tools. If you do not already have a good degree of sensitivity to your emotions, what you are regularly feeling, start. They are often not as scary as we believed they might be. Ride the wave of what you feel. Pay some attention to it. Name it. “I am feeling…excited or giddy”, for example. Name it to understand it. If you feel you are already too engaged with your emotions, try to channel them into activities or creations. Make something and let your emotion be the gasoline in the tank. Let your expression come out of that.

  13. Meditate. Willfully still your mind. Letting the constant clutter of our thoughts subside for a while, gives space to our imaginations. Present consciousness can enable us to see our world through a clearer lens.

Then…follow the silk thread, impulse after impulse. Keep following. Keep doing.

To learn more about author Jim Hart or The Hart Technique, see   http://www.harttechnique.com

Finding Balance

In Author: Jim Hart on October 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Entrepreneurs are notorious for lacking balance in their lives. The initial volume of work one must accomplish in the process of building something can feel overwhelming and steal much of one’s time and energy. At least while developing, many find themselves engaged in seventy to eighty hour workweeks, working weekends and sacrificing time with family and friends. Due to job demands and responsibilities, they find their lives become imbalanced (There is always something that the entrepreneur in practice could or should be doing).

I have found that imbalance can lead to depression and burnout. Both states can be extremely difficult to work through or can cause some to surrender their pursuit and investment of time, energy and money.

Many entrepreneurs’ families struggle with this feeling of imbalance, as the new pursuit may demand priority over other aspects of life.

The thing driving most entrepreneurs forward, in spite of the inherent difficulties, is passion for the subject matter. Passion can alter the feeling of “work”, to be experienced as play and can enable one to potentially weather the storm of loosing money in the early development of the business.

But how do we find balance?

Each individual is, of course, unique and each person in their process of seeking balance, will choose techniques they feel work for them.

The beginning years of building a business are often the hardest. I like to compare the process of starting a business to putting a boulder into motion (once it is in motion, ideally, there is some momentum to help carry it forward).

True balance in one’s life is something many people (entrepreneur or not) struggle to find. Sometimes, we must settle for a sense of balance. To find a sense of balance, we must tend to our common human needs. For most, this includes dedicating time towards work, social life, spiritual expression or insight, family, and personal time.

Often, I speak about the need for discipline—like that of a marathon runner. I urge you to weave some of these steps into your own discipline or process.

1.    Thoroughly schedule your time and, as best you can, stick to your schedule. How much time can you dedicate to family? As mechanical as this sounds, it can be a great tool to make sure you are actively giving your family or lover time. Then follow through.
2.    Give yourself personal time. There are only so many hours in a day and we only have so much gas in our tanks. We all need time for ourselves now and then. If you find yourself longing for such time, schedule it in and if you absolutely need it, try to not let anything interfere.
3.    Create a space dedicated to stillness. Having a room dedicated is a luxury many cannot afford. You can have something as simple as a particular chair to sit in. Rest and silence are the goals. You needn’t sit for a long period of time. Fifteen minutes can help.
4.    Establish boundaries with individuals who might try to monopolize your time. Be assertive regarding boundaries.
5.    Let go of the vampires in your life. Be mindful of who is poisonous. Do you have friends who sabotage your interests, do not support you or drag your energy down? Get rid of those relationships and nurture those that are positive.
6.    Delegate. Few do quality work when they carry the entire weight of a business on their shoulders. Do too many things simultaneously and all of your efforts can slip to mediocrity. Learn to ask for help and to trust when sharing responsibility.
7.    Work efficiently. Try operating via the least effort principle—expend only the amount of energy necessary to get the job done. In doing so, you will have more energy to put towards other areas and can curb exhaustion.
8.    Have reasonable goals that you believe are achievable and can be done in the time you give yourself. Accomplishing goals builds confidence.
9.    Know when to stop. Tomorrow is another day. Cultivate the ability to set things down. When one is passionately engaged with a conflict, it is easy to perpetually ruminate on the problem. Sometimes thinking too much only adds gas to the flames. By letting your mind rest, your subconscious has the opportunity to do some computing.
10.    Take time to celebrate. Personal recognition of accomplishment is important. It will keep your spirit up.
11.    When you are with your family (or friends) be with them and allow the thoughts of work to subside.
12.    Engage in activity that gives you a sense of play, carefree-ness and joy– every week.
13.    Eat, Sleep, and Move. We all know that eating well, getting sleep and exercise help us stay fit; improve our mood, keep up our health and energy.
14.    Know your audience or whom you serve. Find your manner of service. You don’t have to be working in an orphanage to be serving others—nor does your audience have to be big. There are all levels and sizes of contribution and service. Finding your method will enable you to see past some of the difficulties you encounter, as you will be “fighting the good fight”.
15.    Synthesize your interests. If you are engaging in a process that utilizes many of your talents, interests and abilities, you will feel a greater feeling of wholeness.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique  http://www.harttechnique.com

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 19, 2009 at 10:51 pm

The first time I created an original work of theatre,  a production I wrote and directed at the Yale Cabaret called The 9th Annual World Weight Wrestling Blood Exxxtravaganza—a social commentary told through “professional wrestling”, I was given sage advice from renowned stage combat choreographer Rick Sordelet. “Keep it simple, stupid”, he often told me.

Most great works of art are simple. Sometimes, we as artists, attempt to say too much at once. Consequently, we muddle our work. Simplicity allows for depth. Here are a few examples that come to my mind:

The Beatles Yesterday
Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
The Story of a Mother by H.C. Andersen
Any of the Brothers Grimm tales
The work of Ansel Adams
The Far Side comics by Gary Larson
Norman Rockwell’s paintings

I could go on and on, medium after medium.

Each of these works, it is interesting to note, has or will likely stand the test of time.

Keeping our created form simple allows for us focus on depth of expression. Advice for the day? Keep it simple, stupid.

Say, “Yes” and Commit.

In Author: Jim Hart on September 18, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Press Play on the audio play button to hear this podcast.

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

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

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

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

American Arts Education Needs Change. (Audio Recording)

In Author: Jim Hart on August 31, 2009 at 12:36 am

Jim Hart, founder of The Hart Technique, proposes a new standard for arts education. This podcast was originally recorded July 14, 2009. James Hart (Jim), founder of The Hart Technique

American arts education is largely ALL arts technique and no REAL business technique. Our artists are trained to create works of art, but not to market and profit  from their creations. This standard in the American arts educational offerings leads to wide-spread under and unemployment. It is a system that dis empowers our artists and pushes them to rely on others for nearly all of their creative and professional opportunities. We need change.

Jim Hart

Listen to this AUDIO PODCAST 

Jim Hart is currently founding Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, a full-time study in entrepreneurial arts training. ACPA will open doors in August of 2010 and will have a foundational philosophy in The Hart Technique. For more information, see www.harttechnique.com

Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I built a school in Oslo, Norway called The International Theatre Academy Norway, which begins its 6th year of operation this year. The school is entrepreneurial arts training for Theatre Artists.

One of the unique components of the school, and which I will incorporate into the new curriculum at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), which opens in Austin in August of 2010, is that students build original projects, which they implement in the community, outside of the school environment. We push the students into the market and the develop a professional network, while still in school.Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

I would give students the assignment that they must create a one-person show. The stipulation? They could use NONE of the school’s resources and had to produce the work in a professional or semi-professional space, outside of the school and in the community. They would then have to:

•    Write it
•    Direct it
•    Produce it
•    Act in it
•    Budget
•    Fundraise
•    Allocate funds
•    Generate all resources necessary
•    Negotiate and sign contracts for space, technical needs, etc.
•    Market their show
•    Generate press via radio, papers or TV
•    And finally put butts in seats (who paid to view their show) and profit.

In brief, they had to be largely self-sufficient and had to stand on their own legs, creatively and professionally. They had to be the engines for their own creativity. You can imagine this assignment was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I would tell the students, “The point is not to be as brilliant as Ibsen, though that would be great if you are, though it is improbable that you will be. Genius comes with time. The point of this exercise is to complete it”.

Some excelled in their process. They not only went through it, but generated large audiences, a good deal of press and made a profit.

Others fell squarely on their faces.  They felt the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. In conventional thinking, they “failed”.

But did they?

The failure of these students was equal as a learning experience as those who succeeded. In fact, in some cases, I think those who failed, learned more than those who “succeeded”.  Experience is comprised not only from our success, but our character-building failures.

For most of us, our fear of failure and judgment is what most impedes our action.

We must accept that we cannot always win and that failure is inevitable.

If we don’t try with all of our effort, wits and energy, we will never know what our potential might be. If we allow ourselves to fail before we complete our effort—to fail at, “I am not as brilliant as Ibsen” or “I am going to look stupid” or “I can’t do this…because I have never done it before”, then we are destined for a different kind of failure. This kind of failure is a failure of spirit. It is a failure of imagination. It is a failure of not heeding the call to adventure. In this type of failure, the world will never know what potential we posses, for we have not allowed ourselves to discover and express it. This type of failure is worst kind of all, as it is a failure towards our selves, rather than a failure of accomplishment.

Failure towards our selves can eat at our confidence, spirit, and sense of self. It is a weakening failure.

Failure of accomplishment—of having tried our hardest and of coming up short, can serve as a foundation for learning. This type of failure is a positive failure and is a stepping-stone, upon which to stand, as we build our next endeavor.

The hero’s journey is not one of following paths; it is one of making paths. Sometimes the hero stumbles. If they give up on their adventure at hardship and go home, the direction from which they came, they are no heroes, in fact. To quote from myth and Joseph Campbell, “Where you stumble, there your treasure is”.

We must learn from our failures. We must use our failures and we must expect failure, to some degree.

The exercise I gave my students, of being more self-sufficient, of being the engines of their own creativity, had a far-reaching effect for most. The effect was the realization, the illumination of, “I did that. I can do that”. This is a hugely empowering realization, for when they realize that they can, they do.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA).  Jim Hart (James) can be contacted at jim@harttechnique.com  or http://www.harttechnique.com

Ten Steps to Finding your Artistic Voice.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Ten Steps to Finding your Voice.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. — Carl Jung.

This is such a wonderful quote and is one of the keys towards finding ones voice as an artist.

Many artists fall into the trap of either imitating their favorite artists (attempting to serve as a cheap imitation of greatness) or by sticking too fast to their technique training they received in school. Remember that programs (meaning institutions educational offerings) do what they are called. They “program” students. It is very easy for artists to take the technique their teachers offer and become dogmatic about it, as though they have “found the answer”. Artists need to be careful that they do not fall into the trap of being “cookie cutter”.

When I was active as an actor in New York, following graduation from Yale School of Drama, I could easily tell which actors graduated from Yale, which from Juilliard and which from NYU. This is because the actors were products of their learning…of their programming and often behaved in relatively typical fashions. To the trained eye, it was easy to see.

Prior to going to graduate school, I was told by a friend and respected actor to be careful. He said, “Do not let them iron out what makes you unique”. I did not understand what he meant at the time, but view that advice now as sage.

Finding ones voice means finding ones own technique and aesthetic. An artist’s job is to experience technique as one would a buffet. Try everything. If it tastes good, swallow it. If it is not right for you, spit it out. What is ultimately your technique should be what works for you, personally. If you are like most artists of innovation, this technique will be a patchwork of many influences–not just one approach of one or two institutions.

Technique is just a means to and end. Technique is simply a series of tools that generate a result. Certainly, technique liberates art and the more talent one has, the more technique one needs. But, technique is meant to be learned and then forgotten. The function of technique is to give an artist a starting point and then a sense of freedom. It can also serve as a fallback measure when all efforts seem to be failing in the creative process.

I have no regrets about my educational choices and would likely repeat them, if the opportunity arose in another lifetime. But, it has taken me years to get away from my “programming” and to find my unique voice.

Encouraging artists to find their voice and making such practice a key element of training needs to become standard offering in arts education. Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts will do this.

How does one find their unique voice? Well, one won’t find it in most educational environments. It requires experimentation, personal meditation and assessment and can only be discovered by the artist themselves.

Here are some tips I have found useful in discovering my own voice, which I would like to share.

  1. What do YOU love? As Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. Don’t approach answering this question, based on what you think you SHOULD love. What do you, personally, love? Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist, would call this your “bliss” and he would encourage you to “Follow your bliss”. What do you most like to think about? What gives you joy? What ideas do you like to play with? What thoughts cause you to lose track of time?

  2. Be who you wish to seem. What type of artist do you want to be? What audience will you serve? What will your medium be? Will you be politically oriented? Will you dedicate your energy to the classics? Will you serve as a bold visionary?

  3. Make Choices. The blank canvas and the sheer number of choices available overwhelm many artists. Just make choices. You can always change them later. Make a choice and then make another and then another, etc.

  4. Know your history. Unless you know what has been done in the past, you are likely ignorantly imitating forms of past and present. If you know what has been done, you know if you are doing something new.

  5. Surrender a need to be “right” and “good”. Ibsen was not “Ibsen”, prior to years and years of personal development. Greatness comes with time. Give yourself time. Remember:  There is no right and there is no wrong. There is only what you create. What you create today will likely be different from what you create tomorrow. So, forgive yourself if you appear to be an ugly duckling at first. Most first efforts are not products of genius.

  6. Steal from greatness. Nobody creates on an island. We are each products of experience and external influence. There is nothing truly original and all ideas are a mixture of other people’s ideas, whether we consciously realize it or not. So, if you see your heroes doing something stunningly effective and you would like to play with that idea, choice or medium, do it. Who are your heroes? What about them inspires you? If you are into a particular artist, what about that artist makes your heart race? Be specific. Make note.

  7. Have courage. Most peoples social programming (what they have been taught is right and wrong, their social values and what they are told to do and think they “should” be doing) gets in the way of freedom of expression. We need to access our stream of creative impulses (as crazy, dark, weird or foreign as they may be) and to follow those without fear or judgment. Don’t judge your choices, as this is a form of self-censorship and does not lead to artistic freedom.

  8. Synthesize your interests. Do you have numerous interests and talents? Do you find you struggle to dedicate your energies in just one area, which causes you to neglect your other interests or passions? Find ways to synthesize those varied interests. In doing so, you will feel more whole as an artist and person.

  9. Play with your ideas, as a child plays with a new toy. Experiment. Jump off the cliff and see what your ideas generate. But, if you are truly experimenting, know what the experiment is and use a scientific-type structure. Otherwise, you are just “playing experiment”.

  10. Allow your freak flag to fly. New ideas are typically, at least at first, rejected by the general populace. The more innovative and different the idea, the more rejection the creator will likely receive…until it is proven successful. Then the idea will be embraced by all as common sense.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. —  Arthur Schopenhauer

Finding your unique expression, form, medium or aesthetic as an artist will lead towards greater originality, potential innovation, potential happiness and artistic satisfaction. More importantly, you just might contribute towards your culture and cultural forms in profound ways.

Summary: Cast off the cookie cutter programming and embrace the Freaky Flag.

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

To contact Hart, email him at jim@harttechnique.com

Fear Makes the Wolf Bigger than He Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 25, 2009 at 9:32 am

“Fear Makes the Wolf Bigger than He Is”.

This old German proverb hits the nail on the head.

Fear is the great “mind number”. This emotion, more often than not, is the greatest obstacle that prevents us from achieving our goals, dreams and potential. What this means is that our downfall or lack of success is largely of our own making and, thus, within our own control.

Overcoming of fear is what the Mythic Structure of the Journey of the Hero is about–or rather, Fear and Doubt. But really, just fear, as doubt is a derivative of fear.

The fear we often anticipate, when encountering new experience, is almost always greater than the peril the actual experience brings. In brief, we can work ourselves into a tizzy, fearing the unknown and “what might happen”. Our imaginations create monsters under the bed and in the closet. But as adults, we know that those monsters and wolves are not really there. They are self-generated.

Here is a question for you:  In beginning a process of change, when you feel fear, what is it that you are afraid of?

If you are like most, it is the UNKNOWN. But let’s think about this for a minute. Do you ever really know what is going to happen next? If you live a predictable life, you can predict what is to happen next (and sometimes even with some certainty), but you never really know. Life is a mystery. The other thing that most people fall into the trap of, is fearing failure, embarrassment, humiliation. These words translate to mean JUDGEMENT. People will always judge–for good or bad and such judgements we have no control over. Besides, is that a valid reason for surrendering dreams and potential? Fear of the unknown (which is life) and judgement (which is inevitable)?

Letting other peoples’ judgement affect our actions is a giving over of our own power and authority to others. Why should they have that sort of authority? We each have the potential to be the makers of our own destinies and are each far more powerful than most of us even realize.

How do we overcome our fear? Experience.

Experience brings perspective and knowledge.

How do we gain experience, even though our hearts race with fear and our fight or flight mechanism is saying, “Run”?      Here it is:    Just keep going.  Go through the experience.  Allow the fear to be present and just keep going.

When we enter a spook house during the Halloween season, we are confronted with all sorts of intense stimuli. People jump out at us, we see scary sites, our fight or flight mechanism is engaged, etc. But as any person who has been to such a horror house knows, if you just keep going forward, you inevitably exit out of the house and into the cool night air, away from the illusion of mayhem.

The trick is to not just stand in place in a state of shock or to retreat to supposed safety (away from our destination or goal), but to keep going forward, putting one foot in front of the other.

Entrepreneurial Arts Training teaches artists how to succeed, despite overwhelming obstacles and teaches, via experience, how to overcome our greatest obstacle of all–our self-imposed fears and the obstacles we create for ourselves.

www.harttechnique.com

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA). In the autumn of 2010, ACPA will open doors in Austin, TX. To learn more about the educational offerings, contact Hart at jim@harttechnique.com

Create Your Niche.

In Author: Jim Hart, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box on August 22, 2009 at 1:20 am

Create Your Niche.

Our American culture worships celebrities and many young artists have celebrity as their primary goal, in way of career aspirations.

This commercial path is a valid path, but achieving sustainable success via this path, is like winning the lottery. People do win the lottery, but very few do and even fewer win an amount of any sizable worth.

One would be considered foolish if they put the majority of their earnings into lottery tickets, in the hope of getting rich. Why do so many artists do the same with their careers and energies? Many, I would argue, do not realize what potential exists, in way of career opportunities and how many ways there are of making sustainable income. In playing the celebrity lottery, a huge amount of artists get stuck in having to have survival jobs—like waiting tables, temping, cleaning apartments, etc. As we only have so much energy and time in the course of a day, these artists lose valuable energy and resources, as they are tied up in paths that have nothing to do with being a creative artist.

The problem lies in part with our culture (and its insatiable hunger for all things shiny) and in part with our educational institutions. Many of our schools are selling celebrity potential in their marketing. In the case of theatre, just open any copy of American Theatre Magazine and look at the school advertisements. There, you will see many schools, projecting a message that “we produce stars too”, regardless of how few stars the school has actually produced over the years and regardless of how the extreme majority of graduates never reach such status.

When artists are putting the bulk of their creative energies towards becoming famous or becoming a celebrity, their primary focus is on themselves. The audience they are serving is that of one. Who benefits? If the artist is working, they do and if the work they do is good, the audience or view does. If not, no person benefits from his or her energies.

If one has a principle focus of serving others and one’s audience is their community and its needs, then the community benefits from the artists’ energies (regardless of whether or not the artist achieves their goals, as they are in the act of “fighting the good fight”) and in serving the communities’ needs, the artist increases their chances of making a livable wage. Why? Because the artist is responding to a need and when one works towards filling a need, one increases their chances of making a living.

My goal as an educator is to do just that–to increase artists’ chances of making a living, to give students a competitive advantage. Entrepreneurial Arts Training, such as is offered via The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, both do this.

The best way to increase one’s chances of making a living is to perceive gaps in community cultural offerings and to work to fill those. In filling those gaps, one has the potential to create a niche. In creating a niche for oneself, one dramatically increases their chances of making a living and of achieving a sustainable creative income.

James Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (a new professional conservatory with a primary focus of Entrepreneurial Arts Training).

www.harttechnique.com