The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Alliance calls community meeting for Wednesday August 31, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:31 am
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From Kevin McKeown, the new Director of Communications at The Alliance for Arts and Culture:

Alliance for Arts and Culture

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
1 pm to 3 pm
Museum of Vancouver
1100 Chestunut Street

The Alliance for Arts and Culture will convene a community meeting on Wednesday, September 2 at the Museum of Vancouver to discuss our options in response to this week’s announcements regarding BC Gaming Commission Direct Access Grants. The meeting will run from 1 pm to 3 pm.

We will attempt to quantify the damage, bring one-another up-to-date on protest initiatives currently being taken by individual artists, organizations and discipline sectors, and discuss the pros and cons of several possible courses of action for the future.

This meeting will NOT be open to the media, elected officials or cultural sector bureaucrats. While we appreciate the support we are receiving from many in each of these sectors, the arts community needs this opportunity to “talk among ourselves”.

This is NOT a “rally” so we are only looking for one or two pesons from each arts organizations to attend. A full-scale arts community rally in the near future will be one of the options discussed. So please don’t send your entire staff and/or membership!

Arts organizations that are not members of the Alliance are welcome to send representatives to this gathering.

Please RSVP to indicating how many representatives from your organization will be attending. Seating is limited, so we need to count noses. We will begin at precisely 1 pm, so plan to arrive early.

We have had numerous emails over the past few days from Alliance members and non-members informing us of declined Direct Access grants.

To help us quantify the damage to our community in advance of Wednesday’s community meeting, could you take a moment to email us the following details, in the order noted:

  • Name of your organization.
  • Amount of declined grant request.
  • Whether this was a one-year or multi-year grant.
  • If multi-year, which year was declined.
  • How many years your organization has been receiving Direct Access funding.
  • Whether your organization has a BC Arts Council grant pending.

The government now seems to be mixing apples with oranges in order to make it as difficult as possible to understand our exact standing with various sources of funding. At least one arts organization has received confirmation of a BCAC grant which cites the Gaming Grants Program as the source of the funds, and states that the money will be deposited to the recipient’s Gaming account.

If you receive a similar BCAC grant confirmation, please let us know whether that grant is for the full amount of your original BCAC funding request.

We would also like to hear from any organization which received a Direct Access Grant or grant confirmation in the past week, or does so in the coming days. So far, the only approved grants seem to be those confirmed prior to the freeze — most of them in May.

Please keep your responses to the above questions brief and factual. I will have to compile the answers in a spreadhseet, and lengthy and anecdotal replies will slow down the process.

Thank you for your collaboration.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture will hold a media conference to announce the outcomes of Wednesday’s community meeting on Thursday, September 3, at a time and place to be determined.

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Massive turnout at Press Conference in support of Spencer Hebert August 30, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 1:35 pm
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What a way to catch up with friends and colleagues.

The theatre community was well represented today at the press conference at Spencer Hebert’s downtown office. Many of them were my colleagues, friends, and clients. But it’s like meeting people you haven’t seen in ages a funereal: while you’re happy to see them and catch up with them, you’re sad that this is the occasion that brings you together.

So, to quickly summarize: The provincial government has promised arts and non-profit organizations money from its Gaming

Crowds spill out onto the sidewalk at the press conference today

Crowds spill out onto the sidewalk at the press conference today

revenue. What this means is, some of the money that they make (last year $1 Billion), from lotteries goes to non-profit and arts organisations. Some theatre companies have mult-year agreements, to the tune of $40,000 per year, for three years. This is money that they have signed a contract for with the government, and are counting on to produce shows. The money is already allocated.

In the case of some theatre companies, like Touchstone and Ruby Slippers, the money comes at the end of thier fiscal year. They made choices and spent with the knowledge that that money was coming. In the case of Touchstone, the result is that they are now facing an unprecedented (in their 35 years) deficit, because thier season is over, but they were expecting that money, which is now not coming.

I think a lot of the outrage is because of this. In the arts, we are used to having little, and to making our work on a shoestring. What is making people so angry is that this is money that they were assured they would be getting, and it is now being taken back.

If someone did something like that in the corporate world, they would be immediately sued.

The devastation is wide-spread. I don’t know of too many theatre companies in Vancouver who have not been affected. At the press conference, I spoke to the ADs of Touchstone, Ruby Slippers, Leaky Heaven Circus and Theatre Terrific, all of whom I worked for last season, all of whom are facing massive cutbacks. Presentation House is affected, but Full Figure has not yet heard.

Deb Pickman, whose Shameless Hussy Theatre company goes into rehearsals tomorrow for their latest production, Frozen, has said that the three company members (herself included) will be forced to forgo their salaries as a result of the cuts, and tour planned and advertised for the fall may have to be cut if they can’t make up the shortfall. Carol Higgins of Carousel Theatre recently posted on Facebook about how she was going to make up for the shortfall.

At this moment, I don’t know if my own work will be directly impacted, but it certainly will impact the theatre community as a whole, and future contracts will certainly be affected.

Vancouver Sun story

Global TV story

CTV story

The Province, Aug 31

A facebook group has sprung up called Organizing Against Campbell’s Cuts to the Arts.

Alliance for Arts and Culture

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
1 pm to 3 pm
Museum of Vancouver
1100 Chestunut Street

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Local arts community rallies in the face of massive cuts August 29, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:23 am
Tags: , ,

This always happens when I take a vacation. Something big.

The arts community, including many theatre companies here in Vancouver, rely heavily on gaming for funding. What that means is, non-profit organizations (which includes many arts organizations) get grants for operating and projects from revenue that the goverment makes off of lotteries, bingo and the like.

On August 14,  the government instituted a freeze on this money, pending a review. This freeze was lifted on August 24, but yesterday, many companies learned that grants that they were relying on for the next year or two have been cut.

You can read more about this story:

The Georgia Straight

The Westender

The Alliance for Arts and Culture


A press conference/rally has been called for tomorrow at Spencer Hebert’s office (Spencer is the opposition’s Art critic).

Here’s the information, courtesy of Jessie Van Rijn, who’s the GM at Carousel Theatre, and yesterday’s letter from Spencer:

A press conference will be held Sunday Aug. 30 at Spencer Herbert’s office. He would like as many people there as possible – arts organizations, arts lovers of all kinds, and particularly those who were on multi-year Direct Access agreements. If you are on a multi-year agreement and would like an opportunity to speak at the conference, please come a half hour early. And please pass this information along to everyone you know.

SUNDAY AUG. 30, 12:00 NOON
923 Denman St (btw Barclay and Haro)
Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

28 August 2009

Dear Friends of Arts and Culture,

Today is black Friday for our province’s arts and culture industries.

We are learning today that most arts and culture organizations who did not receive their gaming grant before the BC Liberal’s instituted their unannounced freeze will likely be getting zero dollars this year.
For some groups that can mean they will lose up to $100,000 in funding, and the money will likely not be there for organizations next year either.

Some groups will fold, others will go into massive debt, and others will lay off staff and cancel programs.
Some organizations had been guaranteed 3 years of funding by the government, and were waiting for the second year of funding after spending on the programs the government guaranteed them would be funded – and are now told they won’t receive it, and will have to re-apply.

This has come about because of the government’s budget lie.

They said the deficit would only be $495 million before the election despite top economists, and the Official Opposition’s warnings and now after the election acknowledge it will be much bigger.

One month before the election campaign kicked off I asked the Minister responsible about the province’s commitment to arts and culture and he said ‘there is no reason for the member to suggest that funding that has taken place in the past is somehow or other in jeopardy in this next fiscal year. It is not in jeopardy. This is assured funding during very, very challenging times.’

He also said in response to my first letter to the arts community about the government’s
plans to cut arts funding by 50% ‘The member goes on to say in this letter to the arts and culture community: “After the election, the budget will then decline by about 50 percent.”

That also is just wrong, and the member has no substantiation for saying that.”

The Minister’s statement is now proven to be a lie, and a lie that will cost us all economically, socially, and culturally.

From government reports we learn that BC Gaming’s investment in arts and culture is going from 19.8 million to somewhere in the area of 10.9 million, although none of this will go to people who have applied to gaming as it’s being used for the first time to pay for the BC Arts Council’s usual programs whose funding has been cut.

The government’s direct Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts budget is set to decline 50% next year, and possibly more depending on what comes out in the budget on Tuesday. on the whole it looks like a nearly 75% cut to arts and culture investment in BC. We’ll know more on Budget day, and I will let you know when I hear anything.

Can you pass this e-mail on to all of your contacts, and let me know what you are receiving from Gaming, and the BC Arts Council? Also please let me know if you are on multi-year funding, and were supposed to be getting your grants, but are now not and what this will do to your organization.
I will continue to stand for a strong creative economy, and support arts and culture organizations province wide.

We know that for every dollar invested by the province the province makes $1.38 back in taxes. That is sound economics.

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Blog success August 28, 2009

Filed under: marketing with blogs,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:21 am
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At the risk of sounding “boasty,” I wanted to share something with you.

As you know, I went on vacation for two weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. During that time, I didn’t put up one post, in fact, I don’t think I logged into my WordPress account at all. I was, after all, on vacation!

When I came home and looked at my blog stats (not that I’m addicted, or anything), I expected to see a straight line across the bottom. I expected that basically no one had visited my blog, because I hadn’t been putting up fresh posts.

Imagine my surprise and happiness when I saw this:
Picture 1

The period of my vacation is the part on the left, from the beginning until August 14, when I put up my first post after coming home. Not bad. In fact, not terribly different than my “normal” stats.

I’ve been committed to putting up three posts a week, now since October 2008, and this is where I am happy to say, I am really starting to see it paying off.

Additionally, I am so grateful to you readers for your amazing and insightful comments. There have been more of them than usual lately, and I wanted to thank you. You’re awesome, and it gives me a charge every day when I read them.

There are lots of things in store for the fall. I’m working on lots of guest posts with people, interviews with interesting people, and I am, more than likely, going to migrate my blog over to my website, so that I can take advantage of all of WordPress’ excellent add-ons and widgets.

So, continue to stay tuned! (and thanks again.)

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Why I love the Theatre. Reason #12 August 26, 2009

Filed under: Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:25 am
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You may have heard the rumor that I have been on vacation. In Greece.bexandbacchus2

While the purpose of my trip was solely for rest and relaxation, I spent the last two days before coming home exploring the ruins of the Acropolis in Athens. This included the Theatre of Dionysus, which, is, in essence, the birthplace of theatre.

I remember sitting in first-year theatre history class in university and learning about the Dithyramb—a spring-time ritual that consisted of a chorus of 50 men or boys dancing around a massive phallus. This was all in honour of the god Dionysus, who was the god of fertility and wine. This was all taking place centuries before Christ.

Here in North America, we live in a culturally young place. Our country, at less than 150 years old, is still developing its cultural identity. One of the things I love about the theatre is that sense of cultural connection. Not just to the past, but to the present, to the brotherhood of actors and directors and writers.

Seven years ago, I traveled through the UK. My trip ended at Stratford-upon-Avon, and I remember feeling totally overwhelmed by the history of the place. As I walked the path by the river between the theatre and Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried, I thought “Shakespeare maybe walked this very path.” And I was overcome by emotion at his grave, where I sat for fully a half hour.

I was overcome by that same emotion at the Theatre of Dionysus. We come from a rich cultural background that ties us together, past to present.

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Why social media? August 24, 2009

Filed under: Business relationships,E-book,Touchpoints — Rebecca Coleman @ 11:42 am
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(the following is an excerpt from my e-book: Guide to Getting Started with Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations)

Marketing is creating relationships built on trust.

The days of heavy‐handed, high‐pressure sales tactics are gone. The advent of Television, mass print,
and the internet made it easy for advertisers to get their products under our noses. But after many years
of being bombarded with literally thousands of ads per day, we have developed the ability to tune it out.

I see us returning to the day of the door‐to‐door salesman. In the ‘50’s, housewives often bought wares
from a familiar salesman that came around at regular intervals. There was a trust between the buyer
and the seller that was built on personality, and getting to know each other (for the seller, getting to
truly know his housewives’ needs).

While I’m not advocating you start trying to sell your artwork door‐to‐door, I am encouraging you to
jump  into  social  media  because  it  is  a  very  powerful  form  of  relationship  marketing.  Relationship
marketing works because if you get someone on your side, they will bring others to you. Think about
products that you use in your own life. If you really love something, and are finding that it makes your
life easier, won’t you tell others about it? You become, in essence, an ambassador for that product. And
if you tell a friend and convert them, and then they tell someone… well, you get the idea. Social media
makes this process painless, easy, and, immediate.

Any marketer worth their salt will tell you that word‐of‐mouth is always your number one form of
advertising. And the joy of social networking is that you have the ability to reach new, and perhaps
untapped, markets, all from the comfort of your own computer.

I recently came across this great YouTube video, created by the fine folks over at 22 Squared, which illustrates this point perfectly.

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Wanderlust August 21, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:46 am
Tags: ,

My parents were gypsies.

Okay, that’s not technically true, but it’s something I joke about all the time. You see, I’m the youngest (by far) of five kids. And DSC00565by the time my older siblings were old enough to have jobs and be in high school and cook thier own Kraft Dinner, I was all of 9. So my itchy-to-travel parents had to take me along. Pretty much any time there was a break in school, Christmas, summer vacation, we were gone. I had seen the entire country twice before I even hit double-didgets.

To this day, I have a very strong wanderlust. Some days I just want to get in my car and drive. Being on the highway gives me a thrill. Going on a ferry makes me happy. I just got back from two weeks in Greece, and I have taken plenty of solo camping trips.

Traveling is expensive, and we didn’t have tons of money. Not to mention taking time off of work means no income coming in. But we always figured it out. It was a priority. So, while every scrap of clothing I wore for my entire first 12 years came in the form of a hand-me-down from my cousins or my next-door neighbour, I got so spend Christmas in California.

This gets me to thinking about the theatre. If I take my son to the theatre, just as a matter-of-fact, as “normal,” will he grow up to crave the theatre in the same way that I crave the highway? Our community often worries about the audience of the future–where will they come from? Is this the answer?

I get that theatre, especially big-ticket shows, are expensive, and buying tickets for a family of four is daunting. Perhaps some of us can implement (or already have) family passes, where they give a discount for a small family group. If we want to build an audience for the future, we have to be part of the solution.

I also get that, to some degree, the stuff that we are producing (particularly in indie theatre) might not be appropriate for younger audiences. But I also think that we might under-estimate what our kids can handle, or what might or might not be appropriate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you involved with a theatre company that is trying to reach out to a younger audience? How are you making that work?

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Uses of video: Blog intro August 18, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,Marketing with YouTube — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:14 am
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I’ve been thinking so much lately about how to start incorporating video into my blog. I just got a new Mac with a built-in webcam, so it’s not implausible to think that I might start doing some vlog posts at some point.

But what I’ve been really wanting is to have a video with me introducing my blog. You see, while you might be able to get a sense of who I am from my written voice, I really want folks out there to get a sense of my energy.

So, yesterday, I asked Simon to shoot a video introduction to my blog for me. The results are below. I’d love to hear what you think, and if you think this might be something you could apply to your own business. This video is on YouTube, but will live permanently on my “About” page.

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Please don’t call me a “social media expert” August 17, 2009

I recently did an interview with Corwin Christie for the Technology in the Arts blog. As you know, in June, I launched my e-book: Getting Started With Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations. Since then, the good little marketer that I am, I’ve been exploring every avenue to promote it, so I was totally jazzed when Corwin found me and asked to do an interview with me.

I have to say, those were some some tough questions, but I like a challenge. You can read the final post here.

The back says "because this t-shirt says so"

The back says "because this t-shirt says so"

In the introduction to the post, Corwin rightly goes on to reflects on the term “social media expert”, which is a term that I have always felt uncomfortable applied to myself.

Really, anyone with a Twitter account can call themselves a social media expert. I mean, there’s nothing to stop them. There is no professional association of social media experts, no university or college certifications. Our world is so new, we are literally making it up as we go along.

What alarms me about the term “social media expert” is, people who are just jumping on the social media bandwagon may come across a self-professed “social media expert” and purchase services from them: a course, some consulting, or yes, an e-book. And it’s really buyer beware. Just because you call yourself a social media expert, doesn’t mean you are Gary Vanderchuck or Guy Kawasaki.

So, here’s  a couple of ways to tell if someone is really an expert or not.

1.    What are the numbers? Check out their profiles on Facebook and Twitter. How many friends do they have? What is their Twitter follower-to-followee ratio? Do they have a Facebook Fan page? And if so, how many fans? This point is about sheer quantity.
2.    Do they offer value? Check out their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Are they all personal? Are they all links to cute YouTube puppy videos? Or are they links of value, linking to their own blog, or someone elses’ about the latest and greatest in social media?
3.    Do they have a website? Is their website entirely dedicated to selling, or are there some freebies or useful information? Is there an about page so that you can get to know a little about them?
4.    Do they have a blog? How long have they been blogging for? Does their blog have an about page? A blogroll?

These are all useful criteria for judging expert status.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the term. I prefer to think of myself as someone who is learning about this stuff, but I’m just a little ahead of the curve. And maybe a couple of people along the way can benefit from my experience.

For a bit of fun (and some solid info) on the topic, check this out.

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Happy Birthday to me August 14, 2009

Filed under: Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:20 am

Today’s my birthday. And not just any birthday. You see, today I turn 40.

Me, four days ago, at the Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora at the Acropolis.

Me, four days ago, at the Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora at the Acropolis.

So today’s blog post is dedicated to a little self-reflection.

More than anything today, I feel really, really grateful. I have a successful business, a great kid, and someone special, with whom I just spent two weeks traipsing around Greece (fodder for future blog posts, for sure!). I just bought a newer car,  I have food in the fridge, and am able to pay all my bills. In other words, I’m in a really good place right now.

This really good place feels extra good because the last two years have been the darkest time of my life. I won’t bother with those details, but let’s just say when it rains, it pours. But over the last six months or so, I am finally feeling like I am through the woods and into the light, and coming, truly, into my own.

When I reflect on my twenties and thirties, I see some pretty clear patterns. My twenties were all about living my life in the way that other people wanted me to. My thirties were all about breaking free of those expectations. I’m still working on it–a lifetime of living a certain way is certainly not going to change over night–but I’m getting better.

As I turn 40, it occurs to me that I’m not actually learning too many new things these days. I am, however, re-learning things constantly. And a big one that keeps coming up for me is around fear, and keeping my life small. I’m one of those people that hates to be disappointed, so sometimes I keep my expectations low or I create excuses to explain why I can’t do something. Going to Greece taught me, again, that I am very capable, and when I put my mind to do something, I will figure it out. To borrow a phrase, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. And in the end, it all works out. So, as my friend Tanja Dixon-Warren says, say yes, then figure out how to make it happen.

Let that be my motto for the next 40 years and beyond.

Thank you for indulging me. It’s the best present ever. Except maybe chocolate.

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