Tag: Entrepreneurship in the Arts

Introducing ‘Tension’ Artists

C4 Atlanta’s first ever Ignite graduate show will kick off May 11, 2013. The opening reception/fundraiser Arts Fuel will be on May 11, 2013 from 7pm – 10pm. Tickets for Arts Fuel are on sale now.

Opening for 'Tension' is May 11, 2013
Opening for ‘Tension’ is May 11, 2013

We wanted to keep the theme of our first show, ‘Tension,’ germane to our mission. For this show, Atlanta artists explore the dual identities of “the artist” and the “business person.”

Many of us can relate to this struggle or tension. In our own lives, we balance work and life, children and relationships, and the pursuit of emotional well being while living in a results-driven world.

The work in ‘Tension’ will range in medium, price and technique. This is a great opportunity to collect from some of Atlanta’s most talented artists. More information about gallery hours to come, but if you want the opportunity to purchase first, please attend Arts Fuel, May 11th. Discounted tickets for arts professionals are available.

It is with great pleasure that I give you the list of Atlanta professional artists who’s work will be featured in ‘Tension:’

Yun Bai
LaMar Barber
Rose Barron
Stephanie Coulibaly
Kathy Rennell Forbes
Vanessa Huang
Machiko Ichihara
Kerry Jackson
Igor Korsunskiy
Beth Lilly
Katy Malone
Corrina Mensoff
Mia Merlin
Barbara Nesin
Stacie Rose
Cat Rogers
Maria Sarmiento
Nathan Sharratt
Catherine Shiel
Amber Singleton
Deborah Sosower
Karley Sullivan
Gina Thompson
Diana Toma
Lisa Tuttle

Ignite Scholarships for 2013 – Due Dec 17th

Apply for Ignite Scholarships for 2013 – Due Dec 17th

Ignite Your Creative Career

Through donations from individuals and funding by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, C4 Atlanta is able to offer 20 artist FULL scholarships from January 2013 – June 2013 for Ignite. Scholarship recipients must be City of Atlanta residents or be affiliated with an arts business within the city of Atlanta.

Please complete the following application. Applicants will be selected by merit in addition to need. Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Applications are due December 17, 2012.

Information about class schedule, requirements, etc. can be found on the application.

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Business Classes for Artists: Creating an Effective Learning Environment

A friend and colleague of mine sent me a link to blog post last week about business training for artists. Many of the points I agree with in the blog. The point made by the author that I agree with most is that business classes for the arts need to be structured in a way that speaks to the specific needs of an arts business or individual artist. The arts community is made up of a myriad of DIY individuals. Most don’t have small business loans or VC investors backing them.

Man in Suit sitting at a computer
What you might get if you Google Entrepreneur

The first, and in my opinion, most important part of a business plan is to decide what the heck it is you’re trying to sell. Is it a service? What is the creative offering? This seems simple. But it can be very challenging for artists. One reason is because artists are often Jacks-of-many-trades. Visual artists may flow between painting or mixed media. A performing artist might be both a singer and a dancer…or a puppeteer, circus performer, writer, director, on so forth.

Before one can get to the “what” of his creative offering, he needs to focus on the “why.” If you work in a variety of media or disciplines, then what is that through line that connects them all? What is your brand really about?

We live in an amazing time. Truly. It is possible to launch a marketing campaign with little money* (of course time is an investment). What are the resources and tools available to the DYI arts business?

*Just a side note: I do believe at some point an arts business needs to be able to invest in growth. You can’t operate with no money forever. You have an obligation to spend money as well as bring in revenue to meet budget goals.

There are some great classes and tools out there for small businesses and entrepreneurs. However, at the end of the day, the best learning environment is one where people can learn from one another as well as from a dynamic curriculum. I remember in grad school discussing this point in an educational psychology class. The “whole” is elevated if participants enter into a learning environment from various stages. Artists with less experience learn from those who have been there, done that. The seasoned artist begins to see her career trajectory as something that is nimble–she feels the freedom to explore new directions. This type of environment is hard to recreate with a one-size-fits-all business class. People of the same industry like to work together.

Recent Ignite Alumi talk about learning from one another. Watch!

The arts business class needs to meet artists and arts admins where they are  currently in their careers. It should frame business planning in a context that is relevant to people within the arts community with real world examples. Part of the gap between practicing one’s art and articulating a cohesive business plan often comes down to a lack of meta-cognition. In other words, artists don’t know that they know business skills. They’ve been told again and again that creating and business planning don’t mix. This is why equipping artists with vocabulary is so important. Learning a new idea or concept can change the way a person thinks and acts.  As humans, we accomplish this partly through language. Learning business vocabulary gets the synapses firing!

I enjoy strategic planning. I find the process very rewarding. I also find that the process taps into my creative center. Business is not a dirty word. In fact, the business plan is neutral. In any industry it takes imagination, smarts and moxie to get a business launched.

Don’t Limit Yourself: A Lesson From Adolescence

Wednesday, I accompanied my daughter as she auditioned and interviewed for a local arts high school. Afterward, as a family, we went out to eat together to celebrate this stage of the process. The four of us talked about high school, the future, grades, and we laughed at our lame fortunes from a folded up cookie. We always talk and laugh. The four of us.

Painting of a family mural
The Hollands. The Four of Us.

We started talking about college. My oldest daughter can be very pragmatic–things like cost and distance worry her.

During dinner I said to my oldest daughter something like, “I wish I had this opportunity when I was your age. I wish I had the endless possibility that is before you…” You know the speech.

She interrupted with a half-smile, because she is thirteen, and said, “Don’t be one of those parents that tell their kids to do something just because you didn’t.” She said this with a light heart. She knows I am not one of those parents. I don’t have to hover because my kids don’t try to get away.

The conversation paused for a moment while we paid the check and walked back to our van. This was my reply (to the best of my memory):

“I don’t regret one decision in my life. We make choices and take advantage of opportunities in front of us. We make the best choices at the time–and sometimes we make the wrong choices. But that is different than regret. You have your whole life ahead of you. You can go to any college you want to. Don’t settle. Don’t think about the cost. Make a decision and then figure out how to get there. Get out. Explore. Just don’t limit yourself. Ever.”

She was gave me a very thoughtful reply: “okay, Mommy.”

“Okay, mommy” from this teenager translate to, “That makes sense. I understand.”

Joe and I have talked to many artists from many different backgrounds. Visual artists, actors, writers, the list goes on. The artists who come through our Ignite class are not necessarily the kids fresh from college. Some have established careers. Others are looking for transition. And there are those souls who believe it is never too late to start something new. These artists know the value of hindsight–not regret.

But you don’t have to take 10 years to figure out how to be a sustainable artist. You can get the help you need now. I am reminded of the Blackberry slogan: “Be bold.”

It was my husband who told me about the Corridor Principle. The idea is that you don’t see the open doors until you start walking down the corridor. But the trick is…you have to start. Start something new. Do it today. Plan as if you have your whole life ahead of you. Set goals like an adolescent.

Arts Entrepreneurship in a Low-Growth Economy

It is time for the arts community to heal and abandon deficit thinking.  If the arts constitute a driving force of the economy, then let’s come together and do it as entrepreneurs.

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk given by Tim Jones of Artscape. This session was part of the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations’ annual conference in Toronto, Ontario. Tim restated a statistic* that I had placed on Facebook earlier that week (or maybe it was the week before). The workforce is now comprised of 30% self-employed workers and growing. That is a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. What does this mean for the arts sector? Are artists (and arts organizations) prepared to keep pace with the “new” economy?   Picture of a to-do list. Says, "to do: buy milk, pay rent, earn a living as an artist..."

Traditional hierarchical structures of business are crumbling. There is a fundamental shift taking place within the American workforce. B-school experts like Michael Porter are talking about entrepreneurship as a way to redefine capitalism. We cannot be the last sector to notice this shift. How does the shift from working for a large company to working for one’s self affect those of us in the arts? How does it affect donations, patronage, etc? Does anyone in the arts community notice the shift in our economy? Tim Jones is talking about it as well as Richard Florida.

Arts businesses are poised to help create solutions for societal problems, but this is not just a trend among mission-based businesses, such as nonprofits. With the emergence of B-Corps, L3C’s and other hybrid entities, we are seeing that traditional businesses (and the people behind them) are being held to a higher form of societal accountability. Arts-businesses have the advantage of creativity and innovation, but all too often they lack the vocabulary to understand and manifest best practices in entrepreneurship. In my opinion, learning business skills is a much easier fix than learning how to be a creative thinker. After all, a majority of businesses fail because of bland, mediocre models.

Corporations are being held to a higher accountability to not just a local economy but to the entire world ecosystem. The environment, employees and the consumer are part of the new bottom line. This is a result of the inevitable pendulum shift toward a more networked society. What about arts businesses?  Where are the women playwrights? How about diversity within our arts organizations? What relationships exist currently between artists and arts organizations and why as an ASO are we asked to serve one or the other? Maybe… there are lessons we can take from collapsing corporations. If I had to sum it up in one word: relevancy. Entrepreneurship can help us stay relevant. We are not exempt from changing tides.

If self-employed, entrepreneurial businesses are going to drive the economy of the future, then how do artists fit into that context? Without essential skills and a support network…they don’t.

As a community, we must embrace entrepreneurship in the arts, in food service, in technology, in health care, and so forth. We cannot afford to get left behind. Arts organizations, as well as service organizations, should support a network of professional, business growth. Arts entrepreneurship benefits all. We know the studies about what a thriving arts ecology can do for a neighborhood, city or region. And the problem is more systemic than just lack of funding. That may be a part of the puzzle, but it is just a piece that is reflecting what is valued in our community.

After working with Board Fellows from Emory’s MBA program, surveying the arts community, and looking at trends across the board, I felt additional validation from the keynote from Tim Jones. C4 Atlanta must keep entrepreneurship in the arts as a focal point of its mission. We will continue to provide a safe place for artists and arts administrators to try new ideas, to lean on peer-to-peer learning and to envision a future for a better Atlanta. Innovation must be on the lips of every board member, staff member and funder. It is time to stake our claim and spur innovation and entrepreneurship in a low-growth economy.

*Actually, Tim Jones stated 40% of the workforce is self-employed. This number fluctuates between 30-40%, depending on the source. The main point is that it is trending toward an increase.