The Art of the Business

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

Getting the Kids In September 20, 2010

Here’s what we know: children who are exposed to the arts from an early age, will, statistically speaking, probably grow up to be life-long consumers of art.

So, if you take your kids to see The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, chances are, when they grow up, they will continue to go to The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, and take their own families as well.

We are blessed in this city with companies like Carousel, and the VAG has family programs, as well.

For my birthday last month, I wanted to see the Impressionist exhibit at the VAG. I am a lifelong impressionist lover, Degas being my favorite artist. I went with my sweetie and my seven-year-old son. It wasn’t his first trip to the VAG, and he was pretty well behaved for a seven-year-old, but a couple of weeks later, when I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, I discovered Kids’ Activity Trails.

I was there to see the main exhibit: European Masters: Stadel Museum 19-20th Century. It was an amazing collection, and I got to see lots of Impressionists and whole room (Sally Stubbs!) of Beckmann.

As I was wondering through, I noticed small plates, similar to the plates that contained the name and description that accompanied each painting. These plates were hung lower, at a kid’s eye-level, and featured a large letter and a couple of questions. The Trail worked two ways: first of all, as a kind of a treasure-hunt for kids: they had to go through the gallery and find all 26 letters of the alphabet. Second, each plate had a word on it (corresponding to its letter of the alphabet) that asked a question related to the painting to which it referred. (sorry I don’t have photos, they weren’t permitted in the gallery)

I couldn’t help but think how much Michael would have loved it. It was engaging and fun for kids.

In order for us to get kids hooked on art, it has to be affordable, and there has to be something there that engages them.

Have you seen any great examples of engaging children in art recently that you’d like to share?

UPDATE: I just saw this great Editorial in The Star written by Des McAnuff, the AD of the Stratford Festival (the Canadian one), and it’s perfect for today’s blog post.

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The E-Myth July 12, 2010

Ah, summer’s here. My schedule is slower, I’m only working a couple of hours a day. After that, I am mostly pool- and park-side with my 7-yr-old son. There are certainly worse ways to spend a summer.

While he’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine: and that often means that I’m catching up on my business book reading. This week, I finally finished The E-Myth. More about that in a sec.

In a not-unrelated segue, I also went to Canadian Tire last week to purchase a chair for my patio. It’s one of those ones that folds up into a little bag, so it comes with me to the pool, the park, or camping. While I was in Canadian Tire, a young, clean looking young woman came up to me and asked me if I’d like to collect a boat-load of extra Canadian Tire money, and if I’d like to continue to collect extra money on all my Canadian Tire purchases. It took me maybe about 5 seconds to realize that she was really trying to sell me a Canadian Tire credit card.

I thanked her, told her I already had all the credit cards I need, and went about my business.

But as I walked away, I felt a mixture of emotions. First, I felt bad for that girl. Bad, because I’ve been in University and had to do crappy sales jobs, too. Bad because she was just doing what she was trained to do, and was probably pretty good at it, but it wasn’t working on me (maybe making me feel bad was a sales tactic? I’d apply for a card out of pity?) I also felt a bit angry, which is how I always feel when I’m being “marketed at” either in person, or by phone.

Back to The E-Myth. There’s some good stuff in there.  For example, I really love how Gerber talks about how you should run your business, not have your business run you, and this little gem: “your business is a means rather than an end, a vehicle to enrich your life rather than one that drains the life you have.” I will probably write more about the parts of the book I really enjoyed at a later date, once I’ve had time to digest it all and implement some of the practices Gerber talks about.

Having said that, it has taken me a long time to get through this book, and here is why: Gerber’s model is based on franchising. The whole goal of any business, he says, should be to franchise, OR to build their business to a place where they can sell it and retire. A great idea in theory, but it feels outdated to me.

In the Chapter 18, he talks about selling methods, and guess what? His system is exactly the system that that young woman at Canadian Tire tried to use on me!

Why doesn’t it work?

Franchises and sales strategies are based upon a couple of things: first off, each client should have exactly the same experience. So, if I walk into the Starbucks around the corner from my house, or the one on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, I should basically have the same experience in terms of decor, service, and menu. Our young woman’s sales pitch was based on a script that her bosses know will not work the majority of the time. But based on sheer volume, they figure they can get enough profit, anyway.

What’s missing for me, in both of these scenarios, is the personal touch. The individual, getting-to-know-you stage. I can walk into any Starbucks and order an Americano Misto, and know what I’m going to get. But I won’t know the person behind the counter, like I do at the smaller, independently-owned coffee shop on Commercial Drive that I like to frequent (their coffee is also way better than Starbucks, but that’s another post). If that gal knew me better, she’d know that I am a staunch believer in having only 2 credit cards: one personal, and one business. I’m not her target market.

For me, this book felt outdated, and the tone of it, honestly, was a bit condescending. However, there were some good things in it, as well, and I will devote another post to the things about it liked.

In the mean time, feel free to disagree with me….

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