Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘starting a business’

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.

Staying Healthy in the (Financial) Storm

In Author: Linda Essig, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 31, 2009 at 12:32 am

weathering the storm

I’ve been doing some research lately on measures of the fiscal health of not-for-profit arts organizations, especially theatres. This got me thinking about the factors that support the fiscal health of individual artists and arts entrepreneurs. In a 2001 article, Mark Hager examines four measures of fiscal stability – of the ability of an organization to withstand the kinds of economic shocks we’ve experience over the last twelve months. (He adapted these from some earlier work by Tuckman and Chang.)

The four measures are: equity balance, revenue concentration, administrative cost, and operating margin.
How can we translate these four organizational measures into something useful for individual artists and arts entrepreneurs? Here is some of my preliminary thinking:

1. Equity balance. It’s always nice to have some money in the bank. From a practical standpoint, having a cushion in the bank can help support the artist in lean times. Building up that cushion during lean times is difficult but should be a priority during the fat times. I even think there’s a story about that somewhere regarding Joseph and a pharaoh’s dreams.

2. Revenue concentration. It’s much easier for an arts entrepreneur to withstand the sudden withdrawal of one client if they have more than one. So, if you’re counting on that one big commission, you may want to backstop that with several smaller commissions as well. Multiple revenue sources guard against permanent damage when any one of those streams dries up.

3. Administrative costs. Believe it or not, studies (Hager’s and others) indicate that it’s worth investing in the people and equipment necessary to run your arts-based business. Doing so has two positive effects on financial stability: 1) solid administrative capacity and 2) there’s somewhere to cut if the times get really really lean.

4. Operating margin. Pretty simple – don’t spend more than you earn. If you do, you’ll need to dip into that equity balance from item one, further diversify your revenue, or sell off the new copier/scanner you purchased to support your office operations.
It all sounds like common sense to me and I’ve been glad to find out that that common sense is actually backed up by empirical research!

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

My First Try at Buying a Business

In Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Health & Wellness on August 6, 2008 at 8:18 pm

This post was written by Kelly Penick, a soon to be Sophmore at Appalachian State, Boone, NC
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I am happy to say that I am more than half-way through my esthetician schooling. It has been one of the best decisions I have made and one of the best uses of my time, especially in the summer. I have been blessed to meet a variety of different people, as well as grow closer to those I love.

As I work toward completing the course, I am still pursuing owning a business this fall. On one of my two days off, a Monday recently, I met with the present owner of a day spa that I have worked at for a few years. The spa is now for sale.

This meeting took a different course than I had anticipated and let’s just say the meeting wasn’t pleasant. Read the rest of this entry »