Tag Archives: Arts Enterprise Summit


We’ve been working a bit on the 2010 household tax returns in recent weeks.  Last night it was time to add up all of my receipts and measure them up to my earnings from the year.  It was a dismal year to say the least, at least monetarily.  Even with the mural work early last year, the loss of two of my jobs has changed my earning landscape quite a bit.  I feel a tremendous, albeit slow, shift in my work life and the growing pains are difficult.  Last month’s trip to the Arts Enterprise Summit really opened my eyes to where I am along the journey of making a name for myself in the business of art-making.  I am by no means a newbie.  I have an established blog with a distinct voice to it and a loyal, though quiet, following (‘fans’ of my work are more prone to emailing than commenting).  The work I do in my Drawing Down the Vision partnership with Adam has further opened me up to the idea that what I bring to the table with my creative skill-set is of value and could provide me with some income.

Money and art-making are a tricky partnership psychologically and I have worked hard in recent years to come to grips with the issues.  I have come across many artists who have turned their art work or their blog or other creative skills into a living and I look to them as guiding lights on my own career path.  Remember yesterday’s fellow smoothie drinker from Wales, Michael Nobbs?   He has done extensive research on creativity and how to foster it and sustain it.  He has recently come out with a subscription to his thoughts and writings for a mere $2 a month.  Today I subscribed to his newsletter, figuring it’s about the cost of a cup of coffee, only once a month.  I really love what I have read on his blog thus far, I appreciate his rather no-non-sense approach to art making (like the idea of just making it a habit, like coffee) and frankly, I am willing to pay this small price to get more in depth into his take on creating and sustaining an artful life.  I highly recommend you check out the work he is doing and support it if you are ready to move your own work along a little further down it’s distinct path.  After all….

Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you!”  ~Dr. Suess

Another artist who has a blog so juicy you could pay for it is Rima Staines.  I’ve linked to her website here before so you already know, I am a fan.  Recently Rima added a ‘donate’ button to her site encouraging readers to contribute if her ‘Hermitage has rung bells in your spirit’.  I am here to tell you that when I am once more gainfully employed again (new part time job starting soon…) I will be throwing a coin (or two) into her hat to keep her ‘in teabags and ink’.  I am contemplating going the same route with this blog and would love to hear some thoughts from readers about this idea.

While I have been fortunate to be able to take my career one tiny baby step at a time, many artists have had to make tough financial decisions around their art work just to pay the rent and keep the wolves from the door.  My long time friend Michelle Ann Miller, an artist living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is one of these artists.  Michelle created the Nothing New Project a number of years ago and set about documenting a year where she did not purchase anything new that she could not otherwise obtain used, or create herself.  This practice served her well by keeping her expenses down and giving her a platform and structure from which to create some interesting work.  She is still blogging and still finding creative ways to make a living and documents them in the newer version of her blog, {almost}nothing new.

So these are just a few of my thoughts on the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ that is Making a Living as an Artist.  But it’s not all seriousness all the time around here.  There is always time for puppy play time and a doodle or two…

…following up

My head is fairly spinning from this past weekend.  The trip to Kansas City, MO for the Arts Enterprise Summit was  wonderful from many different perspectives. Professionally, from a Drawing Down the Vision standpoint, it was a complete success!  Interacting with students from all over the country as well as fellow presenters, educators, entrepreneurs and artists was intensely rewarding.  With only an hour (twice over) in which to present a bit about our workshop and the development of the process over time, Adam and I were overjoyed at the deep level of insight that participants gleaned from some simple exercises in such a short time. We could not have asked to be more well received and I am brimming with gratitude for the opportunity to take our project to this community of people.

As an artist working to walk the nebulous line of art and making a living, it was a breath of the cleanest, freshest air that I have had in a long time in my career.  I met creative entrepreneurs, classical and jazz musicians, academics from the arts and business, visual artists, dancers and more.  The connections made with all of them are new avenues for me to learn about how others are forging their careers.  I believe wholeheartedly in continuously expanding my artistic community.  It’s crucial for both professional and personal development.  During the opening exercise at the conference called a Reciprocity Circle it became very clear how much we could all provide to and receive from each other if we just opened up the lines of communication about what we need to foster our careers (or build a backyard chicken coop, or find a local Irish Music session…)  This exercise set the tone for the fast paced business-card-trading, information-exchanging, relationship-building atmosphere that would remain for the duration of the summit.  I thought back to my last post and my musings on the notion of vulnerability.  During this weekend, baby ideas were shared in the light of day by many people to see if they could get some help in nurturing them into viable projects.  This took an intense amount of courage for many summit participants and I commend them.  Only through opening themselves up to vulnerability by asking around for solutions were they able to get some answers.  A positive community of supportive people is crucial to survive as an artist in the modern day.  I am tickled to have a slew of brand new like-minded thinkers to add to my community!

One major theme of the summit was the changing face of the arts and entrepreneurship landscapes and how technology with its inherent fluidity and constant update capacity would shape how artists and entrepreneurs share and promote their work.  I embrace this completely via this blog, my new Etsy account and opportunities to follow the progress of my work on Facebook and Twitter.  That said, the message that Adam and I were bringing via Drawing Down the Vision was that in order to become an authentic voice in the midst of all of this technology, you have to know how to unplug enough to dig deep and know yourself.  Only then can you provide something fresh and compelling online amidst the millions of others sharing their digital realities.  And so I will continue to update my virtual self as much as humanly possible (for me at least).  But between these updates, I will keep walking the woods with muddy dogs, splashing through puddles in my beloved wellie boots, watercoloring in my sketchbook, melting wax and juicy colors at the encaustic table, growing baby tomato plants, playing Irish Music, taxi-ing and supporting my amazing kids, crawling through caves, and painting with thread.  For me the physicality of this one wild and precious life is more compelling than spending too much time in front of a computer screen.  But with new, exciting and amazingly easy tools, my online presence only gets easier to maintain over time.  I will finish up this post with a blast of links and snippets of the stories and people who made the AE Summit something I intend to attend next year…..

Just a few of my Fellow Presenters and event organizers (think of me as a little fish in a HUGE pond….)

Andrew Taylor: Keynote speaker on The Art of the Business Model.  An all around hilarious and brilliant guy who is a fan of embracing the positive when thinking about the future of arts entrepreneurship.  He is also now known by some of us as the C.I.E.I.O…. (something along the lines of Chief Information Entrepreneurship Insight Officer)

Margo Tatgenhorst Drakos: Keynote speaker on some of her current tech projects, InstantEncore and the YouTube World Symphony.  A sage of what’s next on the horizon in the world where the arts meet technology.  She is a cellist by training, tech entrepreneur via great ideas and hard work, and a friend of Peter Gabriel.  (!)  I find myself thinking about building a mobile app for my blog…..

New friends Andrew Charnik and Michael Mauskapf of Symphony Bros. with whom I attended a fabulous gypsy-jazz show, visited a fun karaoke bar, survived a brief ice storm and a late night search for cheesy food.

Kristie Aiuto : (also a veteran of the above post-presentation adventures) is from Cincinnati and a friend of Adam’s from P&G whose speciality is teaching people how to get paid for following their passions.  Great to get to know her (and her friend Mike!) at the summit.

Micah Killion: Fellow panelist in the portfolio career discussion.  It is my great hope that someday a puppet character of mine will need a trumpet voice.  Micah is my guy for this idea…

Emily Weingarten at www.breadnutbakery.com.  I have hope for the future of education after meeting Emily… she will be pursuing a Master’s in Special Education.

Jonathan Kuuskoski:  An AE team member who makes this work possible.  He too was part of the cheesy food search….

Nate Zeisler:  Event organizer and our original contact at Arts Enterprise.  This guy wears many hats and all of them well.  He worked incredibly hard to make this summit what it was and I commend him for it!  I look forward to teaming up with Nate again soon!!

I could go on and on.  I am still looking up all of my new friends/co-workers and exploring their online presence.  It’s fascinating and inspiring to see all of the various ways they are all cobbling together these amazing artistic lives.  Before I log off here, one last really cool thing.  I came home to find an email from Etsy that one of my paintings had been selected by a fellow artist to be a part of her themed and curated ‘treasury’ which is like an online art show.  I am honored and humbled.  (and tickled, of course)  It’s nice to know people are at least looking at the work….. next stop sales.  Get ’em while their hot people!


A quick hello before I leave tomorrow on my adventure to Kansas City where the folks at Arts Enterprise are hosting their annual summit.  My Drawing Down the Vision cohort Adam and I will be sharing a bit of our research, process and current thinking about how keeping an active sketch journal is one avenue to clearer thinking and a more pointed communication with oneself.  It’s exciting and relevant stuff in this day and age where things move so fast that deeper thinking is difficult to fit in.

I must admit to being a tad nervous about the public speaking notion of this engagement.  Even teaching a small class is something for which I muster a decent amount of courage on a regular basis.  The butterflies (I like to think of them as internal cheerleaders) never really subside.  But when I am teaching what I love, which is this process of self-illumination via the sketchbook, I am able to transcend the nerves enough to get comfortable. I am banking on this phenomenon at the summit.  To me, public speaking embodies the very essence of vulnerability.  Awhile back I came across a TED video by ‘researcher-storyteller’, Brene’ Brown about the power of vulnerability.  I have kept this video in mind as we have prepared for this weekend, knowing that if I speak from the heart, and be myself, what we know and the work we do will shine.  I am excited to participate in the summit this weekend and to meet others in all of the interesting fields looking to bring more creativity to their work!

Meanwhile, on the home front, I have begun looking into getting some chickens.  We live  in an area blessed with tons of green space and our yard alone has an acre of land.  I know plenty of people in other areas of the city who keep chickens in their yards and would like to get a few going here.  I like the idea of gathering eggs and frankly, chickens are just funny animals to have around.  The only problem is, in spite of our local village’s original objective that the area keep its ‘rural atmosphere’, chickens are, at this point, prohibited.  So I began to do a little digging around by stopping at the Village Hall and getting the name of who to contact to get this ball rolling.  Although we have lived here a few years, I have only just begun to get acquainted with the government of the little Village we call home.  I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know the mayor’s name when I started this endeavor!  But I do now (thanks to a friend active in local food politics) and she seems at least open to modernizing Village Law to include the keeping of chickens.  The Village Manager checked with the Village Solicitor who suggested that the code be amended for all, versus the notion of our getting a one time variance.  There are simply too many hoops to jump through and the code language is distinctly anti-chicken.  And so I dip my toes into local law to see about getting some backyard chickens.  Politics and Law are not what I would call my forte, but animals of all shapes and sizes are.  It is a constant goal of mine to inject soul into my surroundings via the way I live and the work I do.  Have you ever really looked at a chicken?  They have a good bit of soul.  I’ll keep you posted on how this all works out.  Chances are, I’ll be choking back the public speaking nerves again at some point at a Village Council meeting to get chicken related by-laws changed.