Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Flip the Switch

In Author: Whitney Ferre on December 10, 2009 at 8:58 pm

3 Things I want to share with you today…

1st…If you want something NEW to happen in your life, your business, or anywhere, you have to do something DIFFERENT.

2nd…When you do something DIFFERENT you change the way you are thinking, making the shift from left-brain routine to right brain innovation.  This is being supported by both brain scientists and spiritual leaders.

3rd…My mission to illuminate for you the ability you possess to “flip the switch” from left to right brain thinking using Creativity Workouts and the Arts is going to provide you with what you need to create the change you desire in your world, to evolve your thinking in this rapidly evolving world, & to lead a blanced and fulfilled life.

First, let me take you on a little tour to illustrate a Creativity Workout.  Follow along with the intent of getting into your right brain (if you are sitting at your computer right now, obviously, you are engaged in the heavily left-brain dominated world and a little right brain exercise is always good.

I recently visited UMMA.  The Univ. of Michigan Museum of Art.  I hope this motivates you all to go to an art museum as soon as possible.  It is a FABULOUS right brain workout.  Take your business team.  Take your children.  Go alone.  You will leave with new ideas, more energy, and a sense that you too can create something new.

Imagine that you are walking into this room at UMMA.  It is an art installation by Heather Rowe. http://www.umma.umich.edu/view/ (I don’t know why the pics on the UMMA site are of a different install, but enjoy that one too.)  It is a totally separate room.  I had it all to myself.  It is a series of platforms or open boxes perched upon different lengths of metal and glass supports.  Notice the glass cubes at the foot of some of the supports.  (I really liked those….).  The goal of the installation is to engage you in an altered perspective.  The key is to slow down, look around and take it in.  Throughout my tour here today, look for the reflection of the orange, metal sculpture outside the museum.

So, these mirrors were placed as close to the universal eye-level height and each open “box” had these mirrors and other “random” objects arranged differently to catch the reflections.  See the orange sculpture?  Try to really space out on these images.  Just give yourself a little mental vacation from the to-do list scrolling through  your mind.  You can’t innovate if your mind is busy processing lists.  Now, let’s move to a different part of the room.

Hi!  Here I am with my trusty iPhone (LOVE it!).  Now, see the orange?  How many times do you see my face? Look in each piece of mirror.  Or almost all of them.  Can you tell which sections are mirror and which are real?  Look again….

Now, here is the last part of the tour.

Now, even I still can’t figure this out.  See my face taking the picture?  See the orange sculpture?  I promise, that orange sculpture was BEHIND me.  It looks like you are looking through the art install to the outside and there is the sculpture.  No.  That is a reflection of the sculpture.  I promise.  Even when I was there I had to turn around and look behind me there it was.  Then I looked in front of me and there it was too.  OK.  At this point, I admit, I started fantasizing about me alone in that room for hours with a bottle of wine and nothing else.  Except that I would surely need a pad of paper because of all the new insight and ideas that would come flooding into my consciousness as I opened up more and more in my mind–right hemisphere, remember.

OK.  So I could go on and on.  I will just say that just yesterday I bought two books.  Joe Dispenza’s Evolve Your Brain (this author was featured in the movie What the Bleep!?!?–rent that if you have not already) and OSHO’s Everyday OSHO.  Within 24 hours, after only reading a total of 15 pages between the two books, I read BOTH of them say that the key to ANY kind of innovation is dependent on your creativity, which is a task of the right brain, and that your left brain is responsible for information or skills that are routine or already processed by your mind. 

Dan Pink reveals this fact as well in his new book DRIVE.  If you want NEW innovation in your organization, it is dependent on right hemisphere thinking. You can learn to FLIP THE SWITCH in your own mind.  We all live in a left-brain dominated world, so if you think, “Hey, I want to new solution to this problem.” That should trigger the thought, “I better get in my right brain.”  In which case you give your right brain something to do (go to the Creativity Workout section of this blog for ideas OR buy my book The Artist Within, A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit, that is chock full of right brain exercises), thereby shifting the energy in your mind (What the Bleep?!?!) to the side responsible for the creativity, focus, and openness required for innovation.  I will be back with more from UMMA.  I have to dole it out because otherwise this would be a 20 foot long blog entry.

Come back soon…subscribe to this blog–look under my pic–…learn more about Creatively Fit.  We will be launching the Creatively Fit Program in March 2010.  It will be ther “Jenny Craig” for the Right Brain.  It is going to be fun….

Creative wishes this holiday season, Whitney

Collective Brainstorming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Martha Graham to Agnes  de Mille

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

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

Cultural Capital

In Author: Linda Essig, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 13, 2009 at 1:42 am

I’m participating in a symposium this week entitled PARTNERSHIPS FOR PURPOSE: INNOVATION, CULTURAL CAPITAL, AND RESILIENCE. The panel I’ve been asked to facilitate is organized around the question “How should the university contribute to the development of cultural capital/talent in the region?” “Cultural Captial” isn’t a phrase that I use very often, so of course I looked it up. I was surprised to find that it’s a common sociological term, taken to mean (and I’m broadly paraphrasing from multiple sources), the non-economic “worth” of a family, an institution, or a society, often associated with educational attainment and socialization. This, of course, is not how the conference organizers are using the term or they wouldn’t have invited a museum director, a public art director, me, and others to be on this panel.
Cultural capital as I envision it for the purposes of my panel is a two part infrastructure made up of people and institutions. And, these people and institutions have BOTH economic and intrinsic non-economic worth. In a city such as Phoenix with only one large (public) university and several community colleges, the cultural capital of the city is inexorably intertwined with the university.
It is a fact not widely recognized that universities, especially public research universities, indirectly support arts and culture nationally by providing institutional homes — and the salaries and benefits attendant to them — for creative artists. Cultural institutions such as Actors Theatre of Phoenix, for example, draw regularly from the “human” capital of my school. Because the faculty ranks at universities include the artists, designers, directors, etc who create the work we see at the museums and performing arts venues throughout a region, the region is richer for the presence of the university (and, I would add, the faculty have an outlet for their creative work).
To build cultural capital, existing institutions need to be supported and new ones created. That’s why I’m so proud of our p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship. Through that program we’ve seed funding and mentorship to students with great ideas for arts-based ventures. Some of these, like the Phoenix Fringe Festival and the Sustainable Symphony are already making their marks on the regional cultural landscape in Phoenix.

The Arc of the Story: At the Threshold

In Author: Amy Frazier, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Theater/Film, Writing on October 6, 2009 at 9:55 am

What’s up with the resistance?

You know the one. The resistance that comes shortly after you decide to launch a new creative endeavor. The resistance that whispers in your ear that maybe the idea isn’t that great, or you really don’t have the time, or you’re really not so good after all.

Maybe it doesn’t affect you. If not, I’m willing to bet you’re in the minority. For a lot of artists, the initiatory phase of a project can be a very painful back-and-forth play of initiative and doubt.

When I’m acting, for example, it usually shows up at the first blocking rehearsal. When asked to actually get the character “up on its feet,” I often balk. In the course of the entire rehearsal period and even through opening night, I will never feel as awkward and disembodied as I will on the first blocking rehearsal. I’d rather be anywhere else then right there.

Then there’s writing. Every writer knows that big blank page. Now, a computer screen. I wonder if the relative effortlessness of tapping and deleting with no crumpled paper overflowing the wastebasket as evidence doesn’t somehow cover for the fact that we’re stuck. No. We still know. We might not have the physical evidence of every crappy opening line–it may have vanished into electronic ether–but we get it: our writing sucks.

I suspect painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians have their own issues.

Right now, I’m working on a program I’ll be delivering at the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation in Brussels at the end of the month, called “Riding the Arc of the Story.” I’ve had my own deal getting it pulled together, but what I wanted to share in this post was something I’ve learned while working on the program, about narrative structure and the Hero’s Journey.

Evidently, as soon as the hero begins her journey, she is met at the threshold by beings whose purpose it is to provide initial resistance in the form of a test: is the hero up for the challenge? They’re called “threshold guardians,” and they can show up as friends, family, foes…or even part of our own psyche, our shadow. (I know this one!)

The concept of the Threshold Guardian has given me a new way of looking at my internal resistance to the early phases of a project. Now, instead of either giving in to the temptation to pull away, or feeling like I have to muscle through and pretend the resistance isn’t there, I remind myself that I might be on the threshold, and this might be only a test. Of the emergency threshold guardian system. And it’s ok.

The next time you find yourself hitting that resistance wall, ask yourself: is this a wall? or might it actually be an opening. Might you actually be on the threshold of something entirely new?

Creativity Quote by Abraham Maslow

In Author: Whitney Ferre on October 3, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Wow!  Love when I find quotes like this.  Happy pondering!

The key question isn’t “What fosters creativity?” But it is why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.

Teamwork: a challenge of arts entrepreneurship

In Author: Linda Essig, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 2, 2009 at 1:10 am

As I work with student arts entrepreneurs, I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges they face is putting together meaningful, appropriate, and supportive project teams. Why is it harder for an arts entrepreneur to do this than a traditional business-focused entrepreneur? I think the answer lies in the entrepreneur’s motivation. The traditional entrepreneur is motivated (often, if not usually) by the bottom line desire to make money from their venture. The arts entrepreneur, especially the student arts entrepreneur, may very well be motivated by the desire to create opportunity for the production and dissemination of their art. As I implied last week, an artist may want to “hang on for dear life” to their work, making the inclusion of others appear to be a threat or a hindrance rather than a help.

As Walter Bennis points out in “Organizing Genius: The Secret of Creative Collaboration,” “one is too small a number to produce greatness” (p. 3). At the end of the book, Bennis offers some “Take-Home Lessons,” including “Greatness starts with great people” (p. 197). He goes on to define the need for great people to make up great groups. These are people who “have more than enormous talent and intelligence. They have original minds. They see things differently. They can spot the gaps in what we know….They see connections. Often they have specialized skills, combined with broad interests and multiple frames of reference. They tend to be deep generalists, not broad specialists. They are not so immersed in one discipline that they can’t see solutions on another…” (p. 198).

The attributes Bennis lists are important to the formation of an effective arts entrepreneurship team. To cite just one example, a conductor starting a new community orchestra (as one of our p.a.v.e. students did) needs to assemble a team that includes not only musicians, but musicians with knowledge of community cultural development and a marketing manager who not only understands marketing but also has a deep knowledge of music. Fledgling arts entrepreneurs will need to learn to be open to input from their teams, because teams are smarter than individuals (see Bennis and also “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki). They need not “hang on for dear life” to one singular idea, but rather open their arms wide to embrace both the broad interests and specific skills of those smart and talented individuals they want on their teams.

The next challenge, then, is to locate appropriate team members and recruit them effectively. More on that next time!

Creating from Unconscious Thought

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

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

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

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

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

This all points towards this phenomenon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.harttechnique.com

Ten Steps to Finding your Artistic Voice.

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

Ten Steps to Finding your Voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Artists “Creative Professionals”?

In Author: David Cutler, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music on August 8, 2009 at 1:23 am

I recently served on a panel focusing on Entrepreneurship “for Artists and Creative Professionals.”  During the discussion, we addressed various exciting ways that creative professionals solve problems in our communities, businesses, government, and schools. We celebrated their potential to lead, innovate, and serve as catalysts for change. The talk was undoubtedly inspiring.

But I was particularly stuck by the phrase “Artists and Creative Professionals.” After all, there are two ways to interpret this statement:

1)      Artists (one category) and creative professionals (a separate category)

2)      Artists and other creative professionals

Of course, the intent was clear.  There exists an assumption that artists are inherently creative. We’re not like mathematicians. Our field is creativity.

But is that the reality? And are we training arts students with this goal in mind?

In music training (I’m best equipped to address my own field), the unfortunate answer is overwhelmingly no.  Students are typically required to follow “correct and authentic performance practices.” Classical majors play standard lit—often chosen by their teachers or ensemble directors—in standard venues, wearing standard attire, for standard (and small) audiences. Composition projects are rare, with improvisational expressions rarer. Risk taking plays no role whatsoever, as mistakes are considered the enemy rather than a healthy and welcome part of the process. And forget about creativity training on larger issues.  Oddly absent are discussions on cultural relevance, how to create a viable and prosperous career, or finding solutions to real problems facing our world. Truth be told, we train musicians a lot like math majors.

In a world economy/environment where many tasks are outsourced to computers and citizens of third world countries, it’s easy to understand the necessity and power of creativity. And I love the notion that artists have the potential to be important players in today’s paradigm. But artists, as individuals and a community, will only play this role if they are trained accordingly.

If arts education continues to focus simply on developing accomplished practitioners (which we currently do quite well), the outcome will be predictable. We will continue to have an army of over-trained, under-employed artists struggling to capitalize on the shrinking number of existing opportunities available to them.

But if we somehow modify our educational system to train creative professionals who use their art form as one of several potential tools, the equation will change. Not only will the role of arts organizations grow exponentially, but artists will increasingly become dynamic forces in other sectors. Businesses looking to stand out will favor hiring individuals with arts training. Government will turn to artists to help solve problems of the day—from national security to crime to health care to economic growth to foreign affairs. Schools will hire artists to help restructure curriculum both in and outside the arts.

To be sure, “creative professionals” are already doing this important work. But there’s a genuine need for more creative minds, and too few artists are among this group. Of course, there are some, but they develop more by accident than design. By transforming arts education into creativity education with an arts emphasis, we not only help our students, but also our communities and the nation at large.

Then, suddenly, everyone will want an arts education. 

 

David Cutler balances a varied career as a jazz and classical pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and conductor.  Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for information about his book (now available!) The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference, a Resource Center with 1000+links, and much more.

How To Not Get Screwed

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Money on June 14, 2009 at 2:44 am

A few days ago, one of the artists that I work with sent me a link to this video:

You know those tingles that you get when you realize something is true and you wish that it weren’t? I was getting those. By day I work as a sales rep for a commercial art studio called Steven Edsey and Sons and I have heard every single one of  these lines. It’s just part of the job. Sadly it has been especially prevalent lately with budgets being so tight. Everyone is looking for work- at any price- and the people handing out the jobs know it. There is always the veiled (and sometimes not-so-veiled) threat of “if you won’t do it for this price then I’m sure there are dozens of other artists who will” that hovers in the back of every negotiation like an optomist at a pity party. Invariably I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place: do I take the job because any work is good work? Or do I stand my ground and protect the interests of the artists I work for. Here is what I’ve learned to do:

*  *  *

The Line: “We need [filet mignon] done but we only have [taco hut] budget.

Money is tight all around- and there is no shame in working with a budget. This is one of those “work is work” situations where you don’t want to say no outright but you’re not sure it’ll be worth the trouble. Never say “No” straight out. Even if you’re not sure you want to take the job, make an effort to work something out. Find out what their budget is and quote them a price slightly higher than it. They won’t always go for it, but if they do, it’s a good sign that they want to work with you enough that they’re willing to meet you in the middle. Defer them (but not too long) and check your schedule. If there is nothing else going on then I tend to err on the side of taking the work. Sometimes you’re doing them a favor and they’ll remember it and come back- but we’ll get to that later.

The Response: “Let me see if [the artist] is willing to work for that.” (Or alternatively) “Let me see what you are looking for and I will let you know if I can accomodate you in my schedule.”

*  *  *

The Line: “But it only took [the artist] fifteen minutes to do”

I love this line: it says “well if time is money and you didn’t spend much time, then I don’t owe you much money”. Patently untrue and here is why: a professional artist can make artwork in a short amount of time because they spent YEARS practicing. Professionals are professionals because they work well and more importantly work well with a deadline.

The Response: “It took 15 minutes to do, but 15 years to be able to do it that quickly”

*  *  *

The Line: “We don’t have much money for this project but we’ll send you more work down the line.”

It’s easy to buy the present at the expense of the future so I usually take this line with a heaping helping of salt. If this is coming from someone who has called regularly in the past, or someone who I’ve worked with on a job with a decent budget in the past then I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If you give them a deal and you’ve never worked with them before then be sure to tell them that it is a special rate because of their budget, and be sure to tell them what the normal rate would be. Don’t let them go away thinking they can always get your work for that price.

The Response: “Well since you’re on a tight budget we can give you a special rate this time of [$$], but our normal rate is usually [$$$$].

*  *  *

Final Thoughts:

If you decide that you can’t take the job because there isn’t enough money to make it worth your while, then quote your lowest price and stick with it with the line: “I’m sorry, I really don’t think I could deliver quality work for less than [$$$].” It’s a polite way to stand your ground. I’ve worked with people who have cut me deals and still stood their ground and I respect them for it. I can’t always afford to hire them, but I always know that if I had the money it would be well spent.

If they don’t pay their bills, be persistent. I had a client wait over a year to pay for some artwork that we did and we sent them a notice every week. Be a polite pest. Sooner or later they’ll pay you to make you go away. This also works if you’re trying to get a settlement from an insurance claim. (Trust me I know).

Creativity is a difficult thing to put a price on, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you think your work is worth and to expect to be paid for it. You wouldn’t expect to get a filet, a hairstyle, or a video for less than it was worth, would you? Creativity is your product and if your product is good then people will pay for it.

Creativity Workout!

In Author: Whitney Ferre on June 3, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Mandala to Meditate

Making a Mandala is such an easy way to relax, access new ideas and become completely present.

Mandalas have been created for centuries by many, many different cultures as a spiritual centering practice.  Remember, as a species, human beings created art long before we created an alphabet or a monetary system!  And it wasn’t easy!  They didn’t have the “craft cave” where all the supplies were readily available.  They had to dig the minerals out of the earth to create pigment for paint or cut down a tree, dry the wood, carve it out…to create the mask.  Why was this such an important activity to our ancestors when their biggest job was simply survive?  They spent valuable energy, time and resources to create art.  Why was it important?

Creating art connects you to a voice, I call it The Artist Within, that is connected to your spirit, that is completely present, that is closer to your subconscious & intuition.  “Primitive” cultures understood the importance of nurturing and accessing this voice.  Do we?

Since we live in such a busy, detail oriented, task laden world our Artist Within has been relegated to the back corners of our mind.  The symptoms of a mind that have not given this voice a platform in awhile are apathy, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, worry, stress…need I go on?  I certainly deal with at least two of those emotions daily as I ride the emotional roller coaster of being a restaurateur, a mother of three, a wife, an author, and a woman.  I have found the wellspring inside of my mind where I can go to balance those emotions with feelings of hope, peace, connection, unity, balance, rhythm…need I go on? 

So, create a Mandala today to create inner peace, centering, calm.  Just draw a circle, or trace a bowl, put a dot in the middle and start doodling.  Let me know how you feel after you have filled the space.  creativelyfit@aol.com

Whitney

Is Creativity Really The Answer?

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, The Idea on May 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm

As much as I hate to admit it, I am not convinced that Creativity is The Answer. This is heresy, I know, but when you get right down to it just how useful is creativity anyway? Creativity is like gunpowder; incredibly powerful- and dangerous- stuff, but largely  useless without a structure to contain it, a system to measure it, and a culture that respects it.

Structure

I didn’t learn me no grammar in grammar school. There was a movement during my grammar school years in which creativity was emphasized over structure.  In essence, we were taught that it was more important for us to write creatively than it was for us to write well. I didn’t know what a participle was until high school when I elected to take college grammar. It wasn’t the most boring, tedious, mind-numbing class on the electives list and the books we used were so old they were out of print. (When the class was over we had the option to buy them. I did.) Of all the classes I took in high school, College Grammar was, without a exception, the most valuable.  I have always enjoyed creative writing but it wasn’t until I took a grammar class that I learned how much my writing sucked. No one cares what you have to say if you can’t structure a proper sentence. Creativity is all about content, but content needs to be contained. The rarest and most exquisitely complex wine in the world is useless without a glass.

Measurement

In the real world what we really care about is how much we produce, not how creatively we produce it. When it gets right down to it we care more about quantity than quality. Given $100 for food we’d rather eat three square meals a day of boring cafeteria food than eat one five star meal once a month. As a natural extension of this we measure our success by our productivity. We ask “what have I done with my life” much more than we ask “did I do it well”. What does Creativity produce? In itself, not much. Can we quantify it? Not really. How do we prove that Creativity is useful if we can’t quantify its usefulness? Creativity is useful when we apply it to how we work; a creative workspace can make a job easier, faster, or more pleasant  even though the product remains unchanged. A prime example is the assembly line: the model T that was produced on an assembly line was no different from the model T produced  by hand except that now it could be produced faster, more easily, and became so affordable that even the workers on the line could eventually buy one.

Culture

In the end, though, it isn’t about money, it’s about culture. Returning to the gunpowder analogy, where one culture sees it as a weapon another culture sees it as a tool and another sees it as festive entertainment. Largely, Americans tend to see creativity as festive entertainment; a luxury rather than a necessity. As an artist I have lamented that no one buys artwork unless it “matches the couch”. When I use my creativity to produce fine art (because production = key to success) I create a pretty commodity. Fine art, like entertainment, is not considered a necessity. So is all creativity doomed to uselessness? Not necessarily: even our western culture recognizes that creativity can be an effective tool when trying to communicate (ex: a commercial illustrator creates drawings to illustrate an art director’s concepts to a client) and is useful problem solving (ahem, Henry Ford).

In the end, the question remains: is Creativity “The Answer” to becoming successful? No. Not by itself. Creativity has the potential to make life easier, richer, and more successful but it is only a tool. Like all tools, the key is how you use it.

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– www.Stamps.com 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.

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