Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Creativity and Innovation’

Seed Grants to Student Arts Entrepreneurs

In Art, Author: Linda Essig, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music, Networking, The Idea, Theater/Film on November 13, 2009 at 1:40 am

Last week, I got to do the thing that I enjoy most in my job (I also got to do some things I enjoy least, but discussing those would be digressive). My colleagues and I made six seed grants to student arts entrepreneurs. If I ever feel down and out about the future, I can go back and read the 24 letters of intent and 8 full submissions to our p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship we received this October. Reading through these proposals makes me feel that the arts are relevant, vibrant, vital, and sustainable.

Students have some of the coolest ideas. With their permission, I’m sharing some information about the six awardees with you all. Yes, it’s a little bit of bragging, but it’s also sharing some of the interesting ideas that we’ll be mentoring and supporting in the months to come. (And, yes, there were a few proposals that just made you roll your eyes, but those were very few.) A lot of proposals were for projects that could be termed “social entrepreneurship” as much as “arts entrepreneurship,” a combination I find both interesting and hopeful.
With that, I bring you the Fall 2009 p.a.v.e. awardees:
join cast clipartJoin and Cast Ventures: Two Art (Intermedia) students, Jennifer C. and Catherine A., are producing a field guide to the downtown Phoenix arts scene that is itself a work of art.
radio healer clipart copyRadio Healer: Led by Arts, Media Engineering (AME) graduate student Christopher M., Radio Healer presents mediated performances that foster intercultural dialogue in Native communities.
daht clipartDance and Health Together Awards: Led by undergraduate Dance major Mary P., the DaHT Awards is a combination of dance recognition award and fundraising enterprise benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

coop films clipartCo-op Film Productions – Film and Media Production/Marketing student Chelsea R. and her team are creating a support infrastructure for student collaboration across arts and design disciplines.
different from what clip artDifferent from What? Film Festival – AME graduate student Lisa T. in collaboration with Education student Federico W. is producing a film festival focused on films by, for, and about adults with disabilities.

scrath theory clipartScratch Theory – Filmmaking Practices major Chris G. and his collaborators are developing a software/hardware interface that will first notate and then play back via synthesizer DJ scratching.

Entrepreneurship and Collaboration

In Author: Linda Essig, Creativity and Innovation on October 23, 2009 at 3:06 am

teamworkThe literature on entrepreneurship often references the one “big idea;” the singular innovative vision for something new, often the invention of one singular talent.  But, as we know, it takes a team of many to actualize that one big idea.  I’ve been preparing to teach a unit next week on collaboration and the ways in which group work supports the process of entrepreneurship, especially the kind of creative thinking that often underlies arts entrepreneurship.  In my posting a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Warren Bennis and  Patricia Ward Biederman’s book ORGANIZING GENIUS: THE SECRETS OF CREATIVE COLLABORATION (Basic Books, 1998).  To prepare for my class next week, I’m using a selection from that text, as well as disciplinarily specific one, COLLABORATION IN THEATRE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR DEISGNERS AND DIRECTORS by Rob Roznowski and Kirk Domer (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). [In the interest of full disclosure, I note that Domer worked with me when he was a grad student at UW-Madison and I was on the faculty there.]  In reading and synthesizing these, I developed a list of actions we all can undertake to be more effective collaborators and entrepreneurial team members:

  1. Communicate
  2. Know your team members
  3. Ask questions
  4. Do your research
  5. Look for the “next thing,” not the last thing
  6. Look for relationships
  7. Be “deep generalists” rather than “narrow specialists” (Bennis)
  8. Work together toward a collective purpose
  9. Articulate the group’s mission
  10. Be optimistic
  11. Embrace the idea that groups are temporary and project-focused
  12. Find commonalities
  13. Listen, then adapt
  14. Listen, then participate
  15. Reach consensus
  16. Respect your team members

Creating from Unconscious Thought

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

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

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

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

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

This all points towards this phenomenon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The art of questioning???

In Creativity and Innovation on April 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Today I was wondering what the definition of an artist is? I did check Wikipedia and I get all kind of definitions going from person who creates art as an occupation to a person who’s skilled at some activity. Of course we are all artists but a lot of times, in everyday speech (and certainly in a business environment), an artist is associated with the entertainment business. It’s at the opposite side of the ‘seriousness level’ in the business world. At one side you have the accountants, strategic thinking, … and at the other side you will find more ‘soft’ skills like creativity, innovation, artistic expression. And I have a feeling that these kind of skills are moving on the ‘level of seriousness’ towards the middle.

I believe that skills in the more artistic domain can make a difference today. Everybody is talking about the ‘crisis’ and that we can’t solve it in the logical way. Most people know the quote of  Einstein ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’ so maybe now is the moment to listen/talk/experience/learn in a more artistic way. The artist has no answer but (s)he has a lot of questions. And we need those questions to break the fixed thinking patterns. Questions help us to look from another perspective to a situation. I would like to share one powerful exercise that I use in my workshops about creative skills. Try to ask at least 20 questions about the next picture:


Most people will notice that -in the beginning- your questions will be questions about facts. Who are those people? where is that place? What word can you read on the blocks? … but after a while (that’s the reason why I ask to find at least 20 questions) the perspective of your questions will shift and you’ll get questions like: What’s behind the mountain? Are there more seats like that? What’s the relationship between those people? Why am I doing this exercise in a blog? These kind of questions generate a different way of thinking and maybe also new solutions or ideas. So let’s ask ourselves 20 questions about the ‘crisis’ and maybe can shift the rather negative perspective of a ‘crisis’ to a broad range of opportunities.

Did you like this blog? Are you happy now? Am I happy? How many minutes does it take to fly from Belgium to the US? Will we meet each other? Do I want another Belgian chocolate? 😉

Send Your Creativity Through The Mail

In WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 4, 2009 at 5:35 am

scooby-and-lennon_2Last weekend I went to Costco and discovered this very creative and simply idea: customized stamps through the mail. What a cleaver innovative idea and it appears quite a big business. I am always looking for opportunities to share some of my favorite pictures of my dogs with anyone who is willing to take a look and listen to me talk about my babies. Now I can with every letter I mail and for not greater than the regular price of a stamp. Great innovative ideas don’t have to be complicated to work– proves it!

Dear Reader meet Lennon ( as in John) little black and white brother to Scooby- Do. Both of my dogs were rescued from a shelter. Lennon was in a high kill shelter in Ohio. Scooby needed a play mate and a buddy. Lennon is the best little buddy ever.

The Leader in PC Postage
With over 400,000 monthly subscribers,™ is the leading provider of Internet-based postage solutions. was the first company to be approved by the U.S. Postal Service® to offer a software-only postage service that lets customers buy and print postage online. The company targets small businesses, small and home offices and individuals through partnerships with companies including Microsoft, EarthLink, HP, Office Depot, NCR, Corel, the U.S. Postal Service and others. is a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ under the symbol STMP. Service offers customers a secure Internet mailing solution to print postage using their existing PC, printer and Internet connection without having to go to the Post Office.™ Individuals, home offices and small businesses can now manage their mailing and shipping operations more efficiently and securely than with postage meters or regular stamps. Everyone can enjoy the convenience of online postage and avoid waiting in line at the Post Office. In addition, for businesses, is up to 80% cheaper than a traditional postage meter and allows for easy tracking and reporting of postage expenditures.

Dinner in the Sky

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 21, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Thinking out-of-the-box can produce some fantastic entrepreneurial results. For example can you imagine having breakfast, lunch, cocktails or a meeting in the sky?

Belgium’s young marketing entrepreneur, David Ghysels, did and created a very unusual restaurant in the process. “It’s a little surreal, but we realized people were getting bored with just going to the same old restaurants. They wanted to try something different. So we decided to push the boundaries. The sky’s the limit!”

Dinner in the Sky, launched as a joint venture with The Benji-Fun Company in 2006, and also ranked by Forbes magazine as among the world’s top ten most unusual restaurants the same year, takes place at a table suspended at a height of 165 feet by a team of professionals. Available for a session of eight hours at the cost of around $11,400, not including catering, Dinner in the Sky seats twenty-two people around the table at every session and three in the middle (chef, waiter, entertainer…). While clients book in eight hour blocks, rarely does the restaurant stay airborne for more than two hours at a time, allowing for refreshment refills and bathroom breaks.

Although the venture has attracted a lot of publicity – few journalists have been able to resist the notion of ‘haute cuisine’ – Dinner in the Sky has actually very little to do with food. “We are selling an experience, not gastronomy,” admits Ghysels. “We can prepare anything on the ground or in the air. We’ve been asked for everything from a champagne reception to sushi platters for Japanese TV but we’re really selling the concept. It is very popular with corporate clients for product launches, a new car, whatever. It’s incredibly strong.”

Ghysels sees all sorts of expansion possibilities in the U.S. for the dangling restaurant, including air space over the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and golf courses. “I think human beings always like to see what’s happening from the air,” he says. “And there are so many wonderful natural spots in the U.S. Dinner in the Sky could go anywhere.” However, one of the reason we have not seen more about this concept being launched here, yet, is because of the astronomical price of insurance required for each event.

Businesses that have used the service overseas include Coca-Cola, Les Vins du Val de Loire, San Pellegrino – which suspended a piano – and the Irish Dairy Board, which, disappointingly, resisted dangling a cow. For one publicity stunt in Holland, Bavaria Beer created a four-sided wooden beach bar, complete with hammocks and palm trees “with roots trailing” for maximum effect.

The concept of Dinner in the Sky, as an event, allows it to be organized anywhere: on a golf course, at the race track, oceanside, in a vineyard or a historical site. As long as there is a surface of approximately 1600 feet that can be secured, with, of course, the authorization by the owner.

Considering Ghysels is selling, basically, a customised platform, he appears to have done very well with thinking out-of-the-box. So far, the company has raised the platform in Belgium, Holland, Portugal and the UK. Slovakia, Germany and South Africa are imminent and Ghysels says he is in talks with a client in Dubai, where cranes are even more plentiful than moneyed thrill-seekers. He is also fielding requests from New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong.

Dinner in the Sky’s existing insurance is limited to cancellation “in case of bad weather”. There is, he emphasises, “always one security guy below, who is in radio contact with the crane driver and another stationed on the platform alongside the entertainers and chefs.”

In fact, the cost of the annual German security certification – “the strictest of all of them and the one we wanted” – is the reason that Dinner in the Sky has not as yet recorded a profit. “At the end of this year we should break even,” predicts Ghysels who is confident that the company will really take off in 2008.

“Media interest is crazy, there are lots of new corporate clients clamouring to come on board and we’re hoping to hit the wedding circuit soon.”

Check out their website.