As I teach my arts administration course this fall at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, you’ll be able to follow the journey along with my students right here on the Tuxedo Revolt Blog. Prior to each class, I hope to write a post that will give insight and depth to the issues we are going to cover. However, before we begin this sojourn of understanding what makes a successful arts organization in the 21st Century, I wanted to first explore the changes that must happen within ourselves before we can begin to change the world around us.
Change begins in you.
That’s the first major realization that is necessary for you to find success in any entrepreneurial venture. It doesn’t matter if you want to start a new chamber ensemble, re-envision an existing orchestra, start a rock band, or even a non-music business– your project will reflect your personal views, both conscious and subconscious. You must truly believe in the change you are willing to implement.
Let’s be honest, it is much, much easier to comply with the status quo than to lead change. It takes far less energy, less critical thinking and less time. But I believe when one identifies both a need for improvement AND a solid plan that would help that improvement’s realization, then we are obligated to bring the issue to the surface and argue for the change. In so many ways, this notion of identifying issues, planning out how to fix them, and taking responsibility for their realization is at the heart of what we call progress.
You have to believe that your plan to bring about change will work. Right now, many artists, musicians, and teachers see “music or arts entrepreneurship” as a buzz word. They often think that if they can find a use for this buzz word then they’ve done their due diligence– one more box can be checked off of the resume or todo list. This isn’t what entrepreneurship is about. The drive to break to go out on a limb, to differ from mainstream opinion, to prove something for yourself has to come from within you. No amount of in-class strategizing or note taking can replace that.
Entrepreneurship is about taking charge of your life, your art, or your organization and going it alone because you know deep down that you can do it better. It’s a deep kind of knowing oneself, knowing that you are capable of making your mark. Like in music performance, it’s very similar to the kind of craftsmanship that goes into crafting a beautiful solo, it becomes distinctly your own creation. Your voice shines through.
As we explore what it takes to create new kinds of programs, organizations, and experiences– we will take some time to get to know ourselves as well. What do you value? What problems have you identified in the arts for which you now have ideas how to fix them? From what kind of artistic work do you derive the greatest satisfaction? How far are you willing to go to see your idea all the way from a fleeting thought in your mind to real people, taking action in real time, doing real work, in the real world.
To see an entrepreneurial project all the way through is a long process. There are very few shortcuts, and I promise that I’ll share with you the ones that I know. But as I write this post, I doubt that the challenge is too much for you. You would never have become a performing artist, or ever worked in the performing arts industry if you didn’t already understand that in our area of expertise, adversity is to be expected.
I’ll also wager that because you’ve made it this far, to my blog, that your are already toying about with the idea of going solo and breaking off from the herd to do things your way. While I’ve previously mentioned that the work involved in entrepreneurship is nothing to take lightly, I am also obligated to say that the freedom to do what you want is incomparable to anything else. For me, that’s where my true creativity lives.
I’ve found that the brightest creative impulses I’ve have had coincide with my personal freedom and my disregard for the confines of the establishment. Over the next few months we will explore how our beliefs manifest themselves in our personal and artistic missions, in the effectiveness of our organization and in our ability to make a positive impact– and you’ll have the freedom to do it your way.
So let’s begin. Listen to yourself. Listen to the silent alarms that go off around you, the ones you sense and feel. Believe, even for an instant, that nothing is set in stone, that the world is play-dough you could mold with your bare hands— for indeed, it can be. Let that thought wash over you for just a moment. Make no mistake. You can change the world with your vision, your art, and yes, even with your bare hands.
So as I attempt to navigate the stormy seas of time management, I thought I would take a second to write up a few of the techniques I find help me plan for artistic projects both large and small. So (to be really organized) I’ve come up with this list, in no particular order:
1. Keep a file of all programs, posters, postcards, playbills, and flyers that you find interesting to look at or eye-catching. This will be a great place for you to start designing the media materials for your next project. Be careful never to copy any design directly (not that you would anyway–you’re too original!) because many designs and logos are protected by copyright. If you are techno savvy and/or short on space, create an electronic file for free on Pinterest where you can post all kinds of wonderful images that inspire you.
2. Get a notebook and keep it close to you at all times. I know that this is perhaps the most basic rule of organization and you are thinking “Oh great master, teach me more!” but really— it’s true. Whenever that great idea smacks you in the face, make sure you have a pen and notebook to get it down. You may not need it now, but when you are staring at a blank screen or staring at the wall searching for ideas, you will have your own little treasure chest of them to save the day.
3. Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to do something. Set your projects way, way, way, way, way, way in advance. This holds true especially if you are planning projects that involve other artists and performers. Take the time you need to do it right the first time. This will give you more time for the creative stuff when it comes around.
4. Always be thinking about your next project before the close of your current project. This will prevent gaps in your productivity and you also won’t have to face the agony of coming out of a period of blissful laziness and back into the heat of battle to start a new project from scratch.
I hope that this helps you jump start your next project. Best wishes and good luck!