I am an Artist and… an Interview with Dan Corson

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This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

What could be better than making art that can truly touch people in the rush and tumble of their daily lives? To startle someone into an unexpected moment of joy?

I believe artists do this naturally. However, to make a life around creating art that changes peoples’ lives often requires other skills and mindsets that are not taught in MFA programs or art schools.

Dan Corson, an internationally recognized artist, says the creative process is a lens he sees the world through whether he is making art or making dinner.

He is an internationally recognized artist whose large-scale immersive installations and public artworks are infused with drama, passion, layered meanings and transform from day to night in mesmerizing ways. His projects have ranged from complex rail stations and busy public intersections to quiet interpretive buildings, meditation chambers and galleries.

Who are you? How do you self identify?

Really just as an artist and creator first (possibly an entrepreneur) and small business person second..

As a one-man band, I wear a lot of hats: artist, admin, webmaster, CFO, accounting, project manager, research assistant, experimenter, development director, PR director, coffee maker, shipping coordinator, copywriter, arts translator: from art-speak in museums and galleries to talking to structural engineers, architects, electrical engineers, programmers to public presentations.

There is great joy in creating artwork, but being a professional artist means that either I spend my time doing these supporting jobs or I pay someone (reducing my income) to do these jobs.

It all depends on how big of an “art studio” you want to employ and manage, and for me it worked best to keep many things in house.

Tell me, what are the benefits/ challenges of being both an artist and an administrator?

Having drive, perseverance, curiosity, and the ability to improvise and “make things up” that you don’t know how to do is critical.

No one taught me many of the things I now do – so if someone from a standard business practice came in to take over, I am sure they would really scratch their heads in figuring out my business process – but somehow it works for me.

Also being good at tracking and multitasking and being able to juggle lots of projects over wide timelines has been critical.

I think at my max I was working on 16 projects at once that were spanning 11 years in fabrication/installation schedules. It all depends on what your art is of course, but for me I focused on creating large-scale integrated and stand alone artworks and installations.

I had to teach myself how to run a business, and figure out a process that worked for me bringing these pieces from my brain into reality.

The interest and desire to challenge yourself is also crucial to keeping things fresh, and interesting for your artistic evolution.

Artists come to creative solutions in nonstandard ways and think a little bit differently to solve problems.

Balance is really important. For an art project, I spend 35% of my time with a pure art focus on art making. 65% of the time is making stuff happen – fabrication, contracts, supervising test samples, checking colors etc. Some of that you could think of as being part of making art.

Regarding my work/life balance – I am married, I live a normal life meaning I try to work normal yours unless I am under a deadline.

One of my challenges early on was being so focused on my art and not on my partner.

As an artist, it is so easy to get in the zone and let the creative juices flow. I needed to be reminded we have a life together.

How we worked that out was by communicating. Sometimes when creativity calls, it is just not convenient and it is really important to say, “Can you give me 2 hours, please?”

One of the challenges of working with public funds to create artwork is that there are other people involved who make decisions, cancel things or put projects on hold.

The benefit is that I can use resources from agencies to realize my artistic vision and work on a scale that would be impossible for me to do with my own money and resources.

Having the public as your employer and your audience is a very different experience from showing in a museum or a gallery. I get loving emails and letters from school kids and people who have been moved by my art. People actually seek me out because they want to tell me this.

I was listening to the radio one day and a guy called in who said, “I was super depressed, suicidal, and just walking around the city when I saw some artwork on the underside of an underpass. It was beautiful. It made me feel like someone cared about this space and environment and me. That literally stopped me from taking my life that day – this level of caring.

What he saw was a piece of my art. This is why I love doing what I do.

What are you working on now?

I have a handful of projects around the country and 2 projects installing in Canada this year.

One of those projects is composed of 2 room-sized teardrop sculptures that you can enter and use as an art weather shelter and spin around in like a teacup ride.

I am developing a new project in the Bay area that is composed of large 2 sculptural pieces on a private development adjacent to a BART station – that will be animated by the trains approaching.

Where can people follow your work?

First off they can visit my website to see images and videos of them and find out in what city they can find them: www.corsonart.com

A few representative projects: in San Jose: Sensing YOU and Sensing WATER are activated by people moving through the space and by weather events and can also be “hacked” by playing the augmented reality cellphone game INGRESS.

Adjacent to the Seattle Space Needle is a large solar, and sound sculpture called Sonic Bloom.

In Oakland CA, there is a large color-shifting wall sculpture called Shifting Topographies that changes color by the angle of the sun, and has kinetic projections on it at night that conjures the drama of the adjacent theatres and night clubs.

What advice do you have for people who make art and/or make art happen?

1. Keep your focus on the art- it can be easy to be bogged down in running your business.

2. Keep your monthly overhead as low as you can….Do you really NEED that big fancy studio, or can you rent or borrow one for a month or 2 when you need to mock something large up?

3. If you are not good at accounting and taxes, get someone else to do it and spend that time working on your artwork. You don’t want to get into fights with the IRS if you are not knowledgeable about the tax system.

4. If it bores you….don’t keep doing it…..that boredom will be infused into the artwork. Not necessarily the process of making the work -which can be labor intensive, but rather when you see the finished artwork does it still excite you? Will it be something that as an outsider will you find exciting/interesting/moving/curious/titillating etc.

5. Know your art history….and not just ancient art history (although that is important), but know about things in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s so you don’t re-create work that has been already done (without knowing it at least).

6. Keep an “art morgue” (a folder where you clip electronically and/or physically images that excite/ affect you strongly/ make you curious / love, or hate someone else for making because it is so smart…etc) We all get dry on ideas, and having an inspiration folder will remind you to take a new fresh at the work you are doing.

7. Time to be an adult and think about the future: start that retirement fund TODAY. Start that IRA. Alternatively, I know one artist who made 2 studio works for every one he sold. He put one in a container on his property as his “rainy day fund” for retirement to sell off in his retirement. This of course works fine if you become well known and sell well. Anyway, you are not immortal and you should be squirreling away funds for future- and doing it throughout your carrier.

8. Documentation: Remember good photos are VERY IMPORTANT to selling your work and experience. They say you are “serious” and will help the client/gallery be able to take the leap to hire you because it is presented it in a compelling, professional way. If you want to save money over your career, take some photography/video lessons, borrow a good camera before you buy one and do your own photography- if you are good at that….if not, spend the cash or barter for professional pictures of your work.

9. Keep true to developing your perspective/voice that you are passionate about. Even if you don’t see that through line of your artwork now, if you are true to yourself and keep on working on things that excite you, towards the middle or end of your career, it will become clear where you came from and point you towards your trajectory.

Bring joy and your creative process in your day to day life. I am a gardener and I love cooking and baking. Anyone can find that creative expression in some part of their life, some joy that comes from their creative process.

Think about how you and your inner artist can make something better.

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Hoong Yee

20140603_142704

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.

How to Feed Your Inner Artist and Create Joy

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This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

Loukas owns the Honeybee Farm in Troy, New York.

Most days, you will find him stirring a pot of soup or chatting with locals over coffee and a homemade muffin in his small shop tucked in the middle of a block of emerging businesses.

He lights up when you ask him about the local, natural foods he offers.

And the cheeses that he makes.

They are hand crafted with names like Tuscan Sunset, Pur Chevre and my favorite, Schoharie Caverns Wild Bloom, which is a Honeybee Farm special.

Can you get artisanal breads and farm to table foods elsewhere?

Of course, this is upstate New York, where you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting an urban city person who has escaped midtown Manhattan for the weekend. This is what they expect to find.

And you will get all of that plus something only Loukas can give.

An experience of joy.

It is there in every product in his shop. Every item has a story and a connection to a choice he made several years ago to choose a life that gave him purpose, fulfillment, a sense of being connected with people and joy.

He left a demanding job in the city and moved his family to Schoharie county where he says, “We have a number of creative, resourceful, talented individuals that take on the challenge of hard work, dedication and creativity daily, and develop wholesome, quality, artisanal products, for which they pride themselves in.”

He is passionate about what he does.

He is driven to create something, to make something with his hands everyday.

He shares and sells his work.

Doesn’t that sound like the dream of every artist?

Loukas has fed his inner artist and created a joyful life around the idea of bringing local, natural foods from his farm to you.

What if I’m not an artist?

“Creativity is the intellectual ability to make creations, inventions, and discoveries that brings novel relations, entities, and/or unexpected solutions into existence. Creativity is a gifted ability of humans in thinking, inference, problem solving, and product development,” says Yingxu Wang, Professor of Software and Brain Science at the University of Calgary.

Humans are creative creatures.

The opportunity to be creative is everywhere.

Loukas was not trained as a farmer. However, he saw a need in connecting local farmers and artisans directly with their customers. His inner artist was inspired to make that happen.

What makes him an artist is what he makes with what he produces on the farm and what he brings of himself as “a guy from a Greek neighborhood in Astoria, Queens.”

The only difference between you and and the ones who call themselves artists is that they realize how creativity defines them and everything they do.

How to feed your inner artist

“Everything that happens in my day is a transaction between the external world and my inner world.

Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable.

Everything feeds into my creativity,” says Twyla Tharp, the dancer and choreographer.

Loukas created the Honeybee Farm around this idea of bringing fresh food from the farms to people. His passion for what he makes attracts other like minded artists and people both as suppliers and customers.

By listening to his inner artist he has created a way to make life better as well as his own recipe for happiness.

Think about how you and your inner artist can make something better.

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Hoong Yee

20140603_142704

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.

I am an Artist and… an Interview with John Michael Shert, dancer

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This article originally appeared in Huffington Post

John Michael Shert began his career as a dancer with American Ballet Theatre and Alonzo King LINES Ballet and is now the Visiting Artist and Social Entrepreneur with the University of Chicago Booth School of business pursuing ideas around the creative process, as practiced by artists, and how it can be integrated into other sectors of our society.

Who are you? How do you self identify?

I am a dancer, artist for life, producer, business school professor, public speaker, and booking agent.

Working with Trey McIntyre, I built other skills which all became part of my identity. I realized my aptitude and added skills as an entrepreneur, booking agent, managing staff and board to my identity and to my title.

As I move through the world as an artist, I am clear about the skills that define what I am up to. I talk about what resonates, I have different versions of myself.

I have the ability to make something from something, to be a dancer and to become a business school professor and public speaker.

It is a creative process to make a life.

Tell me, what skills do you need to be both an artist and an administrator?

I had a series of mentors.

Alonzo King, a great American choreographer, taught me the creative process of being an artist, how to process the unknown constantly, listen, perceive and acknowledge the world around you.

To do this requires equal parts listening, telling and doing. To know is to accrue. We overvalue the product, the outcome. The means is more important than the end.

What are you working on now?

I am a business school professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

I am the executive producer of the Treefort Festival in Boise, Idaho.

I am a public speaker and a consultant on how to better understand the creative process, leadership, nonverbal body language.

Where can people follow your work?

In terms of reaching me, here is my email and Twitter handle:
jmschert@chicagobooth.edu
@jmschert

Below are a number of links to past presentations I have given, my page at Chicago Booth, stories on the work I have done and a published piece in Dance/USA.

Lincoln Center Global Exchange
Chicago Booth
Financial Times
Talks at Google
Dance/USA — The national service organization for professional dance.
John Michael Schert becomes a Visiting Artist and Social Entrepreneur in Chicago – UNCSA

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/jmschert%40chicagobooth.edu/157c42193d2b9566?projector=1

What advice do you have for people who make art and/or make art happen?

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Pursue mastery. Perfect your craft, technique. Go deep.

Pursuing one life, one career is an old idea.

In the pursuit of mastery you find greater awareness of your process. When you are at the top of your game, think about how to transfer all of your creative process skills, systems, awareness to what’s next, the next adjacent possibility.

It may be risky and uncomfortable. It is a bell curve. When you reach the apex, let go and open yourself up to a new version of your life, your 2nd or 3rd career.

Pay attention. One version will end, one will begin.

Transfer all of your generalist, specialty skills, worldview and values.

I guarantee you have the wherewithal.

There are many careers you can take your creative process into.

For example, my interest in nonverbal, body language has value in other sectors. I teach body language and awareness building classes in the corporate and service industry, to law students.
I translate universal awarenesses. I coach entrepreneurial teams how to use body language to tell stories. In the corporate world I teach how unconscious signals are being perceived, how these skills can be of greater value.

935 of communication is verbal
7% use words
55% is body language

The dominant form of communication is through the body. This is not addressed in education.
By stating the vitality of the creative process we become more valuable. It is an emerging trend I see that when I go out to speak about this. It helps others understand, it triggers their awareness.

Sadly, artists are often saddled with expectations, they feel disenfranchised and like outsiders. Many millennials look at art as social change.

In the information economy, we can be our own agent and connect directly with our audiences. This affects what it means to be an artist.

Everyone has a creative process. We tend to focus on analytics, not the creative. It is better having an awareness of your creative process.

Artists are technicians and work in a way using a certain part of the brain. A better use of this part of the brain is to be in service to the community.

I feel fortunate to be a recognized professional dancer with the ABT. When I was there I wondered, “Is this it?” I realized there’s more.

Many dancers and artists look at the wrong metrics.

The creative process is a balance between process and outcome. The creative process encourages a greater tolerance for risk. A new identity allows you to iterate rapidly.
We are better off measuring the process, not the product.

As you work on your project, your project works upon you.

As you work on your worldview, your worldview works on you.
My world view is process over product.

There was a child drawing a picture.
“What are you drawing?” asked the teacher.
“I am drawing God,” said the child.
“No one knows what God looks like,” said the teacher.
“They are about to,” said the child.

Children are not encumbered about getting it right. You still need rigor, training, logic. You have to balance your perspectives, to make sure your intrinsic self is in touch and in balance with your extrinsic self.

The distance between these 2 selves, and between people is a story.

The creative process is like storytelling. The point is not to replicate a sequence of events but to trigger a sense of possibility and then figure out the shape of it, what could be, to trigger in another person an awareness.

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Hoong Yee

20140603_142704

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.

What Maria Callas Can Teach You About Building an Unforgettable Brand

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This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

How You Can Change World

I can still remember the day I squeezed into a jam packed recital hall to watch Maria Callas, one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century, conduct a private masterclass for opera students.

One by one, each young singer stood before Mme. Callas, thrilled, but probably terrified at the same time, and sang an aria as she gazed at each one, her expression like a stone mask until she lifted her hand when she had heard enough.

Some made it through completely, some did not.

Trembling, I sat in the safe darkness of the audience agonizing over every singer’s nervous intro, brave performance and the whiplash of her silencing hand.

One by one, like sheep to slaughter, they opened their mouths, bared their souls and got cut down.

And these singers were the best of the best, selected for this rare and unique opportunity.

How could anyone even dare to think they had what it takes to sing before the great Maria Callas?

I was sure she was going to rip everyone apart and then sing the aria herself to show the world how it was done. Period.

Until one young singer changed everything.

She took her place by the piano and turned to the audience.

When she began to sing, I sat up: It was perfect in a completely unexpected ay.

Like there was never ever another way to sing this song and it felt as if she was singing directly to me.

And to Mme. Callas, apparently because she sat up too.

The entire hall was electrified by this subtle but unmistakeable change in the diva.

The singer finished her performance with a respectful nod and looked at Mme. Callas who gave the faintest hint of a smile, as if in recognition of a dear friend.

“You have not performed the song. You have possessed the song. This moment, it belongs to you only. Well done.” said Mme. Callas in her fabled bel canto soprano voice.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just been given the greatest gift ­ the secret for changing the world from Maria Callas.

There is only one way, one voice. Yours. Only I thought it worked for opera singers. What does opera have to do with anything? Everything.

We were sitting in the conference room at the Museum of the Moving Image surrounded by a sea of flip charts and Post its covered with ideas, thoughts and wishes ­ a group of us focused on creating our strategic plan.

But we were still deep in discussions punctuated with probing questions. The right answers seemed to be hovering in the room, present yet elusive. And there were so many of them.

Was the right thing to include something for everyone, wait ­ let’s make sure we don’t offend anyone, oh, but what about this opportunity, how could we possibly explain this to our funders…

Based on research conducted by our strategic planning consultants, hundreds of voices in our particular universe revealed how critical it was for us to know what we do and why.

To stake out our space of excellence.

This is a pivotal moment for us and we truly want to know how to be truly great in our work, to define our impact on the people we serve and to declare our reason to exist.

Doing anything less would condemn us to the realm of the mediocre. Not relevant, not essential and not worth funding. Not good.
But what does success look like for us?

Then it hit me: I’d already seen what that looks like. What that sounds like.

I couldn’t feel anything anything more powerful than what had happened years ago in that recital hall—my world being changed by an unforgettable voice and vision.

My whole mindset changed in an instant.

I opened my eyes, my shoulders relaxed, my breathing slowed, and I started to enjoy the experience.

It wasn’t so serious anymore—it felt more like art.

So, after the meeting, I started to think about else Maria Callas is famous for saying,

“ART is domination. It’s making people think that for that precise moment in time there is only one way, one voice. Yours.”

It felt as if a cloud lifted and I saw our plan taking shape with greater clarity and power.

I was eager to take ownership of the moment. To claim our unique voice.

And to say no to everything else.

Here’s the honest truth: Most of us never achieve our full potential and power due to lack of focus and follow through.

Plus the mistaken belief that doing less is a bad thing.

We want to reach everyone

We want to do everything

We think we know what we are doing

We jump from one shiny opportunity to another

We don’t know when to say NO

We are reactive more than we are proactive

What You Can Do Next

Boldly answer these 4 questions in one sentence. OK, ready?

1. Why is your work important?

2. Who is it for?

3. How will you make her life better?

4. What does success look like, sound like, feel like?

The Secret to Maria Callas’s Success

Say no to everything else.

To make sure we continue to do only the things that we should be doing, we created a really cool decision making tool that we can apply to every opportunity, project, expense that comes our way to keep us on track.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Warren Buffet

We need to know when and why we say No so that we can focus on being great at what we say Yes to.

I believe artists do all of this instinctively.

Their art is a reflection of a practice, a lifetime of making a million focused artistic decisions that results in possessing a moment that has the power to change you forever.

Doing anything less seems like a deplorable waste of time. Whether you work on strategic plans or sing at the Met.

Isn’t it time you own your moment?

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Hoong Yee

20140603_142704

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.

I am an Artist and… an Interview with Karesia Batan, dancer

This interview originally appeared on Huffington Post.

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If I ask you what kind of person comes to a place, identifies a market and creates a product to fill it, what would you say?

Business person, entrepreneur…

Artist?

Artists work in ways that blur these lines when their work provides new ways to generate income, validation and connections to the community.

The moment Karesia Batan pointed her toe at Queens, she looked for other dancers. Where were they rehearsing, making work, hanging out? The challenge of finding a community of dancers in the place she now calls home led Karesia, Choreographer/Producer, The Physical Plant and Director, Queensboro Dance Festival to create the Queensboro Dance Festival.

Who are you? How do you self identify?

I am a dancer, choreographer, and producer. I consciously make sure I identify as a dancer first and foremost, to remind myself to keep my artistic practice a priority throughout all my administrative duties.

It’s definitely a constant effort to maintain a happy balance between my artist side and administrator side. I often try to find ways for the two sides to support one another directly— for example, while I am founder/producer of the Queensboro Dance Festival, which presents only Queens-based choreographers, I also choreograph and perform to be a part of that community as a Queens-based dancer myself. I think of the other choreographers’ festival experience first, to make sure their needs are being met and the festival makes a difference in their artistic endeavors and career building. I also want to make sure the festival is serving the public audience. So once the season’s programming is in place, I try to participate as an artist as well. It actually also informs me of what the festival is like on the performer’s end, so I can make improvements to the program for the following year.

“Karesia, you are an entrepreneur, an artist entrepreneur.” I said, because as a funder, I am always delighted to support something that an artist creates that are born of generosity and brings transformation.

Howard Stevenson’s definition of entrepreneurship as work that pioneers a truly innovative product, devises a new business model, creates a better or cheaper version of an existing product or targets an existing product to a new set of customers.

(Howard Stevenson is known as the godfather of entrepreneurial studies. Thomas Eisenmann, “Entrepreneurship: A Working Definition,” Harvard Business Review, January 2013.)

Tell me, what are the benefits/ challenges of being both an artist and an administrator?

It is a daily, conscious effort to make time and mental space for both sides. I knew the festival would be a lot of work and I could easily be overwhelmed. What pulls me back to center is when I start saying No to what I love. For example, I was recently asked to be part of a festival in Martha’s Vineyard. I already had an idea for it and the person I wanted to collaborate with wanted to do it. It was therapeutic, ripping ourselves away from the computer to our practice, to congratulate each other for being in the studio, to look at each other and say,”Yay! Let’s go make stuff. How are we even doing this?” We made time to make a piece. You have to fight for what you want. We need to constantly stimulate our creative side.

Being able to see both sides, to have a 360 degree view, to be transparent about how both sides work together is a benefit. To sit on both sides of the mirror and see how to optimize both sides especially working on a festival where I can serve the community and participate as an artists. It creates a platform to share work. This is a benefit that is satisfying and challenging.

For me, the community comes first. There are 2: the community of artists and choreographers and the community that is the local public and the art appreciators. Theirs is the greater need and it comes first.

My organizational, multi-tasking, and time management skills have to consistently be on point, to make sure I am upholding all my duties as an arts administrator while making time for myself to still take dance class, and get in the studio to create. A main challenge is to make sure administration doesn’t take over my schedule, as it’s very easy to get bogged down with tasks and computer work. Taking time for dancing and creating cannot feel like a task the way sending e-mails or writing grants does. It’s two different energies. I have to be committed to both sides and be able to switch modes. The benefit of being both is that I can find creative ways for my various skill sets and networks to keep advancing my dance and performance career, while still serving my Queens community. Feeling happy and fulfilled is an important gauge in everything I do.

What are you working on now?

Of course I am working on several things as both an artist and administrator, ha! Right now I am collaborating with a fellow Queens-based Filipino dancer to create a modern take of Filipino folk dance storytelling, which we will show in this year’s Queensboro Dance Festival in October (which I also produce). I am also working within my neighborhood to help curate outdoor public dance programming for several existing land/space use projects for artists, with the goal to better engage the local residents with art. As a dancer, I’ll be collaborating with a local visual artist this season as well in a live performance project, which could potentially be part of the outdoor public dance programming I’m working on.

Where can people follow your work?

My personal website is www.karesia.com, and the festival websitewww.queensborodancefestival.com. Here’s a preview video of the festival. I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

What advice do you have for people who make art and/or make art happen?

Be clear with yourself on the purpose and meaning of what you do. As an artist, personal meaning and purpose is important, and we can choose how we want to communicate or share this with an audience; we can choose how we want to be understood. As a producer or administrator, it’s always helped me to focus on what the mission is. It keeps the trajectory of growth clear; it guides how the program should develop and expand. Make sure it is fulfilling a public (audience or artist) need that is currently not being met.

And believe in everything you do!

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Hoong Yee

20140603_142704

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.