Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

In Accounting, Art, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Current Events, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Artist Contest Contestants, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Clarinet Shop, The Entrepreneurial Artist Competition, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on December 23, 2008 at 3:04 am

f91ddde14399af3663324567dfa4My wish for you, ON CHRISTMAS DAY,
will be for you TOO, to keep the GRINCH at bay!

But if by chance, you simply cannot,
Band mighty together, as a great big Who-Ville lot!

WWHHYY????? Smarty-Arty, I hear you say?

BECAUSE, with all your JOY stirring together,
the grinch who came to visit, just might feel a WEE bit better.

Merry Christmas, my dears, what’s your ETA,
to ENTREPRENEUR The Arts, in a new innovative way.
PLEASE COME WITH ME, lets ride far, far and away!

signed your friend, an artistic missionIST, a student of Dr. Suess-a-visionIST, gliding, and sent with love.

The Voice of America

In Leadership, Music, Risk, The Idea on December 18, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Looking to break new ground in musical performance? How about picking a theme focused on being proud of America?

American Voices, started by pianist and enterprising performing entrepreneur John Ferguson, began because John saw a need ( a hole in the market place) to present the culture of the United States in a positive light through American Music. John realized he had an opportunity that others were not capitalizing on by reaching out to isolated areas of the world and represented America, through his work, as a sort of cultural ambassador.

How did he do it?
By bringing awareness of the cultural interaction of various ethnic immigrant groups in American music to other cultures. John realized by doing so he could bring everyone together and simultaneously promote young American talents through international performances.

What a great idea, huh? Not to mention that John is finding the funding support he needs allowing American Voices to evolve.

As a result of John’s innovative idea, American Voices, is an organization of many firsts:

American Voices is the first American musical organization committed to interactive performances and education in the Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries.

American Voices brought the first American Hip Hop group, HaviKoro, to visit Azerbaijan and Vietnam.

The first Broadway performances ever in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Vietnam were created by American Voices.

The first international jazz festivals in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan happened also, thanks to John Ferguson.

As the founder of the only international jazz festivals in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, American Voices has for three years offered free concerts and workshops, to the public, featuring prominent headline artists including Toots Thielemans and Maynard Ferguson. As the presenter of the first Broadway performances in Uzbekistan, and the first U.S. Hip Hop performers in Vietnam, American Voices is bringing cultures together by highlighting local young talent in their performances.

Not only is it possible to create something new if you use your imagination and allow your thinking to be unconventional but maybe you can even bring hope and inspiration to local students, musicians and audiences through this kind of collaboration, like John is doing, around the world in just three years.

Creativity, Innovation and Leadership

In Author: Lisa Canning, Leadership, Risk, The Idea on December 17, 2008 at 11:51 am


“Trust your intuition, it’s just like going fishin’.”-
Paul Simon

When was the last time you went fishin’?

“The key to success is to risk thinking unconventional thoughts. Convention is the enemy of progress.”-
Trevor Baylis, inventor

Can you think unconventionally today?

“The guy who invented the wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.” –
Sid Caesar

What idea can you turn into your economic transportation?

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and to connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empwering their lives.” –
Oprah Winfrey

What evidence do you have that your artistry is impacting others?

And They Said It Couldn’t Be Done…

In Cooking & Food, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Money, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film on December 12, 2008 at 8:09 am

This article appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine online and offers four classic inspiring examples- mini-case studies- of four great entrepreneurs who made it big when other said they would not succeed.
Entrepreneurs are notorious for their ability to press on with their ideas despite what other people tell them. Naysayers abound when innovators want to try things nobody has ever done. Fortunately, innovative entrepreneurs have persisted with their efforts and given us some of the modern luxuries we now take for granted.

The Wright brothers mimicked the birds. Henry Ford harnessed horse power. They are but two well-known examples of visionaries who propelled the 20th century forward. Other now-famous people stared down negativity and triumphed. Find out how four such business-savvy folks stuck it out in the face of adversity.

Clarence Birdseye knew inferior freezing methods led to bland-tasting reheated food, so he developed quick-freeze machinery to produce quality frozen food. Shoppers didn’t believe. Birdseye went broke. He stuck with it, eventually overcame consumer skepticism and went on to set the industry standard. Read more here.

Television network executives weren’t sure the viewing public would accept a sit-com with a Cuban leading man married to a feisty, American redhead. So Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball produced the “I Love Lucy” pilot with their own money. Network execs said TV shows had to be produced in New York and with kinescopes. Lucy and Desi took a salary cut to produce the show in Hollywood on expensive film, but, as part of the deal, the couple kept rights to the show. At every turn, Lucy and Desi were a step ahead of the studios, revolutionizing television along the way. Read more here.

Fred Smith wrote a term paper based on an idea for reliable overnight delivery. His professor gave him a C because the idea wasn’t feasible. Years later, many potential investors agreed with the professor, refusing to send capital Smith’s way. The funds he did raise in 1971 and ’72 were gone by ’74, along with his investors. One catchy slogan and several million dollars of hard-won capital later, Federal Express was on its way to profitability and long-term success. Read more here.

Steve Jobs wanted to give everyone a computer at a time when nobody realized computers were necessary to have. He founded Apple to create home computers, experienced some early success, faltered in the consumer market with the expensive Macintosh, was ousted from the company he founded, dabbled in computer animated movies—Pixar ring a bell?—and was eventually asked to return to his first love, where he turned around Apple at a time when it was in trouble. Read more here.

Hey, do you want to BLEND in?

In Accounting, Art, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea on December 6, 2008 at 8:49 am

Remember me? Ryan Conrad? Juniata College Grad? Last time I blogged I shared with you my story about speaking at graduation.

I am sure you have heard the expression “ a little fish in a big pond”? I am now that little fish in a big pond called Virginia Beach, and I would not have it any other way. I’ve been leading a fast-paced life since I last posted, just days after graduating from college. I now work for Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the world, where I handle sponsorships accounts.

Upon moving to the beach, my goal was to continue organizing and promoting parties that focused on art, fashion, and music. I was fortunate enough to meet a talented artist who shared my vision. We complemented each other very well because of our diverse backgrounds. My event planning experiences coupled with his artist network seemed like a great fit.

I took my concept that I created in college, which was a traveling fashion and art show targeted at the college demographics and transformed it with my partner’s help into Blend. In the last few months we successfully pulled off two parties operating under the name “Blend.” We chose the name Blend, because we effectively brought together the artist community, DJs to spin at our parties, and fashion designers. The main objective of Blend is to plan art and fashion shows featuring local artists and clothing company in the night club setting.

Our parties were featured in numerous forms of media and soon became a prime-networking tool for people interested in the arts. Sponsors such as Red Bull, Frank 151 magazine, and international clothing company, Shmack started to believe in the brand that has been created.

Unfortunately, Josh has decided to move on because of other commitments to his job. However, I’m already starting to plan the next party with other business people who believe in my vision. Blend parties truly brings out a diverse crowd and artists. Over the course of the last several months I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many passionate artists and fashion designers who are trying to make their mark. They stress time and time again how they just want people to see and appreciate their work. My hope is to have as many people as possible, or fish (to continue the metaphor) start to believe in the Blend concept. If I continue to be successful, just maybe, a ripple affect will be felt in art communities in other parts of the pond. I mean other cities, as I try to expand my Blend parties.

Is Starving an Artistic Risk?

In Art, Cooking & Food, Emotional Intelligence, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Music, Theater/Film, Writing on December 5, 2008 at 9:25 am

According to Wikipedia a starving artist is: someone who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork. Typically living on minimum expenses, either for a lack of business or because all their disposable income goes towards art projects. Some starving artists desire mainstream success but have difficulty due to the high barriers in art such as visual arts, the film industry, and theatre. These artists frequently take temporary positions (such as waitering or other service industry jobs) while they focus their attention on breaking through in their preferred field.

According to Merriam-Webster, risk is defined as: the possibility of loss or injury : peril

If we financially place ourselves in low paying or dead end jobs are we expanding or limiting our artistic potential?

If you can’t pay your rent, and your big artistic break isn’t showing up at what point exactly are your choices in life diminishing? Is it when it comes down to leaving the profession you chose because you simply can’t pay your bills?

Or is it when your disregard for your mental, physical and economic health erodes your happiness and self-confidence?

Or is it when many of your life goals have a serious life sucks “gap” between what you hoped to accomplish and what you actually can accomplish?

Or maybe its when you feel like your creativity and imagination are almost all gone because you cannot endure the difficulty of a life that does not inspire your evolution and creative abilities?

Is it worth your time to consider if there is another path, one that only you can imagine, that can fill your artistic potential and provide you with a host of economic options?

How much value exactly do you place on nurturing, protecting and supporting a life filled with your own creativity?

…and what do you think?

In Creative Support, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Risk, Writing on December 2, 2008 at 12:41 am

This last week or so I have been hiding. Under the festivities of the holiday. Under the weight of my thoughts. Behind the screen of my computer– uncertain of what to do next.

I am again at a turning point on the journey with my book-or is it now books? And again, I feel a bit lost at sea and uncertain as to what is the best thing to do next. (Oh the joys of being a sensitive, intuitive entrepreneur in the arts. At times all this intuition I have can leave me feeling a bit like I am short circuiting.)

My book, Build a Blue Bike has not sold. The economy is in the tanks (in case you had not noticed) and publishers are merging, folding and buying only those books that seem like sure-fire slam-dunks. After all, Build a Blue Bike is a book that is an entreprenuerial risk. The artist as entrepreneur? Huh? Do artists even care about how to evolve into this blend of artist and entrepreneur?

So one of the strategies I created to help demonstrate the value of this book and its worthiness was to build The Entrepreneurial Artists Resource Guide as proof that there are a lot of people, programs, products and interest in this seemingly esoteric topic. The guide offers great information and also proves to publishers that there are a growing number of artists out there marketing to other artists on how to become more entrepreneurial, quite successfully.

So the issue now lies in the long journey I have been on with my agent Susan Schulman. Agents sell books to publishers. That is their job. Susan has told me that she sells everything she takes- eventually. It has been a year, almost to the day and we have had lots of positive rejections from big houses- but only ten in total. (A positive rejection means that the editors who buy books for these publishing houses thought the material was worthy, interesting and valuable but that it was not a fit for them in the end.) Other agents who I have queried about my situation have told me that “it can be 30 or 40 responses before a book gets sold, so toughen up!”

The latest thought is to combine Build a Blue Bike with The Entrepreneurial Artists Resource Guide, which Susan thinks will sell. To do this means re-writing a very lengthy book proposal to resend to publishers. Of course there is always the option to simply self publish. There are some incredibly successful self published authors. A couple I personally know are Peggy McColl and Bob Baker.

As a true entrepreneur part of me says to hell with waiting around for a publisher to recognize the value of my material– if an agent like Susan Schulman did, that is proof enough and I should just move along and self publish. And another part of me says, I need the credibility of a named publisher, if I can get it, to help me shape the future of the arts in universities and corporations. Certainly part of the problem has been the economy in getting my material sold.

What do you think? Should I wait and see if I can get it picked up by a big publisher under this new format? Or should I go ahead and self publish? Sometimes publishers come back to you after you self- publish and ask to publish the book. Tama Kieves book, This Time I Dance, was picked up by Tarcher/Penguin-Putnam in exactly this way.

Entrepreneurship and artistry are a complicated blend of business like actions, intuition and creativity. Intuition is the lever that brings both together and at the moment mine feels a bit overloaded with too much information.

A Playground for the 21st Century Artist Entrepreneur

In Art, Cooking & Food, Current Events, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Leadership, Music, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on November 28, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Eight years and $200 million in the making, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, or Empac, resembles an enormous 1950s-era television set on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

But inside are not old-fashioned vacuum tubes but the stuff of 21st-century high-tech dreams dedicated to the marriage of art and science as it has never been done before, its creators say — 220,000 square feet of theaters, studios and work spaces hooked to supercomputers.

Within its walls, scientists can immerse themselves in data and fly through a breaking wave or inspect the kinks in a DNA molecule, artists can participate in virtual concerts with colleagues in different parts of the world or send spectators on trips through imaginary landscapes, and architects can ponder their creations from the inside before a single brick or two-by-four has been put in place.

As a facility, the new 220,000 square-foot center is like no other, boasting unrivaled presentation and production capabilities: a 1200-seat concert hall designed to the highest acoustical standards; an intimate 400-seat theater; and two highly flexible studio spaces, configurable as traditional black-box theaters or as fully immersive environments. Linked to a massive supercomputer, EMPAC’s potential for art and science spans the physical and virtual worlds and the spaces in between.

The EMPAC building’s conception and construction include many firsts relating to acoustics, theatrical and media presentation, structural integrity, lighting, heating and ventilation. The building is an extraordinary architectural statement. An international architectural competition led to the selection of the acclaimed British firm, Grimshaw, and to the building’s bold architectural conception.

Dedicated to advancing research and artistic production at the intersection of technology, media and the performing arts, EMPAC is poised to be a major contributing force in many artistic and technological domains. A main focus and major emphasis at EMPAC is the development and production of new works in the performing and media arts. Projects, residencies and productions at EMPAC will come from all domains of time-based arts, including but not limited to video, dance, music, theater, internet art, DVD productions, interactive installations, and multimedia art. Some pieces that are created or presented at EMPAC may grow out of the media-rich environment of EMPAC and could travel to other venues, nationally and internationally, others works may be site-specific to EMPAC.

As a facility and an environment, EMPAC will serve as a magnet to artists in a wide variety of time-based disciplines – performance, theatre, dance, music and film/video. The facility opened on October 3rd, 2008 and now offers artists residencies and commissions which include a rare and powerful combination: time to experiment in performance and production spaces of the highest quality combined with a technologically advanced infrastructure. As part of its mission to support artistic production with resources and facilities which are project-specific, EMPAC will provide access to equipment, expertise, rehearsal space, research, or other support as part of a commission, according to the needs of that project.

Here is an example of one of EMPAC’s commissioned projects, “There Still is Time… Brother”:

Commissioned by EMPAC, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute [USA], produced by EMPAC together with the UNSW iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research [AUS], and the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media [D] and in collaboration with The Wooster Group,THERE IS STILL TIME.. BROTHER« is a commission for an installation that consists of an interactive projection for a 360° screen.


The commission is rooted in the recording of a Wooster Group performance developed specifically to be viewed as a projection on a 360° screen. The video is revealed by way of a window that scans around the screen, never showing the whole of the projection at once. The window is controlled by an audience member or performer who selects which part of the 360° video to reveal at any given time. However, it is clear that the sections of the video that are revealed are all unfolding in one, continuous 360° space and that there is some kind of linear timeline to the sections of the performance that we are watching unfold.

This piece challenges the notions of linear narrative in theater or film by creating a time-based theatrical experience that can be experienced in a new way each time it is “performed” by the individual controlling the interface which dictates that which we see and hear in the immersive space of spacialized sound and projection. The viewer is involved in an immersive process of discovery where their chosen point of view creates the dramaturgy of the piece and literally activates the story.

President Dr. Jackson said Rensselaer prides itself on interdisciplinary research and hands-on engineering learning, has a tradition of electronic arts, which includes a major in games and simulations. A performance center had been part of a long-range plan she and the trustees approved in 2000. The concept of Empac was born, she said, when she and her advisers decided to combine art with the problem of making sense of data, a problem that she said lay at the nexus of art, science, technology, cognitive perception and learning.

In 2001, an anonymous donor gave the university $360 million, one of the largest private grants ever made to an American university, enabling Dr. Jackson to jump-start not just Empac but other elements of her plan as well. That gift was later augmented by $40 million from Curtis R. Priem, one of the founders of Nvidia, a maker of graphics processors, and for whom the center will be officially named.

This center is a 21st Century Artists dream come true. Is there a project or an idea you would like to undertake with Empact?

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the nation’s oldest technological university, offering degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, the humanities and social sciences. It is pre-eminent in research into biotechnology, nanotechnology, IT, and the media arts and technology. In addition to its MFA program, RPI offers bachelor degrees in Electronic Arts, and in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication – one of the first undergraduate programs of its kind in the United States.

Artists: Marketing/Sales Strategy and Planning Workshop

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Networking, Risk on November 20, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Hey all you BETA readers, (BETA stands for Blog Entrepreneur The Arts, and also works as a great metaphor, don’t you think?) I would like to make this bog increasingly “virtual”. By that I mean that we, as a body of interested BETA readers, become part of a global community of artistic entrepreneurial supporters and friends.

One of the great things about blogs, is that in addition to reading something of interest often you can find a new source of information through links found both inside the post as well as through comments left by others. And if you leave a comment, make sure to leave your website address for others for this very reason-to be able to connect! By all means use this site as an opportunity to meet someone new to say “Hello, I read your comment on the ETA blog..and” (What do you have to lose? Nothing. It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, remember?)

So in the spirit of going global I want to remind all of you that selectively, as they role in, I will offer localized posts on workshops, events, projects or openings that serve this readership and are about people and places we should be in the “know” about anyway. Just email me your details about your next upcoming ?? so we can get you into the limelight.

Here, listed below, is one of those exact kinds of posts from Adrienne Fritze– a dynamite resource for artists located in Portland Oregon. If you live anywhere near Portland, or are willing to get there, check out this fantastic workshop she is offering and at a minimum go and check out her site too and say “hi”- after all you already have ETA in common, right?

“If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master.” – Francis Bacon

Wouldn’t you, the independent artist or creative, love to have a reliable, step-by-step path to selling your work and services to people who want them?

I couldn’t find anything like that out there when I began my arts career. So I took everything I’d learned as an Ad Gal working with the world’s largest interactive advertising agency, broke it down into bite sized pieces and developed the Guerilla Exhibitor workshops for artists and creatives.

I know that developing marketing mastery is key to your sustained success, and this workshop is the foundation for that development. You will leave this workshop with:
1. Practical knowledge in how to plan and strategize your marketing, which you will be able to replicate as you grow your business;
2. An Action Plan that you can immediately implement;
3. Confidence in knowing where you are headed in your business

If you know this is something you want to do, skip to the bottom of this promotion and call in or register online. If you’d like a bit more information, please read on.

A Bit About Marketing from the Guerilla Exhibitor’s Point-of-View
The goal of marketing is sales. How you reach that goal is referred to as your Marketing & Sales Plan.

A critical piece of that plan is Branding, and the key components to defining your brand are knowing your: Vision, Mission and Products [including Services]. Your Market is the people who want what you have to offer. Knowing these key components leads you to your Strategy for getting the word out about your products, and receiving money in exchange for them.

Once you’ve defined how you’ll implement your strategy, you will have created your Marketing and Sales Plan.

This workshop assumes you know your Vision, Mission and Products*, and focuses on these three points of your Market:

Profiling: who wants what you have to offer
Where they Hang Out: Knowing and having access to the places where they spend their time – online, meetings, events, magazines, clubs, activities, etc.
The How’s Have It: Defining how to reach them so they know you have what they want and how to get it.

*If you feel you do not have all the necessary pieces ready to take on this workshop, send an e-mail to a@workingartistsonline.comand ask for the FREE worksheet “Capturing Your Vision and Mission, Defining Your Products and Services” and fill in the blanks with your information. If you still feel lost, get in touch with Adrienne to discuss the best way for you to get up to speed to be ready for this workshop. She may be reached at 503-349-6075 or

Now is the time to think critically about how you will survive, and thrive, and planning is the key.

Here’s how the day will go:
Defining Your Market
Profiling Who
Where They Hang Out

Reaching Your Market
Physical markets

Setting Goals in Time
What Actions You’ll Take
Defining Your Tangible Goals

Details about the Where, When and How of the Workshop:

LOCATION: souk, 322 NW 6th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97209 []

DATE/TIME: Saturday December 6th, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

EARLY BIRD | $85/participant [Register by 11/22/08]
WEEK OF EVENT | $125/participant [Register between 11/23-12/5]
Register Online at: or call 503.349.6075

Your Course Leader:
Adrienne Fritze has a checkered 35 year background in the world of self employment, as corporate executive and now as an artpreneur and educator. A sampling of her experience includes publishing magazines and role-playing whodunits, managing interactive marketing projects for companies like Samsung USA and now as a practicing artist and business educator. She lives in Portland Oregon with her extended family, and is the brain and brawn behind Working Artists LLC

What Do “Going Green” and “Entrepreneurship in the Arts” Have in Common?

In Creative Support, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership, Marketing, WEBSITES & BLOGS on November 7, 2008 at 8:00 am

Last week I attended the Chief Responsibility Officers (CRO) Conference in Chicago. It was the 2nd annual conference in a very new emerging industry focused around companies embracing environmentally friendly, socially responsible business practices- not all that different in its newness to the emerging industry of entrepreneurship in the arts. Jay Whitehead is responsible for the development of this new conference, the publisher of CRO Magazine. Jay is spearheading the unity for this new emerging profession and the ethical values those who attend stand for in their business practices, and unite around.

Leaders from McDonalds, Intel, Kodak, IBM, Google, Orbitz, and many other fortune 100 to 1000 companies were there. But I bet there were not more than 250 people there total- not all that different than last years attendance at the Self Employment in The Arts (SEA) Conference, and others focused on building the non traditional entrepreneurial path in the arts today.

And yet in this emerging market T.Boone Pickens and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, the founder of the 10 million dollar innovation competitions known as the X Prize both spoke to this really small crowd.

They came, despite being few in number, because those who did attend were clearly on the front line, and if not already, would become, powerful key influencers and believers in the value of this emerging market.

Sometimes, I think, we undervalue the power each of us has to influence and shape something we see that is new in the market but needed, even if it was not our idea. We wonder how leaders emerge to dominate a field and become powerful enough to create real change, becoming the sources for information, the go to people, ” the industry.” Well, here are two industry’s diametrically opposite in terms of economic strength who are developing along similar paths– from the ground up- and in that understanding lies the answer to innovation, entrepreneurial evolution and change.

Change happens with grassroots initiatives at every level. With sharing, caring and spreading the word. And sustainability and entrepreneurship in the arts have a lot in common because both are rooted in a good cause. And both are new in their development as “industries”.

One attendee at the CRO conference was Jeff Grossberg from Sky Site Property. I met Jeff by answering a blind ad when he was looking for a partner to start his green company a couple of years ago. I helped him with financial projections and considered partnering with him to build his fledgling start-up at the time, but decided it did not have enough artistry inside the business idea itself, like Creative Leaps Intl.

For those of you wondering, I am officially part of the Creative Leaps team now- currently in the role of Marketing Consultant. I suppose for sake of transparency you should know that I will write about and promote John Cimino and his team and I hope to replicate most of his work, in my own way, with John’s blessings, here in Chicago through the building of a sister Rennaisance Center that uses artistry to innovate business, sustainability, universities and government sectors while also serving as a training ground for more artists to lean how to do the same.

But back to Jeff for a moment. The insane thing about Jeff, is that he is the most amazing musician! He goes under the name of Hyper Harp. And yet Jeff for all his virtuosity and imagination cannot make a full time living playing music, like so many of us, but I applaud his entrepreneurial abilities and significant accomplishments to support his love of music through entrepreneurship, all the same. (But just imagine how much more fun Jeff could have if he could find a way to put his music into his new venture?)

So in case you were wondering what going green and entrepreneurship in the arts have in common- now you know, on a few different levels, how they do!

The story of Righteous Babe

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Risk, The Idea on October 31, 2008 at 7:04 pm

The story of Ani DiFranco and how she and her partner Scot Fisher built Righteous Babe is a wonderful story about building artistry through a sense of community, the creativity to do so, falling in love, breaking up and the re-birth of relationships and the company. This story appeared in INC magazine and was written by Bo Burlingham, editor at large for Inc Magazine, who also wrote a book about companies that choose to be great instead of big called Small Giants. Righteous Babe fits right into this category!

Ani DiFranco is sitting in her dressing room at the Chicago Theater, six hours before a performance, and she wants to set the record straight. Money, she says, had nothing to do with her decision to reject all those offers from major record labels and start her own business. Nor did she turn down the offers out of fear of losing her artistic freedom. So what was it, then? “I didn’t want to participate in what big corporations are doing to society,” she says. “My decision not to work with a major label was not about me. It was about something bigger than me.”

There are, in fact, quite a few things bigger than Ani (pronounced ah-nee) DiFranco. She is, well, diminutive, although she hardly seems that way when she comes charging onto the stage at the start of a performance, her brown dreadlocks flying, her guitar blazing, her body twisting and turning in a blast of energy. Legions of fans can’t get enough of that energy and the music that goes with it. And yet, for all her artistic success, it’s often her commercial ventures that get attention — much to her chagrin. When Ms. focused on her business prowess in citing her as one of “21 feminists for the 21st century,” she fired off a letter of protest to the magazine’s editor: “Imagine how strange it must be for a girl who has spent 10 years fighting as hard as she could against the lure of the corporate carrot and the almighty forces of capital, only to be recognized by the power structure as a business pioneer.”

It is, however, a designation she can’t escape. Her record company, Righteous Babe Records, is one of the few successful artist-created labels around, having sold more than 4 million of DiFranco’s records and put out CDs by more than a dozen other performers. And it’s no ordinary company. In an industry dominated by giant corporations, Righteous Babe has the look, feel, and smell of a small hometown business. Staff members, for example, respond with handwritten notes to the thousands of letters the company gets from its customers, DiFranco’s fans. In return, the company elicits a level of devotion seldom seen in business. Customers go out of their way to protect it, patrolling the Internet and reporting on websites that try to sell unauthorized recordings of DiFranco’s music. Some fans are so passionate about the business that they come from as far away as Australia and Switzerland, not to see DiFranco perform, but to visit the company headquarters in Buffalo. “I’m standing here in total awe,” wrote one visitor from Los Angeles in the guest book.

And it’s not just the fans. Talk to the company’s record distributors, its printers, the manufacturers of its CDs, the concert promoters, not to mention its employees, and you realize that DiFranco and partner Scot Fisher have tapped into one of the most underappreciated forces in business, namely, the power of community. To do that while maintaining great margins is quite an accomplishment — especially for a company whose CEO believes, as DiFranco sang on a recent album, that “capitalism is the devil’s wet dream.”

Scot Fisher is a tall, quiet, somewhat diffident man who works out of a cluttered office at Righteous Babe’s headquarters. At 43, he still dresses like the construction guy he was when he first met DiFranco. Although he is usually referred to as her manager, the term does not do justice to the role he plays in her business life. Besides looking out for her career, he is the chief architect, co-owner, and operating head of Righteous Babe and its six component businesses, including a touring company, a retail operation, a music publisher, a real estate developer, and a foundation, as well as the record label. Together they do about $5 million in sales, mostly from DiFranco’s CDs and her touring. (Profits are harder to figure but probably run a bit less than $1 million a year.) Yet another venture, a concert venue, will open next spring in a restored church down the block, which will also house a jazz club, an art gallery, and the headquarters of Righteous Babe. In addition to complementing the other businesses, the concert hall represents a hedge against the uncertain future that Righteous Babe and all record companies face these days. “I’m in the buggy business, and it’s 1905,” says Fisher. “It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”

“I’m in the buggy business and it’s 1905. It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”
He wound up in the business almost by accident. Back in 1988, he was the co-owner of a small construction and housepainting company, and he’d recently moved into an apartment that the girlfriend of one of his partners was sharing with a woman she’d gone to art school with, an 18-year-old folksinger. One evening, he went to see his new housemate perform at a local bar. “It was sort of obligatory,” he says. “Then she started to play.” Nine years her senior, Fisher soon became DiFranco’s confidant and mentor. Along the way, they fell in love. At some point, Righteous Babe entered the picture. “In the beginning, it was more of a joke than a real business,” DiFranco says. “You know, ‘Yeah, uh-huh, I got a record company. You’re looking at it.'”

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that she would gravitate toward entrepreneurship. She’d been figuring out how to make her own way in the world from an early age. At nine, she was spending Saturdays busking at the local farmers’ market. At 12, she was making and selling cards of pressed flowers to earn money for horse camp. At 15, when her parents divorced, she moved out and lived on her own, largely supporting herself. Only once, in 1991, did she come close to signing with an established label, backing out as soon as she read the terms of the contract.

And yet, even without a contract, her fame spread. By the end of 1993, she had released five albums under the Righteous Babe label, and they were setting sales records at the folk festivals where she performed. Thanks to her constant touring, she was developing a loyal following, especially among young women, many of them lesbians who identified with her feminist lyrics and considered her one of their own. But Righteous Babe existed pretty much in name only. It had no structure, no organization, no full-time employees, and no office. DiFranco’s albums were getting very little radio airplay and couldn’t be found in most record stores. On top of that, she’d had a major falling-out with her business manager.

Into the breach stepped Fisher, who had been studying law while DiFranco was working on her music career. “I figured I could always be a lawyer,” he says. “When would I get another chance to manage Ani DiFranco?” DiFranco, for her part, had doubts about having her lover take charge of her business affairs. “In the end,” she says, “he just sort of declared himself my business manager.” Fisher says they had an understanding that he’d step aside if it turned out he was wrong for the job.

There was, in fact, little reason to believe he was right for the job. He lacked experience, credentials, and credibility in the music business. “It took [Ani’s agent] Jim Fleming a couple of years to tell me that the first time I called, he thought, ‘Omigod, it’s the boyfriend.'” Fisher says. “But I knew where I stood. I knew people didn’t respect me. I’m from Buffalo. I’m used to it.”

To read the rest of the article click here

Artistry + The River = An Economic Catalyst

In Art, Cooking & Food, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on October 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

What do artists have in common with supporting economic development along our most important and prominent rivers in the United States?

Believe it or not, more than you might think.

Today John Cimino, Creative Leaps Intl, myself and members of the American Heritage River Alliance have a meeting in Mayor Daley’s Office to discuss Chicago’s expressed interest in applying for federal funding for the Chicago River in 2009 through the American Heritage River Alliance.

The AHRA, established by President Clinton’s Executive Order #13061 in 1997, is a network of locally-driven partnerships working to restore rivers, promote sustainable development, and improve quality of life. When President Clinton issued this Executive Order, federal funding was given for ten years to fourteen different rivers. Chicago applied ten years ago and was not selected. In 2009 federal funding will become available to six more rivers, for ten years, through an application process.

The first 14 rivers that were originally funded are now being converted into 501c3’s. Each river, through this White House initiative, was originally assigned an Interagency River Navigator– a key person who helps match local needs with their ability to fast track available federal resources for environmental, economic, and cultural/historic preservation efforts.

With the original river navigators still in their original roles, and in need of a new source of funding, the reason the AHRA and several of the key river navigators are in town this week is to promote the marketing potential of supporting this organization at the Chief Responsibility Officer Conference– the newest emerging corporate executive role created in the last few years- this coming Wednesday here in Chicago. Both John and I will be attending the conference to help the AHRA network to advance fundraising initiatives. Did you know that the original 14 rivers, the AHRA is looking for these corporations to financial support, has a marketing reach of over 1/2 of the population in the United States?

So why, you might be thinking, are John Cimino and I involved in this project?

Well, Creative Leaps is currently working on a project in the Hudson River, one of the originally funded 14 rivers through the AHRA, for their Quadricentennial celebration. John is serving as the educational director for a project that the AHRA and Creative Leaps conceived called the Arts-Science Challenge. From this project, which will last through 2009, the AHRA is committing a portion of the 400 million dollar funding it hopes to raise, to development John Cimino’s idea for The Renaissance Center, which the AHRA believes on its own provides an economic engine for the region it is built in.

The Renaissance Center is a center devoted to for Leadership, Innovation and Learning. It will serve as an interdisciplinary center using the arts as a catalyst, to convene business, government, education and sustainable technology sectors together to solve their problems and develop teaching artist consultants to do some of this work in each area it serves.

My interest in the project is to help John place one of these centers in Chicago and to be responsible for its development and involved as a teaching artist in its work- thus a new viable twist on my idea of a Chicago Arts Incubator.

So what do a couple of artists have in common with ecomonic development along the Hudson River and The Chicago River? It appears a lot!

What kind of interesting lense can you bring into binocular view- something paired to your artistry- to make your work more fully integrated into the community in a significant and financially meaningful way?

How to be a Thriving Artist in This Economy

In Creative Support, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Networking, Risk on October 8, 2008 at 8:10 pm

How can you make the most out of a shrinking economy as an artist?

#10 Get on-line and display your work. The internet reaches the entire world and if you are not on it you are significantly diminishing your potential market. For the little it will cost you to build a site, it will pay in spades for the positive image and credibility it will bring to your work, which in turn helps you get your next job.

#9 Create a blog. WordPress is free. Blogging is a great way to keep your current clients interested in what your doing. It’s also a great way to build your market, one reader at a time, simply by expressing yourself and sharing what you do. Sure it takes commitment to blog. But I can also tell you it’s fun and rewarding to see your online community supporting you too.

#8 Promote your blog online for free. Find other blogging communities of like minded individuals, regardless of the focus of their blog, and share your work and ideas about the topics they write about. Connecting with like minded individuals with different interests from yours, but who’s values are in line with yours, will bring new audience members to you.

#7 Create products and services that are current in themes and reflect the economic times. Build in commentary by attaching a written statement to it, or sharing it with your audience live, or providing 700 billion dollar snicker bars for $1.00 or Deregulation sucks! drinks at intermission to give your work a “today” edge. Guerrilla marketing works! Then find a niche community of online shops to help you promote and market what you are doing or creating. Seek retails that focus on a customer experience where your work can really be featured or stand out because of the environment.

#6 Partner with another artist and cross fertilize your customer base by combining forces on upcoming shows, gigs and through communications jointly with your clients. Offer to get involved for the exposure and ask the same from the artist you select as a partner.

#5 Network, network, network. Attend free events that are of interest to the business and government community. Bring a stack of your business cards and engage in casual conversation. Be friendly, curious and share who you are. By getting to know new individuals, some of them are most likely to be interested in the work you do, and then your odds of finding a new opportunity increase ten fold. People buy from people. In tough times and in good times, but especially in tough time, connecting with others matters more than ever.

#4 Create an inexpensive short weekend workshop, or find a free project to offer the community that can get others involved in your work in a new way. In more difficult economic times affordable, with a focus on fun, family or group events sell. Happiness matters now more than ever in times like these. Workshops bring people together in new ways that can spark interests and become sustainable because of the bonds and “webs” people want to create. A short community event that raises awareness about you and your work can springboard into workshops, classes, or your next gig.

#3 Can your artwork lift someone during their work day? Create a Bailout for the Human Spirit lunch hour program for employees at corporations in your community. With job lay offs at record high’s and 401K’s plummeting, Main Street corporate America is going to need to give their workers some affordable hope. Teach an onsite painting class, play music and bring shaker toys for employees, write an original skit and give your audience a reason to laugh.

#2 Remember who you are and what you are made of. Remember why you are an artist and become more innovative. And think like a survivor. Who really can afford and needs the services, products and creativity that your artistry offers?

#1 Invest in yourself and invest in your clients. In hard times, while most cut their promotional budgets, many in business say it can be the best time to really get a leg up and grow your business. Investing in yourself and potential clients, as you can see from this list, does not necessarily require cash. Instead, it requires 150% of your personal involvement, enthusiasm, determination and will to succeed. A vibrant artists is a powerful magnet for others, yes indeed!

US Financial Crisis Creates Artistic Opportunity for Global Transformation

In Art, Cooking & Food, Current Events, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Fashion, Leadership, Music, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on September 22, 2008 at 7:40 am

Last week I spoke at, and attended, Linda Naiman’s Transformational Leadership for an Age of Innovation workshop in beautiful Vancouver Canada.

David Fushtey, who is both an excellent sculptor and an attorney, principal for The Governance Council in Canada, gave an incredibly thought provoking presentation on the importance of governance with a conscience. What does this mean and why should we as artists care?

Well, I think last weeks devastating news about the financial meltdown of the United States most prominent and oldest banking institutions, that has not been seen since The Great Depression in 1929, and which will cause the US taxpayers ultimately to incur liability for at least 700 billion dollars, frankly, is enough. And in case that does not speak to you, or you don’t make enough money to care about the generations of taxpayers to follow that will pay for the greed of big business, perhaps understanding, with an election upon us, that it is UP TO US to help change how our leaders govern and what kinds of ethics they bring with them will.

Yes, your heard me correctly– I said UP TO US! Read the rest of this entry »

Advancing the Concepts of Intellectual Entrepreneurship

In Interesting Articles, Leadership on August 9, 2008 at 8:48 pm

This blog and my work to advance the arts, is really my direct way of communicating with you about what Rick Cherwitz from the University of Texas- Austin, calls Intellectual Entrepreneurship. Rick and I are two kindred spirits on a mission. So what does Intellectual Entrepreneurship mean to artists?

Read the rest of this entry »

Why I am a Serial Artistic Entrepreneur

In Leadership on June 27, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Back in March of this year my husband, Chuck, was looking for a new job. In his search process, one night together we were looking at jobs on-line, when I stumbled into an opening for the Executive Director of The Arts and Business Council of Chicago. They were looking for someone entrepreneurial and courageous and while I have never had a “job” before, I could not help but apply. I am always looking for an opportunity to transform the arts into something more, and this sure seemed like a chance to do exactly that.

It has taken me a long time to write this post because the process, for me, with this position, just ended but two weeks ago. Out of 350 applicants I made it down to the final five before I was cut.

The position at the Arts and Business Council in Chicago, in my opinion, requires overhauling the mission of the organization. As an organization, its current focus is helping the major Chicago arts groups develop and improve their business strategy. But what is really happening, in my opinion, is not enough of that. For an organization that is the premier organization to support the intersection of business and arts, the Chicago Arts & Business Council’s income is on a five year decline. Both Urban Gateways and Chicago Arts Partnership in Education bring in more dollars than the prestigious Business and Arts Council of Chicago. With only a million dollars of income they do less than $300,000 of consulting for major arts groups in town. I am not speaking out of turn here- as their financial statement is public record and can be found on Guide Star.

As is the case in most areas in the arts, everyone is so busy protecting their “turf” that little that is innovative or imaginative is happening to entice new audiences and create a new buzz for the power of the arts. The arts, from the top down, are largely struggling because new ideas, new people and innovation are taboo. After all its all about how it ” looks” to the outside world, that’s most important, right?

Now, before any of you jump all over me, this of course is not universally happening, but far more than any of us want to admit.

In my final interview, the one that resulted in my getting cut, I met with board members from the Business and Arts Council. Several on the search committee were in not-for-profit positions and others came out of the business environment. What was striking to me was how much more imaginative and curious the business people seemed and how un-entrepreneurial and lacking in creativity those coming from the arts not-for-profits seemed. My ideas for reform and change clearly struck me as threatening to the not-for-profit types, at least that is how I interpreted their body language at the time.

But this is not a surprise, really. It is all too common of a reaction in the arts. I have seen this attitude countless times: “I have been in this position for years- it took me forever to have this authority and power and who do you think you are?” And you also get, “If your not an artist in my genre working in my field of expertise, you could not possible understand the issues. Who did you study with anyway?”

I cannot begin to tell you how experiencing that kind of all too familiar attitude in my interview left me feeling relieved when I found out I had been cut– and simultaneously reminded my why I became a serial artistic entrepreneur in the first place.

Through out my time studying music at Northwestern University, I played with and alongside some fantastic technicians. At the top of my class, many went on to be great players in major orchestras. However, when I was in school back then, what hit me was not how imaginative and creative most of my peers were, or how passionately they played necessarily, but instead how they cut classes and were interested in little more than sitting in the practice room to focus on becoming technically accomplished. At the expense of all else in life- their happiness, their health, their mental stability.

I was asked recently by someone who respects my playing as a clarinetist, why I did not pursue taking auditions to become a full time performer? It’s not that I wasn’t good enough- I was at the top of my class studying with a world class teacher, Robert Marcellus. What turned me off from performing, frankly, was that I wanted then and still do now for the arts to inspire me- to feel a sense of collaboration and creative energy. I want the arts to be brimming with light and possibility.

As an adult in the business-of-art world, while I did not find exactly the same types of experiences, what I have often found is a bunch of artists running businesses with more unimaginative thinking, a lack of entrepreneurial behavior and little to no interest in collaborating with anyone else because they often are in it for their own sole gain. It’s no wonder the arts suffer. It’s no wonder artists hate the word “sales”. How ironic that the most creative people in the world have trouble collaborating in a field that screams INNOVATE WITH ME, please.

So, why did I not go off and pursue some other field of study, you might be thinking? Why did I stick with the arts despite everything I have told you?

I am passionately in this industry because I believe in the power of art to transform, enlighten, bond and heal all who encounter it. I believe that one person can make a difference and that a group of people working together can change the world into a much better place. I simply cannot image a better tool than art to do it with, either.

We simply must find a way to explore and exploit its potential, setting aside our ego’s and opening our minds and imaginations to the world of possibility.

This is why I am and will continue to be an artistic entrepreneur– because I believe the arts can be something more than what I have seen.

Thankfully, tomorrow is another new day. And with it comes hope of what tomorrow, and you, can bring to the arts to inspire and fill this world with the light of collaborative and innovative artistry.

The intersection of leadership, art and business

In Current Events, Leadership on May 29, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Benjamin Zander, conductor, teacher, speaker, and author of a book called The Art of Possibilities, spoke at The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in January of 2008.

In a fitting close to the annual meeting, the power of developing collaborative innovation, as a tool for leadership, was explored musically with conductor Benjamin Zander. This You Tube excerpt is truly inspiring.

If you are an artist are you naturally a leader?

In Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership on April 16, 2008 at 7:10 am

This quiz was developed by John Cimino, Creative Leaps Intl

Take this little quiz and find out:

Here is a list that Eliot Eisner from Stanford University developed on how the mind processes art:
1.Qualitative relationships in the absence of rules
2.Acting flexibly with purpose to approach a goal
3.Learning to explore possibilities within a medium
4.Using imagination to see multiple perspectives
5.Learning to pay attention to nuance
6.Surrendering to processes rather than leading
7.Learning to use language figuratively
8.Creating emotionally what cannot be expressed literally
9.The qualitative features of the arts and the world

Now here is a list created by The Center for Creative Leadership on the Creative Competencies of Leadership:

1.Noticing – slowing down, taking in more
2.Subtle representation – eye for detail & relationship
3.Fluid perspective – attuned to multiple points of view
4.Using R-mode – non-verbal, intuitive processing
5.Personalizing work – arts interests spill into work
6.Skeptical inquiry – preserving the questions
7.Serious play – learning and exploring without rules
8.Portraying paradoxes, conflicts, unknown – mystery
9.Facility with metaphor – generative thinking
10.Making shared meanings – engaging creative tension

How many, if any, from each list are a mirror image of the other? How many, if any, match?

Ok– Think you have it figured out? Here are the answers:

The Minds Processing of Art
1.Qualitative relationships in the absence of rules
2.Acting flexibly with purpose to approach a goal

matches Creative Competencies
7.Serious play – learning and exploring without rules

The Minds Processing of Art
4.Using imagination to see multiple perspectives
matches Creative Competencies
3.Fluid perspective – attuned to multiple points of view

The Minds Processing of Art
5.Learning to pay attention to nuance
matches Creative Competencies
1.Noticing – slowing down, taking in more

The Minds Processing of Art
7.Learning to use language figuratively
matches Creative Competencies
9.Facility with metaphor – generative thinking

The Minds Processing of Art
8.Creating emotionally what cannot be expressed literally
matches Creative Competencies
4.Using R-mode – non-verbal, intuitive processing

Regardless of how many of these you figured out, we, as artists, need to learn how to develop and use our natural skills to lead. Leaders build their visions, unit people and thrive. It’s time we as natural leaders, and as artists, do too.

The Rap on Rap

In Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Music on October 4, 2007 at 8:25 pm

dreamstime_640868.jpgSince hip-hop began in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods of New York in the 1970s, the genre has had an association with gang culture and violence. Lyrics heavy with lurid tales of “gang-banging” have often included references to drive-by shootings and drug dealing. Rap, grime and other urban genres are often the music choices of “the hood”- our society’s black poor ghetto youth.

Do rappers themselves promote a negative lifestyle?

Ever since the deaths of two prominent American rappers, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, in the mid-1990s, mainstream hip-hop has become increasingly commercial. Rappers such as P Diddy, Jay-Z and 50 Cent have become multimillionaire businessmen with their own empires. These high-fliers argue that they promote an excellent lifestyle for teenagers – because, despite under-privileged upbringings, they have created successful business careers.

Yet is it a positive influence to promote a money-driven lifestyle, considering that more hip-hop artists have been murdered in the past 30 years than artists from any other genre? Is it a good things that many hip-hop artists rap about violent feuds, involving guns and drugs to the most underprivileged, uneducated segment of our population, as their vehicle for promoting wealth?

I recently saw on our local WGN morning news, in Chicago, a short segment on rapper mogul Percy “Master P ” Miller. Miller’s No Limit Records has sold over 75 million records worldwide. Unbelievable to me- I have never even heard of the guy before- though I can’t say I listen to rap, so really my reaction is no surprise. Yet, Miller is one of Hip-Hop’s wealthiest moguls. At one point, his net worth was estimated over $250 million dollars.

Master P was on WGN news talking about his committment to cleaning up the lyrics in his rap songs, to set a better example, and about his new book called Guaranteed Success. According to Master P “It’s time to educate our people in financial investments, real estate, and taxes.”

“I’ve matured, and it’s time for a career change and to think out of the box,” said Miller. “If I want to run the music industry, I’d hang out at the music award shows with Jay-Z, Puffy, and 50 Cent,” said Miller. But instead, Master P wants to ensure his family’s future while embarking on a national campaign to build generational wealth.

Master P is also opening up youth centers in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York that have gyms and libraries. Master P spoke passionately about wanting the youth, that listens to his music, to play some hoops, pick up a book and get an education.

If rap, and the arts as a whole, had more citizen scholars in it just like Master P, what would our world be like? You may not be into Master P’s delivery or what can seem like a box-set-of-hype about building wealth through real estate, as seen on those late night cable tv infomercials, but for the market he is passionately targeting—he has it just right. Master P can truly change his world.

Is it your turn next? What are you waiting for? If such a negative thing as rap, and what it promotes, can attract so much money, think of what your passionate beliefs to help mankind, using your highly developed artistic creativity, can do.