Artist Inc. – helping artists achieve professionalism

Artist Inc. is an exciting new program at TOSA. Funded by a grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts this 10-week course is designed to help visual artists of all types to improve and enhance their business and professional skills. We are thrilled to have eleven dedicated and enthusiastic artists taking part in the program’s inaugural year.  The program is inspired by the long-running EDGE program through Seattle’s Artist Trust.

The group met for the first time on April 10 when they attended the Create Denver Expo, a well-organized event run by Ginger White and the excellent staff at the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs. There, they could attend a wide variety of workshops led by professionals in the arts and business communities.  I sat in on two helpful sessions:

Robin Bond of Citizen Pictures led a session about how to sell yourself to “Suits.”  These CEO-types love to make decisions, are very direct, are early adaptors to innovative ideas and technology, and admire creativity.  She encouraged everyone to have their 30-second “elevator speak” at the ready because you never know if a parent at your child’s school or a guest at your cousin’s wedding could become a future customer, business partner or patron of your artwork.  {If you don’t have your personal elevator speak, create it soon and practice it often.  It will take some time to roll off your tongue.}  Once in a meeting with a top-level executive, be cognizant of the details (what does this person like/dislike – do your research about them), stay on target (don’t talk about nothing), maintain confidence, and always close with a direct question that requires them to follow up.  They will most likely admire you for your persistence.

Next, I attended a session about public speaking led by Steve Kultala, a consultant and trainer on this topic.  He spent a lot of time putting one poor workshop participant on the spot – she had to stand in front of the group repeating herself until she mastered the public speaking technique that Steve was teaching.  In the end, it was fun to see someone learn to take dramatic pauses, to engage individuals around the room in the eye, to speak with articulation and to slow down.  Steve emphasized that you should try to make conscious decisions while you are speaking in front of a group – be present, respond to your audience members as if you are in one-on-one conversations.  Most important is to not be afraid of silence – silence is what helps your audience connect with you and process what you are saying.

In the main lobby of the Webb Building where the Expo was held, there were a whole host of arts groups and business resources to network with and take advantage of – what a great way to gain exposure about what’s happening around Denver.  I feel lucky to live in such a burgeoning art town!

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