10 Winning Ideas to Create Successful Events

12 Renee Phillips book coverBy Renee Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach

Throughout my career I have enjoyed hosting many events, from arranging small art parties in my apartment to staging large multi-media galas attended by celebrities, government officials, representatives from embassies, and members of the art and entertainment press. Some of these events were even televised and broadcast on radio.

As much fun as I had producing them, I enjoy sharing the tips and tricks that made them successful. With imagination you can create memorable events on a small budget. For this article I selected a few ideas from “How to Create Successful Art Events”, one of the documents in my “Artist Success Package”.

1. Pay Attention to the Details

Begin the process by preparing a comprehensive “to do” list with deadlines. Develop a detailed budget. Create your invitations with flair and provide detailed information including directions to the venue. Make sure the venue is clean, has superb lighting, good acoustics and safe traffic flow. Provide ample seating for guests who may be disabled.

2. Use Imaginative Themes to Ignite Interest

When setting the date for your event, don’t ignore the importance of selecting the right theme that is appropriate for that particular time of year. Consider traditional as well as non-traditional celebrations, for example: January is the month of new beginnings and resolutions. But, did you know that January 31st is “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day”?

3. Create the “Wow” Factor

Select superior art and display it with the utmost care. Create a “Red Carpet” atmosphere that will arouse excitement about what’s inside. A few suggestions: Literally roll out a red carpet, display large movie style exhibition posters on easels, have several wannabe “paparazzi” taking photos of guests… you get the idea!

4. Attain Sponsorship

Stretch your budget by approaching the public relations departments of small businesses or large corporations and request “out of pocket” expenses. To reciprocate, give them name recognition on your invitations, promotional materials and at the event. Many food and beverage distributors and even local restaurants are willing to donate their goods in exchange for product visibility.

5. Recruit Volunteers

I recommend you hire the best professionals you can afford. But, you can also reach out to your friends, relatives, college interns, and retirees to help with the organizational details, promotion and art sales. Offer them a commission and pay for their travel expenses. Show your appreciation by inviting them to a pre-event private showing or dinner. Acknowledge them publicly in print and in your verbal announcement at the event.

6. Give Every Guest A Take Away Gift
Every guest should leave with something tangible to remember you. A colorful and informative printed brochure or catalogue is a nice gesture when handed out by a friendly welcoming committee. However, don’t stop there: Add special items to their gift bags such as small, signed prints of your art or magnets, calendars, t-shirts or tote bags with your art or logo reproduced on them.

7. “Piggyback” Major Organizations’ Events or Major Celebrations
Use the art of “piggybacking” and ride on the coat tails of major events held around the same time as yours. My best events were orchestrated as team efforts. Choose organizations that share your values and mission. Offer to collaborate with them and help them promote their event. Catch the wave of publicity that their programs will generate. When you join forces with like-minded folks and organizations you’ll both reap many benefits.

8. Don’t Blend into the Background

Most artists shy away from the lights of cameras and attention of public displays. But, as the exhibiting artist, the star of the event, or the special host, this is not the time to be a wall flower. Wear a genuine smile and an outfit that will attract people to you like a magnet. One smart artist I know wears a purple dress to match her signature purple paintings.

9. Offer A Free Raffle to Grow Your Mailing List

It may be difficult to get everyone to sign your guest book so encourage them to insert their business cards or clearly write their name and contact information on a raffle card. Entice them by giving away valuable prizes that are worth their while.

10. Use Free and Low Cost Advertising and Promotion

Announce your event in online forums and social media sites including setting up an events page on www.facebook.com. Utilize Free event listings in newspapers. Post fliers in the vicinity of the event. Use online press release services http://service.prweb.com. Broadcast yourself on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/. Announce your event on Meet Up http://www.meetup.com

Renee Phillips is an author, art marketing advisor and Curator-Director of Manhattan Arts International. Visit her blogs: The Artrepreneur Coach and The Healing Power of Art. Learn more about her art marketing services at http://www.manhattanarts.com/ReneePhillips/consult.htm.

 

YOLANDA KONDONASSIS: ON MUSICIANSHIP AND EVOLVING AN AUTHENTIC BRAND

World-Renowned Solo Harpist

12 Yolanda 1NPR Tiny Desk Concert

In pursuing a career as a musician, the common thread – both now and twenty years ago – is the need to sustain high quality in as many areas of your field as you can. Of course, the most important thing is always what you bring to the table artistically – and while luck may be on your side, you can’t depend on it. That is why you need to be educated in a variety of ways about the business that supports your work. No longer can an artist afford be remote and detached from all but their art.

It’s important to understand your particular audience and the market you serve. You should know how to read a contract and write a proposal. You also need to know how to present yourself and your work in a way that will resonate with both your colleagues and your audience. Know that you can’t afford to be complacent, even when you reach the level where you have arts managers and support systems in place.

I believe you should be in a position to know how you want to brand yourself, rather than having it done by someone who is an expert in marketing, but doesn’t know what you’re trying to do with your art, who you want to be, or what you’re looking to create.  If you leave it to others, you can get into trouble and find yourself promoting a version of yourself and your art that isn’t really you.

Artistry tends to be an evolution and it’s a long process. I tell my students that if they continue to evolve as they should, they will be very different artists at age forty than they are when they graduate from conservatory. The real education begins when school ends, I have found. The bottom line is that you can only be true to yourself at any given moment, but do recognize that your vision is going to change over time. No real artist decides who they are in their youth and stays that way for the duration of their career. That’s why it’s important for you to be in the driver’s seat and to know how you want to present yourself and your music. You have to think about how your music will make the leap from your studio to the eyes and ears of others and how you can be actively involved in that process.

There’s a difference between knowing your audience and pandering to it. On one hand, you can’t ever take your audience for granted and you must respect them, even when they may not know where you’re headed. But at the same time, it’s up to you to take them on your journey –  and if they trust you, they’ll go along for the ride. Ears and eyes move in new directions slowly, but they do move, and it’s an artist’s responsibility to persuade them to stretch and evolve.

With regard to marketing, there are so many effective things you can do, and the Internet is at the heart of most of it these days.I don’t think email blasts are that effective, but I do have a website, which serves me very well, though it does have to be updated regularly. With social media, I feel there is a certain disconnect between trying to focus on your art and checking your social presence constantly. You do need to engage, but not just to put out unformed thoughts or post random activities. While the immediacy of social media is wonderful, people can easily get into trouble with it, so my advice would be to think carefully about what you want to say, or skip it altogether.

Resources are enormously important and you need to know what the people in your particular field are reading, doing, buying, and joining. Read your instrument’s trade journal, join the musician’s union, and talk to people in your business and in other related fields. Stay up on what is going on in your arts area and ask yourself where they might gaps that could be filled with something you offer. Think about attending a conference, take a seminar, or give one. The Internet is a great tool, but face-to-face contact still matters.  It’s easy to get caught up in cyber-hype, but resist the urge to let it substitute for real relationships. The best and most valuable assets in my career have always been one-on-one relationships with trusted managers, producers, colleagues, and mentors.

As a final thought, I would say that while a good marketing system goes a long way in helping to get your art out to the world, make sure you stay grounded and avoid getting addicted to the hype and affirmation that will inevitably begin to follow you. Know your own nature and surround yourself with quality people whenever possible. At the end of the day, you will always go home with yourself, so you better be someone you know and respect.

Yolanda Kondonassis is celebrated as one of the world’s premiere solo harpists and is widely regarded as today’s most recorded classical harpist. Hailed as “an extraordinary virtuosa” and “sheer luminescence at the harp,” she has performed around the globe as a concerto soloist and in recital, appearing with numerous major orchestras such as The New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, to name a few. With fifteen albums and well over 100,000 recordings sold worldwide, Ms. Kondonassis’ extensive discography includes her recent Grammy-nominated release of music by Takemitsu and Debussy entitled Air, as well as the world-premiere recording of Bright Sheng’s Harp Concerto, written for Ms. Kondonassis. In addition to her active performing and recording schedule, Ms. Kondonassis heads the harp departments at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory and has presented master classes around the world. Visit www.YolandaHarp.com.

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Partnering with the Arts: Fractured Atlas

Dianne Debicella, Senior Program Director for Fiscal Sponsorship, Fractured Atlas

Fractured Atlas supports 3000 arts projects across the country each year. The organization, which provides fiscal sponsorship and support services to artists and organizations has more than 25,000 members and averages more than 500 new members each month.

According to Senior Program Director of Fiscal Sponsorship, Dianne Debicella, “we get involved at all different stages. Some are brand new entities, and others are established organizations looking to raise money via donations. Overall, we’re the largest arts sponsorship organization in terms of the numbers of entities we serve, and we’re very proud of having served as a springboard for the arts for over 10 years.

The organization receives more than one hundred applications a month. Prospects need to be artistic entities, whose work is not for commercial purposes – so, not-for-profits that can demonstrate that what they’re doing has a public benefit. Some are to benefit a small community and others for a broader purpose, including those looking to use art in the cause of social good.

“Fiscally sponsored projects have to pursue their own funding,” says Debicella. “We don’t provide funds, rather we act as an intermediary so that they can qualify for 501c3 status without having to set up their own administration and incur the expense of administering a non-profit. This is important because, unless an organization has a sizable budget on the order of $500,000 or more, it can be prohibitive to become a 501c3 on their own both with cost and the administrative burden of forming a Board of Directors and structure to get underway”.

Fractured Atlas’ goal is to provide organizations and individuals the opportunity to get a strong, viable start, and then the artists or organizations may stay long- or short-term, depending on their needs. This enables them to focus on their art and audience development while having access to information and guidance as well as insurance for areas including health care, workers’ compensation, production and event venues, and art damage or loss.

Members also get access to Fractured Atlas’ Artfl.y software, which they can use to manage tickets, donations and contacts; Fractured U, which provides business education for artists; and services Spaces and Archipeligo which provide regional information on arts spaces, and data on arts organizations and arts resources that can provide artists and organizations with resources and support. Other Fractured Atlas services include arts consulting, arts advocacy on a local and national basis, and offering members special rates on arts-related goods and services.

Announcements on the Fractured Atlas site include calls for entries looking for directors, choreographers, puppeteers, poets, and people to produce documentary work, all of which can be helpful to artists looking to broaden their scope and contacts.

In all, it provides critical support to help launch and sustain new and exciting ventures throughout the arts world. “We’re in a challenging period for the arts these days,” Debicella says. “There’s been a decline in foundation support over the past four to five years, so it’s become even more important to help artists get started and enable them to find the help they need. One of the things we do is to advise on how best t seek that”.

Individuals and organizations interested in becoming part of Fractured Atlas should register at the website, www.fracturedatlas.org. Then you’ll become eligible to submit a fiscal sponsorship application to be considered by their Board, which meets once a month to review new applications.

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Championing Chinese Shadow Puppetry – Annie Rollins

Annie Rollins, Puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry

How did you get involved with Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Chinese shadow puppetry is the sum of all my independent interests and, of course, so much more.  As a part-Asian puppet lover with a penchant for the historical, Chinese shadow puppetry has sustained my interest in all of those things and continues to inform my personal and professional life.

How does shadow puppetry differ from other performance arts in its approach?

It is similar to other folk art performance forms in that its main purpose is to transmit oral history to a largely illiterate class and to educate and community build through entertainment and a collective experience. It differs from other traditions insofar as its incredible artistry has really pushed boundaries both with the figures themselves and performance techniques.

What about this art form is important to the heritage of China and to yourself?

Chinese shadow puppetry is an amalgamation of Chinese culture in both content and aesthetics as seen from the masses. While most elite and upper class art forms are well documented and preserved, Chinese shadow puppetry is lesser known and understood but more informative as to the majority’s ideology and beliefs at any given time. In a broader context, this is Chinese shadow puppetry’s most important heritage.

I consider it a high art form in its own right, with regional differences in nearly every province that reflect a rich inheritance of idiosyncratic tradition and craft.  My particular focus is practice-led research in traditional shadow puppet making methods in the three main regional styles and that has remained largely uncovered in research both in China and internationally.  Because the methods and aesthetic significance was largely overlooked until recently, many of the remaining masters have passed already with no apprentices in place and many others threaten the same scenario.

How does this influence your artwork?

My research and creative work have a symbiotic relationship – both inform the other and not necessarily in any particular order. Through research I find questions that can only be explored through creation and vice versa. Currently, my work is almost wholly focused on both Chinese shadow puppetry and how that learning is processed through me as an artist with a very different background than the traditional learner. With permission from my masters, I’m creating my own pathway to modernizing the form that fits within my understanding of how best to honor the tradition.

How is shadow puppetry being preserved in China?

Other than commercial endeavors, little has been done to preserve the form in China. With the official induction into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project in 2011, there is much more attention and support currently being focused on traditional Chinese shadow puppetry, but the long-term results remain to be seen. Little, if any, funding is being given to two designated members of a nominated troupe (equal to a peasants’ monthly wages) and no funding or support for students or apprentices. And, while this greatly eases the stress for shadow puppet artists in the aging stages of their lives, it does little to answer the more imperative questions about lack of students to carry the tradition through to the next generation.

Some people have criticized China for their lack of effort to preserve this and many other dying traditions as their country races towards a progressive modern future, but I find that they are doing what all countries have done at one point or another – prioritizing.  Folk art forms are in this position worldwide.

Are there any schools or programs that specialize in Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Sadly, there are no formal institutions that teach Chinese shadow puppetry, save a workshop here or there.  The masters who are still working are very open to students – even foreign ones – who show an interest. Because it is a folk art form it is unlikely that Chinese shadow play education would become formalized anytime soon.The hope is that the form will garner more support to continue teaching as they always have – through hands and hearts.

If anyone has interest and will be traveling to China shortly, feel free to contact me for connections. Additional puppetry information is at: http://annierollins.wordpress.com/links.

Annie Rollins is a puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry. She has a MFA in theater design from the University of Minnesota and has been studying traditional Chinese Shadow Puppetry in different regions of China for the past year. Annie considers herself an artist first, creating experimental puppet shows, design and teaching workshops when she isn’t studying puppetry in China. Recently, she was invited to speak at the Chinese Shadow Puppetry Symposium at the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut.

Bringing Your World to Stage: EbzB Productions

Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, Founders, EbzB Productions

EbzB Productions is a professional touring company dedicated to developing original theatrical productions to promote integrity, self-discovery and positive transformation of individuals, artists, audiences, and communities. They believe the performing arts encourage positive transformation through discoveries unveiled immediately and upon reflection.

1. What have been the key factors in evolving your careers and your business?

Understanding the business aspect of show business. Negotiating contracts, bookkeeping, public relations and marketing are just as important as raw talent to an artist.

Cultivating real and positive relationships with everyone you meet. We are not talking about “networking” or “social networking”, we are talking about developing real and respectful friendships with your community. Some of our most enjoyable and lucrative work has been the result of ideas generated among friends. We’ve had surprise opportunities with our latest productions from people we knew when we were just starting out – 40 years ago!

Everyone you meet has something to teach, offer, and benefit your development and career. For example, while working at Hedgerow Theatre near Philadelphia, Serena was offered a part-time position by Susan Raab of Raab Associates, a children’s book marketing agency (and now host of this blog). That job, relationship, and friendship not only gave Serena valuable experience in learning professional publicity techniques, database building, technology and relationship building; it also resulted in a valuable friendship which has returned thousand-fold for Serena. Twenty years later, Serena hired Susan’s son, Jeff Raab as an actor in a production she directed. These long-term, cultivated relationships prove most valuable to career success.

 2. What would you advise newcomers?

Educate yourself. Get your university degree. A broad-based education is mandatory because it enables empathy and understanding for the people, events and politics conveyed on stage. Take classes in marketing, business, and accounting as part of your major or electives. Design an independent study that focuses on organizational administration. Actor Conservatory training is great for technique and career networking, but it often doesn’t help you understand the content and context of the material you will perform. It is not enough to perform a song or monologue technically. An artist should be able to interpret, apply metaphor, understanding, and value.

Get as much experience as you can auditioning, performing, working on the tech crew, and volunteering in the theatre’s administrative office. It’s so important to understand all the jobs in the theatre so that you can appreciate everyone’s contribution to your success. You never know when the stage manager may have an opportunity to recommend an actor. He will recommend someone with whom he enjoyed working and who makes him feel appreciated.

Trust your instincts. If an audition or job offer violates your personal values, decline it. It won’t ruin your career to say no. Hold onto your integrity – it is the only thing you can be sure of in this business.

3. What about Do’s and Don’ts?

  • Do be kind and respectful to everyone you meet.
  • Don’t talk behind other people’s back. You never know when the God mic is broadcasting your intimate stage whispers to the crowd in the greenroom.
  • Do get a signed contract when you work.
  • Don’t go against your instincts.
  • Do get attractive promotional materials (head shots, website, resume, demo reel, classic audition clothing)
  • Don’t spend exorbitant amounts of money on your promotional materials. Keep it simple and within your budget. You can upgrade when you can upgrade.
  • Do have a support system. That system should not only include fierce friends who make you laugh, but also equally important activities that make you feel good about yourself when you’ve had a bad day at the theatre.
  • Don’t assume that Broadway and Hollywood are the only definitions of success in the acting business.
  • Do develop your talents to serve in other aspects of life – perhaps as a teaching artist, or drama therapist, or as a communications director. The skills of an actor are extremely useful in corporate, educational, and medical environments.
  • Don’t sell your soul for fame and fortune. Both fame and fortune are simply by-products of a job well done and a life well lived.

4. What resources have you found most helpful?

National Endowment for the Arts  – for information including on Presenter Consortiums

Unified Auditions – StrawHat, SouthEastern Theatre Conference, League of Washington Theatres

Unions – Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild

Arts Councils – Local and State Arts Councils

EbzB teaching artists are dedicated to the promotion of dramatic art as a valuable educational tool. They’ve been trained by The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts “Artists as Educators: Planning Effective Workshops”; The Lincoln Center Institute‘s International Educator Program and the National Center for Creative Aging as teaching artists. EbzB is also endorsed by the North Carolina Arts Council‘s Touring Artists Directory.
Founded in 1998 by Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, EbzB Productions celebrates the profound impact of storytelling through theater in a repertoire of productions, flexibly designed for easy touring to all types of performance spaces. They’re an award-winning husband-wife, actor-manager team who bring over forty years of experience to the stage. Their careers have taken them from off-Broadway and the U.S. to Canada and Europe. In addition to performances, EbzB Productions, Inc. runs student workshops, residencies, and professional development seminars.
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Reality TV vs. the Traditional World of Dance: Envisioning the Future

Ann Marie DeAngelo, Choreographer, Producer, Director, former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet

1. What do you see as the major issues in the dance world today?

I see a very deep-rooted issue, which has to do with the ability to have a vision or dream, and stick to that goal over the long-term, which is nearly impossible in our fragmented society and in our culture today. This is more about the creative process than economics.

2. How are changes in arts funding impacting careers?

The thing about the lack of arts funding, is there’s a lack of time to rehearse and to create, therefore there’s no process happening. We’re losing the ability to coach work, which is how you develop the art, and if you can’t do that, you basically have a sort of half-baked creativity that gets thrown up on stage.

What that does to young dancers, is require they learn quickly and they can easily get injured.  The industry is trying to figure it out. In fact I was just resetting a piece I choreographed for a company where exactly that happened  Companies are saying, “how can we deliver the same product in less time with less funds, and maintain the same standard?”  It is emblematic but companies have more productions to deliver with the same or less time, and maybe more dancers, but also more dancers they have to replace.

3. Is the field more entrepreneurial?

I think the field is very entrepreneurial, in the sense that there seem to me to be more dancers wanting to be choreographers and directors.  But it doesn’t mean creators are having an easy time producing good work, or much due to the lack of funds, and more people wanting exposure.

4. Is social media changing the relationship with the audience?

The only thing I can say in regards to audience building for a dance company is that with the onset of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars’, it’s the first time in America where dance has been on a main channel. So now it’s okay to be a choreographer, and for a guy to have tight pants on and dance, but I don’t think that’s necessarily increasing the performing arts audience. Schools are growing. But now there’s a dichotomy in what they’re teaching – there’s the traditional route, which is ballet, modern, musical theater; and then there’s the commercial route.  There is a whole new dance competition circuit evolving that I am not really a fan of.

These are big industry, as the recent article in the New York Times said, where you’re taking young kids, teaching choreography and claiming it’s dance. It’s not. It’s really based on gymnastics, then they teach some pirouettes, some jazz and some hip-hop moves, and have these thirteen-year-olds learning choreography with no foundation.

I think everyone is trying to figure out how to use social media. Certainly Justin Bieber got discovered, and Susan Boyle wouldn’t be Susan Boyle without it. I just don’t know how that translates for others. I do think you need to put your work on the web, since there are now scouts who look for talent there. I think it’ll work well for some and not for others. In a way, there are more outlets and opportunities.

5. Why did you pursue your career in such a multifaceted way?

My aesthetic to blend and work in a multifaceted way actually started when I was struggling as a ballet dancer to get into a company. I was too small for most directors and, even though I was a virtuoso and powerhouse (not words you usually attach to ballerinas), I was outside the box. My dream was to one day have a company of misfits – versatile authentic artists – who were also outside the box. That turned into everything I ended up doing as a choreographer, director and producer…..mixing dance forms – and working in a cross-pollinating way. It creates a unique product that can’t be repeated – something you can only experience and take in the magical impact  of once. This may also be the future.

6. Are there trends you find exciting?

 Yes and no. One trend is something I started doing in the 80’s when I helped revitalize the Joffrey when it moved from New York to Chicago and I was the associate director, called a pickup company. It’s basically a format and paradigm used now, but was a larger version. It’s not always good, because you have to assemble people who have lots of other jobs to have them do a particular show, and then you disassemble. It’s very fragmented, and what you assemble appears to be a company, but in fact it isn’t.

The upside is that’s eventually where funding’s going to be, and it’s what I’ve been trying to sell and market. I’m not 100% successful at it yet, but the concept is to support projects instead of funding a company all year round when in actual fact it doesn’t work all year round. When you realize that if you have six months of work and you’ve got four seasons as a ballet company that are 4 days each, that’s hardly a year’s worth of work for you to be spending on an organization’s administration.

There’ll be another way of working in the future where people just fund individual projects that will be assembled for the time needed. Since we’re also working more globally, I see these projects funded internationally. That’s another conversation, but what it means in terms of trying to put a piece together when it’s fragmented, is you can’t really get to the core of what it is in the way you could before.

7. What’s being done to bring new audience to dance?

I think organizations are doing more educational and outreach work, as well as finding ways to make programming accessible. I think artists are beginning to create more full-evening work, and returning to story driven pieces – I know I am.

8. How can dancers create opportunities to showcase work?

Studio showcases, workshops, appearances on fund-raising events.  Creating video tapes of the work on their Sites.  Having a website.  I’ve discovered most small and new companies that work on a project basis are creating without a full deck of cards (or any deck!). Dancers are busy with multiple jobs or, if in the area of a dance company, trying to juggle opportunities for money or exposure. Either way, it is impossible to coordinate schedules for one person or twelve,  studio space (which there’s a dearth of), and cohesive time.

It used to be you’d look for somebody with a specific job description to be executive director, development person, or a performer and they’d need to of course have the education and experience. The new paradigm is to look for someone who has multiple skill-sets organizationally and artistically.  Then hire someone else who has a different skill sets to cover five other jobs. All of a sudden, I’ve got three people and myself, and we can do the work of a forty person staff, which is what I do now successfully.  That’s where I think we need to go from an organizational point of view.

Ann Marie DeAngelo, is a choreographer, director and producer. She was a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, whom Time Magazine called “one of America’s most promising ballerinas”. She was featured in Backstage as a “multiple-career artist”, and her dance career spanned almost three decades. As leading ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet she performed in works by the most renowned choreographers including: Balanchine, DeMille, Robbins and Tharp. She performed internationally and later founded her own experimental dance troupe called Ballet D’Angelo, and she was founding Artistic Director of Ballet de Monterrey, the first privately funded arts organization in Mexico; and was Associate Director of the Joffrey Ballet. One current project is, IN THE MIX, a story about dancers from multi-genres who are at the top of their fields, exploring the trajectory of what happens as each pursues their career.

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Pursuing sculpture in clay, metal and glass: Immi Storrs

Immi Storrs, Sculptor and Glass Artist

What advice do you have for beginning sculptors?

I learned many years ago about working in clay was that water-based clay is a much more tactile, but loses some of its spontaneity because it needs to be kept wet. Plasticine has an odor that I don’t like, and people will find it doesn’t take thumbprints like water-based clay, but it does not need to be kept wet. And those clays need to be put in a more permanent medium, unless they are hollow without an armature, and can be fired. The other material that is interesting is plaster. It can be slathered over an armature and then chiseled or rasped away. The plaster when done takes very interesting patinas. I use water-based colors for that.

What was the biggest challenge in marketing yourself as a sculptor at the start?

The biggest challenge in marketing myself early on was finding a gallery. As my work is cast in bronze, which is very expensive, and that made my work expensive. Not many galleries are willing to take on new artists whose work is expensive because the market is not there. Galleries, at least here in New York, have enormous costs and they need to be able to sell their artists.

How have you differentiated yourself?

My work is different because I do mostly animals. You can tell what they are, whether it’s a horse or cow or bird, but the horse may have four heads and four tails. And my animals are all generic, though you can tell whether my bird is a water bird or a raptor, You don’t know what kind of water bird or raptor.

My new work is on glass. Having had multiple hand and wrist injuries, I needed to change my technique as clay was much too difficult. I use a paint on multiple panes to create a 3-D effect that some people find disturbing, so I guess my technique works. I think of my new work as both painting and sculpture.

How do you work with glass?

The technique I’ve developed, which is to work with a series (usually six or seven) stacked glass panels that I’ve painted on and sometimes etched, allows me to create dimensionality and to look as though the subject is encased in the glass – in fact, some people have asked how I got the wasp or bird in there. What I’ve actually done is to design, for example with the eagle, so that the front wing is on the first pane and the other wing is on the last pane with body parts in between to make the piece look three-dimensional. It’s challenging because when I make a change on one pane, I have to look at how it impacts all the others, so I’m forever moving the panes around to line them up in a particular way. I use special glass paint, and I also did finally find out that I can get a type of seamed glass, which means that the edges are sanded down and smooth, so now I’m not cutting myself on the ragged edges.

Immi Storrs is an award-winning sculptor, whose work is in museums and corporate collections, including The National Museum for Women in the Arts, The National Academy Museum, and The Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell. She recently completed eleven sculptures for Japan Airlines, and she’s a member of  The Century Association and The Sculptors Guild.

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