Meet Kirby Tepper: Communications Coach for Artists

Kirby Tepper leading a workshop at Artists Summer Institute 2013

Kirby Tepper leading a workshop at Artists Summer Institute 2013

Kirby Tepper is a Renaissance man: performer, songwriter and actor are just a few of the hats he wears beyond the confines of his day job as a licensed psychotherapist. The same interpersonal expertise that makes him valuable to the clients in his practice also serves to empower his artist peers.

Perhaps you’ve caught Kirby on television shows like Cheers or Wings or maybe you’ve found yourself humming along to one his songs, like “Merry Men” in Shrek. One of the hallmarks of our professional development leaders is they are artists themselves. Kirby and our other leaders can relate to the joys and challenges of being a professional artist. His own personal and professional experience is a resource for the artists he coaches.

Though he particularly enjoys working with artists, Kirby has helped people from many backgrounds, including doctors, writers and lawyers, find a more confident, direct communications style. On his verbal communications training, he says, “In this work I continually rediscover the need everyone has—artist or not—to acquire skills that help in developing friends and business relationships. I love working on those issues—even being specific about how to make small talk at parties or how to overcome fear in public speaking.”

Kirby Tepper

Interested in consulting with Kirby on an upcoming presentation, speaking engagement, meeting or negotiation? Click the button below for more details on Creative Capital’s Career Coaching for Artists series.

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Help Creative Capital Fight the Dark Side

Not so long ago in a galaxy not so far away…

…the arts were threatened by the dark side, and Creative Capital began a quest to support the nation’s most adventurous creative voices. Our commitment to risk-taking artists has never been stronger, but we need your help to continue this critically important work.

Fight the Dark Side. Fund the Force. Every dollar counts.

Finding Balance as Artists and Parents

In Artists Raising Kids, Andrew Simonet points out, “We live in a culture that’s not very good at supporting artists and we also live in a culture that’s not very good at supporting parents.” Pursuing a creative life in our society may feel like a relentless uphill run. Add children and that molehill can quickly become a mountain.

Choreographer and Webinar Leader Andrew Simonet with his two sons Nicolo and Jesse

Choreographer and Webinar Leader Andrew Simonet with his two sons Nicolo and Jesse

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Stephanie Rothenberg’s Garden of Global Crowdfunding


Stephanie Rothenberg’s “Garden of Virtual Kinship” at ZKM Center for Art and Media

Stephanie Rothenberg, like many corporations, is interested in what you’re doing online. But unlike those companies that are collecting data for monetization, Stephanie uses API, virtual worlds and online transactions as a platform to make art and critique. Her project Laborers of Love/LOL took advantage of the recent phenomenon of crowdsourcing to have workers abroad cull images of sexuality and desire in order to create a collaged pornography; it was a critique on desirability as much as it was about digital labor. Her Creative Capital project, “Reversal of Fortune,” is a series of installations that both depend on and critique crowdfunding that happens between affluent Americans and developing countries. Elements of the project are premiering this fall in international exhibitions at The Lowry Contemporary Gallery in Manchester, England, and at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Germany. We spoke to her just before her Manchester exhibition opening.

Jenny Gill: This work is really layered and complex—it’s making virtual transactions visible, it’s translating digital human interactions into organic plant growth. Can you talk a bit about the development of this project and the metaphors at work here?

Stephanie Rothenberg: I have always been interested in using art to raise awareness about particular social issues. Before this project, I had been creating interactive artworks that explored both the benefits and exploits of new forms of online digital labor. These performances and installations leveraged what is known as crowdsourcing—outsourcing work to a so-called online “crowd” of global Internet users. The majority of these online workers were, and still are, in developing countries. They perform online work tasks for little money.

Through these earlier artworks I became aware of a new online phenomena that was becoming more popular and was somewhat of a reversal of crowdsourcing. It is known as crowdfunding. Here the online crowd funds a project or business venture that someone wants to pursue. The most familiar example is Kickstarter, which is mostly used for cultural projects. But crowdfunding is also widely used by charity organizations as a social media platform for raising money to assist people in the developing world with small “micro” loans. Rather than cultural projects, these loans are for small-scale local initiatives such as purchasing animals for a farm or paving a village road.

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4 Myths about Artists’ Finances

Headlong Dance Theater: rehearsal for 'Desire' - with Andrew Simonet, Amy Smith and David Brick et al at The Performance Garage. For more info: photos ???? Jacques-Jean Tiziou /

Andrew Simonet during a rehearsal for Headlong Dance Theater’s “Desire” at The Performance Garage. Photo: Jacques-Jean Tiziou /

There are a great deal of misconceptions about artists and money in our society. Regrettably, too many artists have internalized the stereotype of the starving artist or the idea that their competence with numbers is lacking. Choreographer Andrew Simonet dispels several myths about the finances of artists in the webinar, Real Life Budgeting.

MYTH: Artists are bad with money.
Ask an artist about the jobs they’ve done, unimaginable amount of hours they’ve worked and the paychecks they’ve stretched to make sure their art could be made. Most artists are incredibly adept at managing their revenue, they just don’t have enough of it.

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“Clytigation” By Michelle Ellsworth Blends Technology and Greek Mythology

Michelle Ellsworth (2013 Performing Arts) is an artist unlike any other. Her quick, anxious speech dares you to keep up with her, and her art practice is just as ingenious and prolific. The premiere of her Creative Capital project, Clytigation: States of Exception, is a perfect example. A multi-media performance that allows the visitor to wander a theater space at will, Clytigation injects a dose of technology into the Greek myth of Clytemnestra. Writing for Artforum, Claudia La Rocco said that Michelle is “doing some of the most engrossing explorations of how the body and technology coexist and collide.” Suffice it to say that the performance must be experienced in person to really get a sense of how she’s actually accomplishing this; and luckily for New Yorkers, it’s coming to the Chocolate Factory November 11-14. We caught up with Michelle on the eve of her premiere.

Alex Teplitzky: Can you describe Clytigation and how it relates to Clytemnestra, a Greek mythological figure noted for her troubled relationship with Agamemnon?

Michelle EllsworthClytigation is the sequel to a piece I made several years ago called Phone Homer. Phone Homer is a feminist remix of Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Iliad. I moved some language around with my sister Ann Ellsworth to explain what motivated Clytemnestra to kill Agamemnon. The language is arranged around Skype calls between the homebound Clytemnestra and her husband Agamemnon, her friend Penelope, her sister Helen and her lover Aegisthus. In between calls, Clytemnestra navigates her custom-built world wide web with a kinetic alphabet looking for peace through materialism. Clytigation picks up after the murder. Post murder, Clytemnestra is identified as a terrorist (for killing the king) and begins to develop over-the-counter counter-terrorism protocols to avoid surveillance, interpersonal drama, and death. In performance, I demonstrate several of Clytemnestra’s protocols—including hiding in furniture and art, an interpersonal drone and attempts to complicate her identity and location.

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Degenerate Art Ensemble’s “Predator Songstress” Finds Her Voice

Degenerate Art Ensemble, Predator Songstress. Photo by Joe Iano.

Degenerate Art Ensemble, “Predator Songstress.” Photo by Joe Iano.

The Seattle-based performance group Degenerate Art Ensemble (2013 Performing Arts) is premiering their Creative Capital-supported project, Predator Songstress, with upcoming engagements at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (Nov 5 & 6, 8pm; Nov 7, 5pm) and On the Boards in Seattle (Dec. 3-5, 8pm; Dec. 6: 5pm). Inspired by punk, comics, cinema, nightmares and fairy tales, Predator Songstress tells the story of a modern-day anti-heroine in search of her stolen voice. The piece fuses live music, dance and media to create an immersive art environment set in a world of hyper-surveillance, interrogation and data mining. Predator Songstress investigates personal power and the divine secrets of the human voice, engaging audiences in a stunning theatrical experience infused with otherworldly visuals, gorgeous vocals, incredible costumes and a singular butoh-meets-anime vision.

Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE) is led by co-founders and co-artistic directors Joshua Kohl and Haruko Crow Nishimura. I connected with Joshua and Crow to learn more about this ambitious performance event.

Jenny Gill: Predator Songstress centers on a female character (played by Crow) whose voice has been stifled by societal forces. Can you talk about the oppressive forces or societal issues behind this concept that you want to bring to the foreground? In the end, how does the character find her voice and expression?

Haruko Crow Nishimura: There is a central female character in this modern fairy tale named Ximena, who is growing up in a totalitarian state, where the public sharing of people’s personal stories and struggles centering around voice are strictly forbidden. Her obsession with people’s stories and the source of people’s power gets her into deep trouble. She is sent away to a women’s penal colony and has her voice removed.
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Building and Sustaining Professional Relationships: Tips from Sharon Louden


Sharon Louden recording an interview with Bad At Sports

Sharon recording an interview for Bad At Sports

Sharon Louden is a remarkable individual; she is a successful artist, editor, teacher, consultant and leader in Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program. Sharon delivers invaluable guidance on communicating with art world figures in the four-part webinar, How to Approach and Engage with the Gatekeepers of the Art World. Sharon’s transparent and earnest approach to sustaining professional connections is drawn from her own experiences and her decades of experience working with other artists. Below you’ll find some tips adapted from Sharon’s course that we and past webinar participants have found most useful. Continue reading

Career Coaching for Artists is Here!

Roadblocks. We all have them.
Creative Capital is now offering Career Coaching for Artists. The program provides a series of three personal coaching sessions designed to help you move your artistic practice forward through clearly identifying your challenges and goals. You will create a personalized strategy for long-term success with the benefit of individualized attention to guide you as you implement your plan.

Coach Sue Jaye Johnson Talks about the Coaching Program

The artist coaches are all longtime Professional Development Leaders at Creative Capital. Choose the best coach to pair with based on your professional goals. Writer, Performer and Psychotherapist Kirby Tepper offers communications and negotiations guidance, Artist and Independent Journalist Sue Jaye Johnson coaches you through the strategic planning process, and Art Advisor Susan Koblin Schear counsels artists through developing values-based goals. To sign up or find out more about the program visit

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10 Tips for Performance Artists Working With Museums

Sarah Michelson's performance at the Whitney Museum in 2014. Sarah also performed at the "New Circuits" conference at the Walker this past month.

Sarah Michelson’s performance at the Whitney Museum in 2014. Sarah also performed at the “New Circuits” conference at the Walker this past month.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting with colleagues for New Circuits: Curating Contemporary Performance at Walker Art Center, a convening supported by a curatorial fellowship grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. We came together to discuss new models of performance curating, particular how they are supported within the museum setting. In addition to learning about the incredible work being created across the country by these forward thinking artists and curators, I learned a lot about what artists can do to better advocate for themselves. Here is my Top Ten list, the best things I heard from curators who want to help you help yourselves!

  1. Before accepting a commission, performance or residency, instead of giving the director or curator your proposal, Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA), suggested that artists provide a wish list instead.  That way the curator or director can tell you how they can support your creative process and how they can’t.

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