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Tim Fredrick on QCA's Artist Peer Circle Program

Writer Tim Fredrick shares his experiences with and feelings about QCA's Artist Peer Circle Program.

Queens Council on the Arts' Artist Peer Circle program helps artists gather, grow, build partnerships, and become leaders in their fields guided by a trained facilitator in 9-month program cycles. Artists and creative professionals meet in small groups monthly developing strong alliances and acting as resources to each other and becoming leaders in their individual field or discipline.

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I am an Artist and... an Interview with Guy Ventoliere

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post

Does an artist have to starve in order to make a life in art?

In this series of interviews, I am asking people who have, by their own definition, a successful creative career.  They have built a life around conscious choices and values that looks very different from the standard idea of what an artist is.

What their lives look like may surprise you:  they are artists in studios, part of city agencies, owners of manufacturing and real estate companies, artists-in-residences in all kinds of places.  

What is common to all of them is this: they are happy.

I believe there is great wisdom behind the in flight safety message that instructs you to put your oxygen mask on yourself first.  In this situation, you clearly will not be able to help anybody else if you cannot take care of yourself first.

The same is true in life.

You cannot build a successful creative life if you do not take care of yourself first.

Guy Ventoliere is an artist with a unique and successful career path that has earned him the name of “the theatre whisperer”.

He has harnessed his skills as an actor and in many other areas of theatre and business to grow a successful artistic career and now helps others do the same.

How do you self-identify?

“You are at a cocktail party and someone asks you who you are. What do you say?”

It depends on who I am talking to. I usually say I am the Director of Sales for a large audio visual company.

“How do you answer that question for yourself?”

I am a Renaissance man. I want to know how to do everything. A lot of artists will say things like, I can’t do numbers and taxes… I’m an artist.

As Lopakhin in “The Cherry Orchard”

For me, the opposite is true. I can do anything because I am an artist. I direct, act, and I know most of the technical elements of theatre like lighting. I have built sets and props for many plays for places like Lincoln Center. I know fundraising and development and how to direct children’s theatre. The paintings on my walls I have painted and the furniture throughout my house I have built.  And I have had a very successful career in large enterprise account management and sales.

I started out as a stage carpenter with very little experience. I was teaching kids, doing my carpentry, acting and directing. Then made a drastic turn and became the director of development for a nonprofit in the arts. I didn’t know anything when I started but eventually managed to double the budget. How did I do that? I communicate well with people and I’m not afraid to fail. That is so important.

Acting and art is about honesty. About being truthful on stage and in life.

I hate the term “starving artists”. Many people have more than one job to make it. Artists can also supplement their needed income to survive. Sometimes we have to embrace a life of multi-careers so there is food on the table. You don’t have to starve. Look, I’m an actor and a sales guy. I do different things because being an artist allows me to think creatively and critically, embrace the diversity around us and to do the variety of jobs one may need to do in order to survive. And being an artist allows us to do these things well.

When I was in telecommunications, I was the top sales guy with a higher client retention rate than all my other coworkers who had more education and experience than I. My boss threw a surprise party for my 40th birthday where she wrote a note about me that read, “Thank you for reminding me to always hire sales people with an arts background.”

Many artists close themselves off, they don’t have a lot of world experience and they stay isolated with their art distrusting things like corporate America, stock brokers, men in suits, and CEOs.

My experience in corporate America has been different. My last CEO was an opera buff. He was so happy to see that he had an actor and a director in his employ that he allowed me and my girlfriend to expense tickets to DC to see a production of “Romeo & Juliet” with him and his wife. This CEO loved and appreciated the arts. I have never come across people in business that looked down on me  because I was an artist.

I have always been able to direct and act on the side while holding down a full time job. I never wanted to be a waiter so I could go on auditions and wait for my big break. I wanted to work 9 to 5, have health insurance and stability and have my nights free to rehearse theatre. Feeling secure allowed me to have the finances and freedom of mind to explore and explode artistically.

There was a time I was given an ultimatum by one of my bosses to attend a conference in the summer during the Hip to Hip Theatre season that I was involved in. I was saddened by this but did not hesitate to choose theatre. Management grew to understand doing this theatre work was important to me and only enhanced my capabilities at the job. I am always one of the top sales people at my job, the top out of about 200 during my heaviest season of theatre actually.

Now, I use the various aspects of business that I have learned and what I do to help other artists and arts organizations. This past month I facilitated an interview with the Public Theatre for our dramaturg at Hip to Hip and provided the needed equipment to the American Bard Theatre’s production of “Visionary Voices”. I also got them an intern to help with costuming. I helped transform a cafeteria into a theatre for Riverdale Children’s Theatre Company while also playing the cat in “Suessical” along with all the pre-season work that needs to get done for Hip to Hip including meeting with several possible interns for our upcoming season.

What are the benefits and challenges of being an artist and…

One of the benefits of what I do is the extreme diversity of communication I have with all kinds of people, from CEOs to inner city kids. People come to me as an “idea guy” because of my varied experiences in the corporate environment, knowledge of art and theatre. They know I can step in and help. Someone at The Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company once called me “ the theatre whisperer”. The term stuck.

As Richard II in a Nicu’s Spoon production

 

Another benefit is happiness. I am always performing, I am always involved in a play, I always have an outlet. In the past 2 years, I have done 8 plays. Money is never a challenge for me. I am always able to help others and to donate back my stipends when working with a struggling theatre company.

One challenge I have always faced is that work sometimes interferes. For that reason, I have always sought out jobs that allowed me to work around my theatre and my art. Not waiter jobs. Good old 9-5 jobs.

What are you working on now?

I recently became the Chair for the Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company and I serve on the board of the Unity Stage Company. In addition to all that, I am the Managing Director for Hip to Hip Theatre and I am proud to say that we have been successful in reaching our goal of performing in every borough. In our first year, we had an audience of 600 people. We now serve 8000 people per season in 14 parks citywide. Our next goal is to increase that to 10,000 people.

I just closed “Cows of War”, an adaptation of “Peace” by Aristophanes as part of the Hunter College MFA Playwrights. This past summer I did “Hamlet” at the Brick Theatre and “The Tempest” for the Shakespeare Forum and Identity Theatre in Manhattan. I am currently working with the Riverdale Children’s Theatre Company’s (RTC) production of “Suessiscal”. RTC is ranked one of the top 8 children’s theatre companies in the country.  I have also started preparing for the role of Cassius in “Julius Caesar” in May and have had several meetings and read-throughs for an original play called “Sweet Sixteen” that will be appearing off-Broadway the last quarter of 2017. I am also slated to perform in a series of plays this summer for a very well-known and prominent theatre company but I am not allowed to speak about it until it is announced.

In the role of Doctor Caius that won Best Supporting Actor for Queens Kudos

 

I am working on my graduate degree in drama which is both theory and criticism. Next semester I have a reading list of about 1000 pages in of very dense critical theory, 31 plays from Greek to contemporary genres. I am required to submit five 750 page responses, a 10 page paper with a presentation, and a 20 page paper. And that’s for 1 class.

Where can people see more of your work?

Managing Director/Actor - Hip to Hip Theatre Company - http://www.hiptohip.org/
Board Member - Unity Stage - http://unitystage.org/
Chairmen of the Board - Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company - http://www.spoontheater.org/
Advisor/ Teaching Artist – Riverdale Children’s Theatre Company - http://riverdaletheatre.org/
Acting Member – Identity Theatre - http://identitytheater.com/

And my future website currently in development – Simplyguy.com

What advice can you give to emerging artists and people with an inner artist?

Don’t be scared about your next meal. Go for it. I was so concerned about working to make money it inhibited me from really going the distance.

On the flip side, it has allowed me to do what I want to do, and that is good too.

Pitch in! Help where you can.  There is no room for STARS. Help out and paint something, sew costumes. This is all about collaboration and teamwork. Pitch in other areas.

I can’t stand actors who don’t contribute in other areas when they are working with a group that is already understaffed or underfunded. For younger artists, knowing all the aspects of your profession can only help you.

 

 

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Hoong Yee

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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QCA'S CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS

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"Creative Conversations" is a signature program of the Queens Council on the Arts. It is a monthly dinner meeting hosted in different Queens neighborhoods where artists have the opportunity to network, organize, meet community stakeholders, and develop strategies for community advocacy. It is open to artists and the general public. This event was hosted at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning. Upcoming "Creative Conversations" in Jamaica, Queens will be hosted at the SUNY Employment Opportunity Center.

Shawn Rene Graham, Deputy Director of Programs and Services at The Field (the field.org), participated in this "Creative Conversations" meeting and shared resources offered at The Field. Clocktower Radio will be present at each meeting to interview participating artists. 

CHECK OUT OUR PODCAST ON CLOCKTOWER RADIO FROM THE FIRST CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS MEETING:

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How To Make Time to Be an Artist

This article first appeared on Huffington Post

Tell me if this happens to you.

There is a new book out by a break through author and you think to yourself, “That could be me.  I wonder how she did it.”

You stand on line at a book signing and as you move closer to the author, you feel more and more frustrated holding that book in your hands while your book, the one you have always wanted to write, is still an unwritten dream.  As she autographs your copy, you make the same promise to yourself that you always make when you find yourself face to face with someone who is actually doing what you are longing to do, “OK, today I am going to write my book!”

The problem is that promise will have to fight its way through a laundry list of Other Important Reasons Why You Can’t to get you to sit down and do your work.  Here are the most common ones:

  • I’m too busy
  • I have no time
  • I have a big job
  • I have other priorities
  • I can’t get started

At this point, you know that you are the only one who can champion that promise through.

Without your help, that dream will remain what it is - just a dream. And you will always be on the line with the rest of the dreamers, another fan seeking an autograph, not the writer who has written the book.

Writers and artists have lives that are not that different from ours.  They have to live somewhere, put food on the table, and take care of themselves or their families.  They also have a passion to be creative, to make art and to get it out into the world to share with others.  How do they do this?

Artists actually have two passions.

The passion for their art which is the one that fuels their dreams and imagination.  This is what many people experience when they read a book or see a painting that touches them.  You see yourself in that work of art and you feel their creative spirit igniting your inner artist.

The other passion is their practice.  This is the part that is not so glamorous or exciting.  It is the alarm clock set for 4:45 am, it is the daily struggle to put a few good words on paper, to fight distractions, the will to create something faithfully, to acknowledge and thank yourself for the effort without judgement.

To show up.  Every single day.

The power of combining these two passions is formidable.  It will strengthen your creativity with focus and from this will come your book, your painting, your opera.

You will also be experiencing the benefits of an artistic life: creating joy and living an intentional, purposeful life.

Three simple steps to set up your practice

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen. “

Joseph Campbell on having a “bliss station,“ in The Power of Myth

Over time, you will find you are actually building a body of work.  You will also notice elevated levels of happiness in your life because you are doing something about that dream of yours and spending time working on what you are passionate about.

This practice requires commitment and perseverance.  By showing up every day, you will gain a strong sense of purpose. Sharing it with others will give you joy. This is what will sustain your creative spirit.

These three steps that lay between you as the fan and you as the artist.

Set your alarm

Find one hour a day.

Think about your typical day and find one hour of time.  Set an alarm, a calendar reminder, an alert or anything that will remind you it is your time for your practice.  

This should be a time that you can come to everyday and do your work. For me, this is that magical hour from 5:00 - 6:00 am. I set two alarms for myself.  One is to wake me up and one is my internal clock to be mentally prepared to fight my desire to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

Clean your desk

Keep your space clear.

This is your sacred space.

I believe the only things you need are your imagination and your tools.   For me, that means absolutely nothing on my desk, no sounds, no distractions.  No phones, Facebook, alerts.  No internal editor - myself.  I even turn all of my text white so I can just write without interruption.. Something I cannot do easily because I am so easily tempted to self edit as I write.

Sit in the chair.

Show up.

I have a friend who has a hard time getting himself to practice the cello.  He will walk into the practice room and walk around circling the cello before sitting down to play. Once he is sitting in his chair and practicing, time will fly and he wonders why he wasn’t doing this earlier.  

Sometimes getting past “circling the cello” and just sitting your chair is the most difficult challenge.

Make something

What terrifies me is the blank page.  

For you it may the empty canvas, the silence in your head.

You may also have that other pesky fear: of not being perfect.

Your job is to put something down on paper.  Get the story, the dance, the symphony out of your head and into the world.  It will look like a mess.  

“Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

If you are struggling with your work, here’s a piece of advice I find helpful:

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“Procrastinate.  If at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately, move on to some other task until that becomes unbearable. Then move on again circling back around to the first problem.  By now, your subconscious will have worked on it, sort of like sleep, only cheaper.”  from Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs

There are many dreamers in the world with a work of art one alarm clock away from becoming a wonderful reality.

Set yours now.

 

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Meet QAF 2016 Awardee Kensaku Shinohara

1. Can you tell us about your QAF funded project?

title: monster 

date: Dec 3-4, 2016 (not confirmed yet)

place: Queens Museum (not confirmed yet) 


My concept for monster is based on Trio, a dance I developed
in collaboration with two other dancers in 2014. Trio was an
active exploration of space and time and how these elements
influence character development and narrative within the
framework of modern dance. Since premiering, Trio has been restaged
for Ferrone Dance Hub (NYC), Mauriah Kraker (WI) and
conte (Japan). After working on Trio for a year, I’m now curious
to mine the choreographic concepts that spurred this short dance
on a larger scale via a new work, monster. For monster, I will
incorporate four dancers, both male and female, to elicit complex
inter-relationships and to yield a rich choreographic architecture
for the stage. I’m eager to immerse myself in the material of time
and space as choreographic tools once again in order to learn
more about how I can affect both audience and dancers’
experience of a dance by manipulating these essential elements
of performance.

 

2. How do you think this project will impact the community?

 

It will help bringing people from Manhattan and Brooklyn where there are more art events to Queens borough. They will start to know what is happening in Queens and will come back.

Also our work will inspire the art scene in Queens. Even Queens Museum has not brought many dance performances, so we hope to bring more contemporary/modern dance, especially since Queens Museum has extraordinary spaces. 

 

3. How has QCA been helpful in the grant process?

 

Especially the workshops and lectures were helpful to learn how to write the applications.

Also appreciate the quick response from QCA all the time.

 

4. Here is your chance, what do you want everyone to know about you as an artist and your process?

 

I create dance that is new and affects people's values. 

It may change your perspective. 

It may not look entertaining at a first sight, but it will inspire you somehow. 

 

I have my full artist statement here:

http://www.kensakushinohara.com/#!statement/cxs3

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