Tag: ignite

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.

Lisa Tuttle – C4 Atlanta’s Featured Member, July

July’s featured member is none other than the fabulous Lisa Tuttle. Lisa is a wonderful person and I am honored to call her a colleague. Lisa participated in C4 Atlanta’s Ignite class several months ago. She brought so much to the seminar in terms of experience, insight and encouragement. During the day, Lisa works for the Fulton County Arts Council’s Public Art Program. All day long, Lisa is an artist.

Lisa and project collaborator, Alice Lovelace, just received a very

Left: A panel from Harriet Rising. Right: Alice Lovelace & Lisa Tuttle.
Left: A panel from Harriet Rising. Right: Alice Lovelace & Lisa Tuttle.

prestigious nod from Americans for the Arts for their project, Harriet Rising. AFA named Harriet Rising as one of the nation’s top 50 public art projects.  Harriet Rising is public art installation located above ground at Underground Atlanta. The project launched during Elevate /Art Above Underground presented by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program and Underground Atlanta. The Tuttle/Lovelace collaboration celebrates women who embody the spirit of Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and humanitarian.

In the United States, there are many women who embody the spirit of Harriet Tubman, working everyday to make life better for women (and therefore entire families) and working for a better world.  The lives of these women are not as transparent as Tubman’s.  They should be. 

View of columns at Underground - "Harriet Rising"
View of columns at Underground – “Harriet Rising”

I am not the first to feature the work of Lisa and Alice. Google (used here as a verb) Harriet Rising and you will find a wealth of information about these two artists. However, I am personally very proud of their work. I am very proud of Lisa.

Here is a little more about Lisa Tuttle in her own words...

JH: Type of art – description AND what are you currently working on? 

LTInterdisciplinary projects and mixed media works.  I’m in a three person show at Kibbee Gallery August and September, where I’m showing some mixed media pieces. Also I am continuing to work on the artist book for Harriet Rising which I hope to have complete by October.  Alice Lovelace is also applying for some Elevate support for poetry readings at Harriet Rising during this fall’s presentation of Elevate: Art Above Underground.

JH: Are you originally from the Atlanta area?

LT: No, a child of a journalist, so born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but grew up in Charlotte, NC.  My dad was born and raised in Atlanta, though, so although that’s not why I’m here, there have always been some interesting discoveries of how our lives have crossed.  I moved to Atlanta in the late 70’s and found it to be a good fit for me at the time – It was Southern and familiar, but more metropolitan, progressive and sophisticated than anywhere else in the South…NYC seemed unmanageable to me at the time.  When I moved here, I thought I was just going to try it out for a while…but it has continued to be a really good fit for me…

JH: How long have you been practicing your art?

LT: As a child, I wanted to be a writer.  But in college, a professor was really impressed by my painting, and when I committed to that, I went full force.

JH: Who inspired you to create? 

LT: Teachers, friends, my creative, brilliant and irreverent father

JH: Who or what inspires you today?

LT: Reading, films, and my fellow artists here in this creative Atlanta community.

JH: What is the greatest challenge facing Atlanta artists today?

LT: Courage. Also, not enough affordable studio spaces. Or opportunities for international travel/collaborations.

JH: What does Atlanta have to offer artists like you?

LT: The possibility to live affordably, but create and collaborate in the most surprising ways. I particularly like working at a place like the Arts Exchange where it is multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and inter-generational. 

JH: Do you have a local favorite (artist)?

LT: Too many to count. I would like to give a shout-out to MOCA GA…!!!

JH: What advice do you have for a young person thinking about being an artist? 

LT: Go for it. Be resourceful. Get to know some working artists. Do some internships and apprenticeships, so you don’t get all of your ideas about artmaking from books and the internet. 

JH: Do you have a favorite quote? What is it? 

LT: Lots of them but off the top of my head: “Every person is a different kind of artist; an artist is not a different kind of person.” – The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your thoughts with us! Get to know more about this Atlanta treasure.

Harriet Rising: Composite Portraits
Harriet Rising: Composite Portraits

New C4 Requirements for KP Bridge Program

Dear arts community, Please be aware that we are updating the requirements to participate in the Kaiser Permanente Bridge Program.  

Students looking at camera smiling.

New Requirements: 

Eligible C4 Atlanta members must meet at least one of the two following training requirements:  

  • Option One – C4 Atlanta Individual Member must be actively enrolled in or have completed Ignite, entrepreneurship training seminar for artists. 
  • Option Two – C4 Atlanta Individual Member must have completed onof our professional development classes, submit a one-page Artrepreneur Plan (template provided by C4 Atlanta) AND attend an orientation session (day of application). 
Professional development class may include: Website Bootcamp, TechsmARTs and other workshops throughout the year. This summer, C4 Atlanta will be adding a Marketing Bootcamp 4 Artists and a Bookkeeping 101 class. In Fall 2012, we will be layering in more professional development opportunities to align with our mission to create a sustainable creative economy.  


The Kaiser Permanente Bridge Program eligibility requirements remain the same and can be found at www.kpgabridge.org orwww.c4atlanta.org.


Why the change?
The Kaiser Permanente Bridge Program and C4 Atlanta share a similar goal: we want to see you thrive. C4 Atlanta is not an insurance provider. Our aim is to help you create a sustainable arts business by offering professional learning opportunities, and by offering resources that promote organizational efficiency and effectiveness. 

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.

Peeling away the layers

Of all the materials we hand out at the Ignite seminar, the Presentation Scorecard tends to get the most use. We hand it out to all the participants on the first day, and then we hand copies of the Scorecard to the outside evaluators on the last day. The Scorecard lists ten areas where participants are evaluated. Of those ten areas, the Creative Offering receives the greatest amount of attention, both inside and outside the classroom.

When I asked Emy Imoh what she learned from Ignite, she talked about the elements of the creative offering. These elements — the mission, the vision, the value proposition, etc. — become part of the justification used to determine pricing. But, as Emy said, it requires peeling back the layers. Sometimes this process takes longer than six weeks, but it can happen with the help of fellow classmates, class facilitators, friends, colleagues in the field, and others.

It’s just one more reason to register today for Ignite.

C4 Atlanta announces next graduating class of artist-entrepreneurs

Participants in business seminar, called Ignite, will deliver presentations to practitioners in the field

ATLANTA, GA — C4 Atlanta, a non-profit arts service organization, will graduate 13 artists from its flagship professional development seminar, Ignite, on Wednesday, February 15, 2012.Image of a small note that reads: To do: buy milk, pay rent, earn a living as an artist...

As part of the graduation, Ignite participants will deliver presentations of their business plans to experienced practitioners in the arts industry, for evaluation and feedback.

The six-week seminar was created in response to a growing demand from artists and other creative professionals to learn the tools necessary to develop critical skills in entrepreneurship and small business management.

“The class has enabled me to feel more confident about ideas that I’ve had that I put on the back burner and bring them to the surface,” said Corrina Sephora Mensoff, a sculpture artist. “I feel like I have a whole new edge and angle to who I am as an artist and what I contribute to my community.”

Participants in Ignite will leave the course with five tools to help their careers: Mission and Vision Clarity, Framework for a Business Plan, Resources for Creating a Budget, Financial Planning Resources, and an Action Plan.

“All this information, especially applied to an individual artist is really something new to me,” said Jane Garver, a visual artist. “It will be really useful.”

The class participants come from a variety of backgrounds, including the visual arts, literary arts, and performing arts. “Our goal is to support Atlanta’s creative economy by teaching artists of all disciplines the skills to create sustainable businesses that support their work and creativity,” said Jessyca Holland, Executive Director of C4 Atlanta.

The next class will be offered Wednesdays, March 7 – April 11. There is a $200 tuition fee for the seminar. Artists may register for the class through the C4 Atlanta website, at http://c4atlanta.org.

The Ignite seminar is made possible, in part, with funding from the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, and from the generous support of more than 70 donors. Scholarships were made available through a grant from the Possible Futures Foundation.

The content for Ignite, formerly called “Entrepreneurship in the Arts: The Art of Self Promotion,” was created by Kamal Sinclair, principal consultant with Strategic Arts, a consulting firm for artists and arts organizations.

A list of graduating seminar participants follows:
Teresa Bramlette Reeves
Claire Christie
Danae Cowart
Jane Garver
Erica Hensley
Rebecca Holohan
Ememofon “Emy” Imoh
Chelsea Raflo
Chantelle Rytter
Lorenzo Sanford
Corrina Sephora Mensoff
Gregor Turk
Lisa Tuttle

Paying it Forward

When my oldest daughter was three, she loved for me to read to her a little book titled, Sweet Surprises. I am not sure why she liked that book so much. Three-year-old children are mysterious–or maybe adults are too predictable. Nonetheless, for a short while I read that book to her at nap time, bedtime, and sometimes in the morning before I was barely awake with coffee in hand. The story featured a little girl who performed good deeds throughout the day for her mom. These good deeds, as you may have guessed, were the sweet surprises.

I don’t know if my now-thirteen-year-old daughter remembers this book. From the looks of her room, probably not. However, I remember the story. On occasion, I snicker to myself when I think about the book. The simplicity. I also think about how cynical I can be sometimes when I here about these supposed random acts of kindness.

Yesterday afternoon, after our Ignite class ended class participants milled around talking. One of the participants (whom I really admire) approached me with a check. C4 Atlanta offered her half off tuition through a scholarship. The scholarships we offer are made possible by individual contributions dedicated to Ignite and by the Possible Futures Foundation. She said she was in a better position financially this month so she wanted to pay back the scholarship. She mentioned that she really enjoys the class and it has helped inspire the next phase of her artistic journey. I was moved. Sincerely. It was a sweet surprise.

This money will allow us to open up one more scholarship for our March/April seminar. It’s not a million dollar grant, but the gesture means so much to C4 Atlanta. Artists are severely underemployed in this city. It is not easy to come up with money for professional development; however, this year I have learned to never make assumptions about who will give and who will not. Some of our greatest supporters are artists.

For everyone who has given to C4 Atlanta to help support our artist community, thank you. You know who you are.

The artist-negotiator

The Ignite seminar includes many lessons that help artist-entrepreneurs along in the path to forming a business plan. But somewhere midway through, we take a moment to discuss another skill that is important for many artists in the field: negotiation.

In week 3, we discuss some of the important elements of a negotiation, and how an artist can prepare for one. There are many misconceptions about what happens in a negotiation, and who is a good negotiator. In the seminar we cut through some of those misconceptions, and we talk about ways to build trust in the course of the negotiation process so that both parties build value for one another.

Following the lesson, everyone is given some homework: to prepare for a mock negotiation that will take place the following week. Negotiation skills may not be part of an artist’s business plan. But they are essential for any artist looking to earn a living wage from their work.

We’re looking forward to teaching this seminar again in March. Enroll today to save your spot!