Innovating Through Artistry

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What Does Your Blue Bike Look Like?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, The Idea on October 12, 2009 at 11:40 am

balloon_bike_transpBG_50%Bite-Size Arts Ensemble Member, Dharmesh Bhagat, built this blue bike out of balloons for me. Isn’t it cute? What does your blue bike look like? Do you know? And what does it mean to build a blue bike anyway?

To me, the journey of learning how to take the pain in your heart and transform it into an entrepreneurial vision that is so strong and robust it produces an economic engine in your life- financial transportation- is what I call building a blue bike. It is impossibly difficult to do alone and requires an undying amount of support from others to accomplish. And I want you each to know how grateful I am, that you have been here for me on my own blue bike building journey.

Ever since I wrote my book, Build a Blue Bike, the pain in my heart has only grown. While I was very lucky to land a big agent, Susan Schulman, who represented Economist, Richard Florida’s Rise of The Creative Class, my timing could not have been worse. As we entered into a Big Big Recession I was trying to sell this book…..

I still hold out hope that someday I will hear back from Tarcher- my dream publisher. Julia Cameron: Artist Way- continues to be a big hit for The Tarcher Publishing company. So currently my manuscript resides in the back of my sock drawer, while my deep desire to help artists transform from the inside-out continues to grow.

My pain comes from a lifetime of artistic experiences that one-by-one drove me to become incredibly cautious and careful around artists because of the dysfunction I experienced trying to share the music in my heart with them. It was the drama, self-destruction, withdrawal, denial, arrogance, insecurity, back stabbing and anger I saw in others that made me take the joyful music inside my heart and lock it away. This was not what tickled my funny bone and called my artistic name to the clarinet and it is not where artistic entrepreneurial vision comes from. As a child, it was a love for exploring my own artistry and sharing my creativity with others that seeded my entrepreneurial abilities.

And it broke my heart to pull away from my deepest desires to play the clarinet for my life’s work when I was at the top of my musical game, at the end of my days as a college student at Northwestern. I truly wanted then and still want to share my creativity intimately with others. And while I went on to build creative ventures over the past twenty- years, creatively finding a way to put my need to play my clarinet each time at the center of my ventures, my heart continued to feel pain.

So after twenty years of living with my pain it grew so strong and loud, I wrote Build A Blue Bike hoping if I did something positive about it- by writing a book to share with others what only my artistry and unique vision blended together can see- it would help others heal and the pain I felt would finally subside. But the pain did not stop. So when Build A Blue Bike did not sell to a major publisher, my dream and hope for it still, I created Entrepreneur The Arts®. But it was still not enough.

From there came The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble™ and somehow, as this ensemble has struggled to take flight, I realized that while the pain inside of me was duller and throbbed less, as my vision for what I could do with it was growing stronger and clearer, it was still inside of me. I know that our show What is Your Imagination Worth? A New Kind of ROI is going to really help those who experience it learn about how they can change, evolve and grow. But I need what my audiences learn about developing their imaginations, to become something real: something that nourish their hearts and others souls. Something made to last. Maybe even forever- or for at least a lifetime on this earth.

And now, finally, last night, at Flourish Studios, with Stanley Drucker in the house, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ has been born. Finally, after three and a half years of struggling, I feel like I have found the ignition key for my vision and a turning point for my heart to begin its work of healing.

You see, I want so badly to help you to discover your own vision, like I have. I want your deepest pain in life to become a vision of what you can positively change in the world that will help you create an artistic life filled with meaningful opportunities for you, and others, to learn from and endlessly grow. I know you will be happier and emotionally healthier the moment you decide to. I know when more of you are living a LIFE YOU DREAM that the dysfunction I see in the arts will slowly, but surely, change. I still so want to experience what our shared positive creativity and artistry can do for this world. Don’t you?

So what does it take to build your very own blue bike? One that will last forever, and ever, or as long as your vision can see, and until the pain in your heart has been nourished into health?

OK. If you are brave enough to consider trying to, here are a few things you have got to know:

#1 However long you think it is going to take to transform the pain in your heart into entrepreneurial vision– know that building a meaningful creative venture- one that is built to last- requires a large investment of time– at least a couple of years if not more.

#2 You need to be willing to set aside your need for clarity and perfection and be able to live with a tangled web of ideas at first- a mess- in the development stage of your personal transformation. Turning pain into vision is a process that is not neat and tidy. And you need excellent role models to help you navigate through so you find the most expeditious way. Nothing short will do. The bigger the pain the greater the vision can be and the longer it can take for your artistic vision to become clear and focused and financially able to take flight.

#3 You must be willing to continuously attempt to launch your ideas into the world knowing that you will need repeatedly to rebound from many failed attempts until you finally find some traction for them. You will be laughed at, ignored, disrespected, ridiculed, slighted and humbled by this process every single time it happens– until your vision is perfectly aligned with the pain in your heart and it ignites the transmission of your creative venture. And then… you will be celebrated like the hero everyone always knew you would become. (It is the hero’s journey we are talking about here. It is what has to happen for your artistry to take economic flight.)

#4 You need tenacity to fuel ideas. Consistent effort that is unwilling to stop–What is it that your heart needs most to not be in pain? Whatever that is, there lies the endless source of your tenacity.

#5 You need to be or become a great collaborative communicator. When we share our vision and receive feedback from others about it, we learn how we are being perceived. When we get it right, our vision will manifest itself into economic opportunities that seemingly will pop right up out of nowhere– and become our transportation into our future.

#6 And lastly, you need to have excellent ethical judgement. What goes around comes around. If you do what’s right every single time, eventually you will be rewarded. And if you do what is right and true for you, eventually your heart will feel whole and your ideas will roll and the money will flow…

#7 Remember–Where there is money, there is energy and where there is energy there is a lifetime of economic opportunity…

And politics aside- Isn’t this really what Obama keeps telling us? This IS our moment. WE are the future of history. OUR time has come. It is Now. Are you Ready?

The New Bite-Size Arts Ensemble Logo- Animated!

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on December 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, albeit in its infancy as a Chicago based ensemble, is a concept I developed to bring the meaning of entrepreneurship alive to artists, arts students and recent graduates. As a result of an education system that currently teaches us mostly the art of preparing for “performance,” the purpose of the ensemble is to take the unique talents of each participant and create a performance that reflects what each of the participants creativity can offer the corporate and community at large. As part of the show each participant also will create an hour long workshop that is fee based to offer corporations or the community as creativity training.

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble offers a group of artists customized performance oriented entrepreneurial training, or a school a new inexpensive entrance into teaching entrepreneurship. By learning how to bridge the gap into entrepreneurship, this ensemble offers a way to start testing your entrepreneurial concepts through marketing to the community at large. It can lead to helping you develop your own niche small business model–one that uniquely is your own.

If you live in Chicago check out our site at We are looking for more artists to join us. Our website however is about to be rebuilt to reflect not only the training program offerings but also our upcoming concerts.

The Chicago Bite-Size Arts Ensemble has been going through some changes already- to be expected. Some artists found it too big of a stretch to evolve and have moved on and others are working on accomplishing their business models. While entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, it certainly creates opportunities for artists to think in new ways about how to thrive using their art form.

We are currently begining to plan a series of performances jointly for 2009 with Blue Damen Pictures that will include several shorts from a featured film they are working on. I hope you like our new animated logo. It was created by Jillian Solarczyk.

Bite-Size Arts Ensemble- what’s next

In BOOKS: Learn and Grow, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, WEBSITES & BLOGS on September 15, 2008 at 12:49 am

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, for those of you following the evolution of this ensemble, had a wonderful first performance and fundraiser, but a few short weeks ago. We raised $2200.00, which given we are a new ensemble without a following just yet, and given the state of the economy, was really a wonderful beginning. Friends, family, business associates, and new audience members from our press efforts and invitations from members of our board, yielded a nice turn out at a first class venue, The Florsheim Mansion resulting in a very interesting evening.

Film maker Kevin Kent was responsible for the creation of a film, with our audience, that focused around what sparks our imaginations, what influences our creative process and how did performances that evening, from members of the Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, act as a catalyst to open the hearts and minds of our audiences. As soon as it is edited, the film will appear on our website. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is Alive!

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on July 10, 2008 at 5:46 am

It has taken me almost two years to pull my new ensemble together- The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble.

For those of you following the creation of this group over the last 18 months, and for those of you interested in a new kind of arts entrepreneurship incubator, please take a moment and check out our new website.

But most importantly, I am asking for your help. Please support the work of this ensemble by telling others about it, or by making a donation of as little as $1.00 or by signing up for tickets to attend our first performance fundraising event on August 21st, 2008 at the Florsheim Mansion in Chicago.

The work of this ensemble is to benefit the growth and development of the artists we work with. Check out the website to learn more.

About The-Bite-Size Arts Ensemble:

Bite-Size Progress: June 2008

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on June 8, 2008 at 2:48 am

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is beginning to come alive. Our board met last week and through the generous donation of board member Russ Rosenzweig, co-founder of The RoundTable Group, we will be hosting our first fundraiser, and performance as an ensemble, at his architecturally award winning home, known as The Florsheim Mansion in Chicago.

Designed in 1938 by its first owner, the architect Andrew Rebori, as two separate structures, this Chicago Gold Coast house is commonly known as the Florsheim Mansion, after Lillian Florsheim, the shoe heiress and sculptor who bought the place from Rebori in 1946. Ten years later, Florsheim commissioned her son-in-law, the architect Bertrand Goldberg (who designed the revolutionary Marina City in Chicago), to join the two buildings at their second floors. He linked them with a black-laminate and stainless-steel kitchen meant to mimic the sleek lines of the era’s streamlined railroad cars.

The kitchen of The Florsheim Mansion has been featured in too many architectecural magazines to list. The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is thrilled to be able to have access to this very special residence for our first fundraiser the evening of Thursday August 21st, 2008. If you, or anyone else you know, is interested in coming to the event and seeing the interior of The Florsheim Mansion here in Chicago, please sign up as a fan of the Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on ReverbNation and we will send you an e-vite soon.

Additional good news to report, thanks to support from Columbia College staff member Lyn Pusztai, who was of great assistance in our search, we have just added film maker Kevin Kent, Stack City Productions, to our roster of artists for our productions starting this next fall.

We also have irons in the fire for a couple of communication, journalism graduates who will develop stories about the ensemble, pitch them to magazines and media and whom we will also help with their creative entrepreneurial development.

I know I have been saying this for awhile, if you have been following the twisty windy road of getting The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, a 501C3 artistic entrepreneurial performance based vehicle, off the ground, (welcome to entrepreneurship 101) but I really am finally at the point where I can get our website up and running. So, when its done, you will be the first to know.

1 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on May 21, 2008 at 5:11 am

Well, the Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is finally ready to lift off. From a starting point of ten artists, three have been willing to do the work needed to help advance their careers. 1 out of 3 isn’t too bad of a result, as far as I am concerned. It takes usually 7 knocks to open a door and I got 3 out of 10 on the first doorbell ring. I am overall pleased with these first round results.

The three individuals are: Darlyne Cain, singer/songwriter, Brian O’Hern, The Model Citizens Big Band and Juggler Dharmesh Bhagat. Besides being extremely talented, these individuals each are gems of human beings. I am building a starter site at Check us out there or click on the right side of the panel of this blog. You can help promote the work of this ensemble by going to ReverbNation and picking up a widget and putting it on your website or your own blog. We need fans and can certainly use your help.

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble’s 501c3 status came through just a little less then two weeks ago, so we can now officially ask for donations and offer a tax deduction. ( Kind of hard to put up a web site as a not for profit and ask for donations without having the 501c3 government recognized status.) If you are contemplating filing for this status, as an already established not for profit corporation, make SURE to use an attorney. I negotiated with my attorney a flat fee to do the paper work. The paperwork is complicated enough that you will be much more likely to get the status if you do.

As for the ensemble, the next steps include filming for the video portions of our productions, which have already begun, building the website, finalizing a short list of theaters for our first few shows as well as finding a couple of venues for a fund raiser or two we hope to have planned before June is over. Our next big board meeting to make these decision is next week! Our actual launch date for this performance based entrepreneurial incubator is Fall 2008: Sept/October depending on theater availability.

While the ensemble itself is focused on developing creatively and building entrepreneurial skills for artists, the goal is also to offer our audience members the opportunity to explore their own creativity through our productions as well as through the offerings of the artists themselves.

Stay tuned for more… this baby is about to take flight!

Me, me, me, me, me

In Creative Support, Emotional Intelligence, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on May 20, 2008 at 3:42 am

Me, me, me, me, me…what does this mean?

Well, it could be a warm up exercise to relax your vocal chords before you begin to sing? You know the exercise, Do, rei, me…

It could also be a reflection of the focus of a nation turning inward towards ourselves because we are increasingly having trouble affording gas for our car and food to fill the refrigerator.

Over the recent weeks I have been speaking to a large number of artists who have been telling me that the phone is not ringing with work, the gigs they did last year were cancelled or postponed this year and they are not sure what is going to happen next.

Yet, it is in times exactly like these, when we need to set aside our me, me, me,me,me’s and instead offer something up for the benefit of others, expecting nothing in return. Yes, I know it is hard to be thinking of others and be giving when times are hard. But by creating and sharing in our own greatest times of need, we release ourselves of our own burdens, if even momentarily. And by doing so we allow that which we give an opportunity to take root, which eventually will produce new opportunities that we can reap because of our generosity. (Even if not directly, the adage what goes around comes around is true!)

Recently, my friend Peter Rossi, a photographer, has been telling me things are slow. Peter generously has offered his time to me to work on shooting video for the Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, since his studio is not scheduled with shoots like he would have hoped. It is also giving him an opportunity to explore the world of video to potentially incorporate into his work. Lots of folks these days are interested in having high quality podcasts on their websites.

Interestingly, as we have spent time together working on this project, Peter has been more at ease then usual about the fact his phone has not been ringing with work. And interestingly enough it has now begun again to ring with calls for new shoots!

Now, perhaps all of this is coincidence. Or just maybe when we give to others instead of focus on ourselves, the universe offers us the opportunity’s we need to do, do, do, do, do….

Am I insane?

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on February 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

The last few weeks I have been working very hard on really pulling together the core members of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is a performance oriented entrepreneurial incubator, the first of its kind, in Chicago. I will be helping each member in it, over the next four to six weeks, develop a business plan that will in a key way be reflected in the context of their performance with The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble.

The results of these performances will lead to test marketing each artists services through a variety of for profit mediums through Entrepreneur The Arts. My goal is to build a not for profit organization that leads to a for profit business for artists.

We are looking at theater space now for fundraisers at the end of May early June and performance starting across Chicago-land every other week after that.

Needless to say, there have been a lot of in depth conversations being had with all these various individuals. Many exciting conversations, and yet as I begin to get into the lives of some of the artists I have selected, I realize I have bit off a lot to chew.

Everyone I am working with is in their 30’s and 40’s. All of them have never planned their future on paper, feel they know very little about money management, and have not as many ideas as they would like about how best to market their skills. And yet all of these artists, unlike so many who have given up and taken day jobs, have found ways of at least surviving in the arts for a living.

Am I insane to try and help simultaneously ten or more individuals like this? What am I thinking?

I come at this with both the enthusiasm of a child -because this truly is my life’s work to help artists- and the fear of an adult. Will each one of them really let me help them? Will each one be willing to invest enough time and energy into developing their own marketing plan with me? No matter how many times we need to adjust their marketing plan, based on feedback and test marketing, will they all hang in their and keep the faith? Will we get enough of an audience at all our performances and enough interest in each artists services to really test how well each artist’s services can sell?

While I have worked with many many artists in this way over twenty years, I have never tried to do this with my direct involvement in a common project. The hardest thing about entrepreneurship in the arts is allowing room for mistakes, trial and error and correction. To most artists this is a foreign concept and hard to do because we are all so use to being told we have to get it right the first time. But for those of you who have been reading the evolution of my concept of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, it should be clear to you what I am talking about- because I have gone through lots of shifts and changes with where it is headed only to arrive at this point right now.

I am beginning to feel the chaos of trying to get this all pulled together not to mention the work that still needs to be done to secure the theater spaces and fundraise.

I am a sucker for a big challenge. But when it comes to helping the arts I feel like an addict: I am desperate to find something concrete, that I can produce using my entrepreneurial and artistic skills, to effectuate real substantive changes in the arts, or at least starting with the little sliver of it I see. I have spent my entire life looking for a real way to create safety, an appropriate pay scale, health insurance and a retirement account for those who are creatively our most talented. I built a business for twenty years trying to help artists to flourish and I simply cannot stop trying now.

Yet I know I cannot do this alone- which makes me worry about how I will find more helping hands. Hands to spread the word about my work. Hands to encourage me to keep going when I am overwhelmed. Hands to clap at our performances. Hands to write checks to donate funds and hire artists and hands to cheer me on.

This ensemble, and all of you reading this blog- your interest in improving the state of the arts must continue to grow. I simply am not able to do it all even if I have a heart of desire that wants me to believe I could. Nor am I able to alone convince anyone and everyone that the arts need all of our hands of help to change its future into something far brighter.

Ron Cooper-Great Lost Talent

In Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, The Idea on February 16, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Ron Cooper’s story is very sad and yet many parts of his story are all too familiar. (How many creative artistic talents do you know who have a similiar tale of self destruction?) But regardless, here is how Ron’s story goes:

Ron had such a huge heart, a great voice and a bad alcohol problem. He never could pull it together. Most nights you could find Ron asleep riding on the EL train in Chicago. He was homeless.

Along the way, he gave impromptu coachings to any who wanted tips on singing. On the street. At the EL station. In the alley. Ron simply loved to sing.

A friend of mine told me she heard him sing several times and gave him money on occasion, when she had it to give. Many artists around Chicago knew Ron and often invited him on stage to sing with them during their own gigs.

Ron’s goal was to make it to New York City to sing. He died before he ever got there. Chicago Filmmaker Dustin Grove has made a documentary about Ron that is soon to be released. Here is an excerpt from it:

What if we as artists could harness the power of the free market to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and inequality?

To some, it sounds impossible. But Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is doing exactly that. As founder of Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered microcredit, the innovative banking program that provides poor people––mainly women––with small loans they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty.

In the past thirty years, microcredit has spread to every continent and benefited over 100 million families. But Yunus remaines unsatisfied. Much more can be done, he believes, if the dynamics of capitalism could be applied to humanity’s greatest challenges.

As artists we need to find ways to change our own futures and the futures of those we know who suffer. Become passionate about helping others by finding your way to financially benefit and change the state of the arts.

I am on my own mission to do exactly this through offering information, insight and support through this blog, my workshops, speaking, book and also through The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. This ensemble will serve as a Chicago performing artistic entrepreneurial incubator for the benefit of artists, by assisting corporations, leaders and those needing inspiration learn what participating in the arts can do to help them thrive.

What can you do?

Building My Blue Bike

In Networking, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on December 14, 2007 at 8:17 am

This week has been an exciting week of planning for 2008. A former student of mine, Andrew Favreau, who works for Edelman PR Agency in Chicago, shared with me the comprehensive public relations plan he has drafted for my book, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble and for my work as an artistic entrepreneurial advocate and agent-for-change. The plan includes radio, print, hopefully some television, and of course speaking engagements.

I have a couple of helping hands to shape and execute the plan. They include a small public relations agency, run by a former Edelman PR staff member who is a couple of years into running her own agency and will handle the daily/weekly/monthly plan, and a recent graduate in journalism, searching for her first opportunities writing as a freelance journalist.

Getting press for your business venture can be very expensive. I have worked hard to find the best possible resources that I can afford to help get the word out about my book, speaking and performing. By working with two bright and talented individuals, one in a start-up venture and the other a recent graduate, I not only am offering each an opportunity, but I am able create a public relations campaign that without them, I would not be able to afford to execute at this level.

The next few steps in this process will be to write a press release, which can be sent out once I have a publisher for my book, verify the data from a list of media contacts in the Midwest, New York and Los Angeles to begin to prospect for press, and continue to develop potential speaking engagements from a short list of relatively high profile schools, conferences and events, that still have openings for 2008.

Next year will be an action pack year of continuing to build my blue bike.

With each step I take, perfectly executed and planned or not, I feel more assured and more comfortable with not exactly knowing what will happen.

What I do know is that building my business is a process of action– little steps- that eventually will cumulatively produce major growth, change and increased clarity.

Simply by doing, even with parts of my blue bike still missing, including one of the most important- a publisher for my book- I know that this process of discovery is one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Bite-Size Progress: October 07

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, The Idea, Writing on October 24, 2007 at 9:26 pm

For those of you wondering why I have not posted in awhile, I have been suffering from a really bad cold. Taking a few days off to rest is not easy for me, but I have felt poorly enough to not ignore following doctors orders. I am one of those that thrives being very busy, so it is hard for me to simply sit around.

Besides that, my agent, Susan Schulman, is finally sending off Build a Blue Bike to prospective publishers. She tells me in about six weeks we will know who is interested in buying it and then an auction will be held amongst the prospective interested parties. By Christmas my book should have a publisher. While impatient me wishes this was all happening sooner, all of this time is well needed to get back to working on the other projects I have begun.

Finally, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble web site will be built. I have almost everything completed to put it up. It has been a complicated process building this not-for-profit venture, because I have had to sort out all of the various ways I want to use this concept and define where each part belongs. If you too are a creative person, than I am sure you also generate lots of good ideas. Most artistic/creative types do- sometimes by the minute. The trick is to figure out which ones are worth working on and which need to be set aside. I have had to sort out my concepts for Bite-Size in this same way.

One part of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble will be the entrepreneurial band I take with me to schools to present my speech called Creative Value. Another part of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is building entrepreneurial artistic incubators, for students at institutions of higher learning, through my concept of building creative currency. Yet another part of The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, is my own entrepreneurial performing group, here in Chicago, that will showcase a diverse talent base of artistic entrepreneurs in an entertaining setting while providing a performance/showcase venue for myself and others.

One of the problems I have had developing my concepts for Bite-Size is that, as you can see, I have had so many ideas about what it can do, that I have had trouble sorting out where all of them purposefully belong. Each idea I found to have merit needed to find a proper place to work. One of my goals with this blog, is to help you see how I too struggle to sort out various parts of things I create. If you go back and look at other posts about Bite-Size you can see my struggle and progression.

Letting time pass to sort all this out has been a very good thing. It has allowed me to reflect and think about what really matters to me in life and how I can use my passion purposefully. I want the ventures I create to last a long time, so it is worth it to me to take the time to try and set them up to work for me and be well integrated in my life.

I hope you will take the time you need, with your very next great idea, to find a place for it to work in your life. Every moment you spend on it, try to figure out how it can shape who you are and what you can become.

The world is waiting for what only your creative gifts can offer. Leap and the net will appear…

More than a Bite of Progress: August 07

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bite-Size Progress: May 07

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on May 5, 2007 at 8:15 pm

bitesized2.jpgFor those of you new to reading my blog, from time to time I want to remind you that one of the main purposes to this blog is to walk the walk and talk the talk; in front of you.

I am not preaching how to build a business in the arts sitting in a lofty tower but on the front line of battle building all brand new business’ right before your very eyes.

One of my goals, for this blog, is to have it serve as a historical reference for anyone who wants to take the time to go back and read archived posts, to see my progress, struggles, and strategy for moving forward. Like someone on stage with a box full of parts to build a bicycle that I have never built, before your eyes I will find a way to assemble it and so can you.

So this post is devoted to updates on my next steps most specifically for my newest start-up, my arts ensemble; Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. The quickest way to explain The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is: Culture in a Bite. My goal is to entertain, enlighten and educate my audiences to the possibilities in art and to expose possible ways for them to be more involved in the arts. The ensemble’s core focus is classical, jazz, poetry and film fused together in new forms as well as independently displayed.

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is making great strides forward. We have identified 2 venues that fit our target market demographically- one in Chicago and the other in Arlington Heights, IL. Performance dates are going to be set in the next couple of weeks. The venue’s alone will cost $10,000 for a total of 8 dates to rent; so we are shooting at 2008 to book concerts to allow for some audience development work, at least 2 fund raising performances and to allow time to pull our marketing, brochures and most importantly, the programs together.

A short film documentary will be part of each performance and those also have to be shot before the year is over to be ready to go. The idea of the 10 minute documentary’s will be to show the audience a “how to” on something of interest- a commercial photographer at work, a day in the life of a potter throwing clay, what it takes to repair a musical instrument and more.

Because Bite-Size will be a mix of jazz, classical, poetry and film at its core, I am also working on material that will both be on my first solo cd titled “creative (r)evolution” and also can be included on the series next year. I just recorded a piece written for me, by Don Draganski, resident composer from the group I played in for 10 years, The Pilgrim Chamber Players, titled Shiva; which is for solo clarinet. Its a cross between klezmer and Arabic music but each section is being expanded to turn it into a “tune” by including tabla and Chinese cymbals and perhaps more ethnic drumming.

As a classical musician getting to work with drums and in a studio is a new experience and really exhilarating. I feel free to try new things and am really enjoying the fact that I can break as many “rules” as I like because this is about my expression of my musical creativity and not about following the strict rules of classical music; where I was raised.

The web sites for Lisa’s Clarinet Shop and Entrepreneur The Arts are about to go through a major overhaul and incorporate the Bite-Size Arts Ensemble into one large site. Its time to do that now. It has been in the plan since the beginning and now its time to take that next step. My book, Starving Artist Not! will be released first in an ebook format so watch for that when the new site roles out.

I am also starting to work with a publicist to write some articles about my book and The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble so that by fall I can start getting some press and start radio interviews.

If you think any of this is easy- don’t be deceived. But it really is true- no pain no gain. In the next 6 months I have to find a way to have my 3 person board raise 10 K to cover the cost of the hall rentals for starters, I have a web site to re-design and pay for, there is work to be done with a publicist to write articles and get them strategically placed in print, magazines and other media sources and of course pay for; musicians to pay, studio time to pay for, music/poetry to write and transform, practicing to do to prepare for all of this and still I have all the things I need to do to continue to move my book forward to be published. Oh, and there is of course the work I do to actually make my living through Lisa’s Clarinet Shop to cover the costs of these projects within the budget I have established. It’s quite a balancing act; to say the least.

But at the end of my day, I know that my life is my own. My work is what I create. My money is money I have earned doing things I love. And the money I spend is an investment in my future. Risk offers reward if you work hard, follow your heart, test your ideas, plan and follow through with good execution.

If you don’t know how to do everything you need to know then start with a Bite-Size amount you can handle. Start wherever you are but take a bite and start. This is how I have done everything I do and will do: one bite at a time but the whole meal is planned in bite-size amounts I can handle. Evenutally you can handle more and more.

Bite-Size Progress: January 07

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on January 8, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Yesterday afternoon I drove downtown, into Chicago, to play clarinet duets with a fellow clarinetist, who is both a multi-millionaire, in his mid 30s, as well as a passionate creative entrepreneur. I met him through a friend of mine and pursued getting to know him because I thought he was very interesting and that we likely had a lot of common interests with both clarinet and entrepreneurship in our background as passions.

Russ Rosenzweig started out pursuing music, clarinet, as a life pursuit and was not sure what to do with it so instead he built a business bringing expert witnesses to trials all around the world. His business is called The Round Table.

Russ is very creative and interested in the concept of developing more creative artistic people to be entrepreneurial. He has expressed to me, a few times now in fact, how much he wished he knew me when he was trying to figure out how to make a good living with the clarinet. Fortunately, his passion for seeing the arts thrive remains with him to this day.

Besides getting to know him, and enjoying playing some duets with him yesterday, I asked Russ if he would host a fund raiser, one of several, this spring, to raise money for The Bite Size Arts Ensemble’s production development costs. He enthusiastically agreed.

Bite-Size artists, Ralph Wilder from The Ralph Wilder Orchestra, Steve Wolf, Major League Models, Tony Dale, Drummer extraordinaire (read Borat and Death of a President post), also all gathered at my home, over this past weekend, to continue our dialogue about building a production to take with me on the road to universities across the country. Our mission is to build a production that will involve the community, both inside and outside the school body, and accompany my speaking, starting in, I hope, Fall of 2007.

The development of any production, creative work or anything that is artistic is always a messy process. The bigger the vision of it is, the messier it gets!

The four of us got together to brain storm and found that our ideas were flying everywhere. We were careful not to discard or judge any idea, but instead focus on twisting each one into a new shape and viewing them from every imaginable direction; to gleam their merit and dimension.

We are making some great headway but nothing concrete yet to report.

We are still looking for a bass player and we hope to find the right someone who is hopefully female, college age and perhaps someone who is into film, radio or theater.
If you have any doubt that I am indeed building a bicycle in front of you that I have never built before, know that like you, I face uncertainty, a myriad of options and possibilities and unknowns… and I love it!

I knowingly work in this arena most often because it is both personally and professionally exhilarating and I fundamentally believe that if you follow your heart, and trust your gut, the right things will come to you if you pursue passionately and plan accordingly.

Artistic Access-Able

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on November 4, 2006 at 3:17 pm


So what is artistic accesssibility anyway?

Is your art form access-ABLE?  Accessibility is a BIG buzz word these days in the arts. Many artistic organizations are working harder then ever in their published marketing materials and marketing campaigns to express to their potential future supporters how easy they are for their audiences to relate to, how audience friendly their programing is and just how “cool” it is to be involved in their programming and work.  

The foundations who donate to arts organizations are seeking to fund those organizations that are the leaders in making their art so accessible that they draw a large audience and a solid base of support; ensuring that their money will go to good use towards an organization that will continue to thrive and survive!

With the arts, in general, tremendously suffering in shrinking numbers in audience turn out and many organizations facing cutbacks and short falls, being ABLE to deliver what your audience wants, so much so, that they can’t wait to come back and tell all their friends about what you are doing, really matters!

But shouldn’t it always matter?  If you don’t know who your audience is or who your audience will become with a well defined plan, think again. Your audience IS your life’s blood and without blood we all know that the heart of any organization stops beating.

I was a founding member of a chamber group, The Pilgrim Chamber Players, that for over ten years played to a really full house. Our audience was up to close to 300 consistently and for a number of years the donations were steadily growing and pouring in.

We developed our audience by making classical music “accessible”. We did this through eclectic tonally based diametrically opposite stylistic programming. We also accomplished our goal through a more informal approach to music making, being closer to our audience and getting rid of the “barrier” between “us” and “them”.

This year, just recently, I resigned from the group because for me it was not access-ABLE enough. Our audience had reached its highest point 2 years ago and now is on the decline.  Our board and artists were on the fence about what the right direction was to increase our audience and donor base, and instead of being an innovative chamber music group, we were becoming an organizational political machine.

What I mean, is we had lost our MBO. ( see yesterday’s post)

The reason MBO’s are so important is they create a big picture, a framework, to hang your work in or on.  The Pilgrim Chamber Players use to have a great MBO; developing interesting programming and access to the artists for those who attended our concerts. But we had accomplished that MBO, and as every artist, or artistic group must, our audience had grown to our new found level and change was what needed to together move our audience base and our ensemble to a  new higher level.

 Had we always kept our eye on our MBO we never would have hit this spot at all.

When I was running a large business and had a lot of employees to manage, starting my own artistic ensemble was not possible, as it is for me now.  While Pilgrim Chamber Players, as I write this post is as an organization in turmoil, creating another venue for another 300 people to experience our classical music, for me is no longer enough. My MBO has changed.

As perhaps you are starting to see, from my passionate writing, I am in a place in my life where helping MORE artists to grow and thrive is where my heart is at.

Wherever your heart is,  listen to its beat, and know that from it, your life’s blood, your audience, will flow. Build that into your artistic efforts and you are sure to find a path worth traveling!

I have embarked on a new artistic journey and am in the exciting stage of creating a new arts ensemble, called The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. Its an ensemble about helping artistic human capital to work through creative, educational  and innovative performance.  

Today is our first board meeting and as this ensemble unfolds you too shall know who we are and what is our MBO.

Thanks for reading today’s post.