Brad Stephenson is our Professional Development Program’s newest Internet for Artists Workshop Leader. We think Brad has made a great addition to our team and, having just completed an amazing weekend workshop with the Montana Arts Council in Kallispel, MT, we asked fellow PDP Workshop Leader Matthew Deleget to help us introduce Brad to the broader Creative Capital community.
Matthew Deleget: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in the arts.
Brad Stephenson: I was an introvert during my middle and early high school days, and a fantastic teacher convinced me to join show choir. Singing quickly became a passion, which led to musical theater, which led to straight plays, which led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in acting from the University of Kentucky. After spending time as a standup comedian in New York (yes, standup is an art form), I moved to Pittsburgh and completed the Master of Arts Management program at Carnegie Mellon University. My day job is digital marketing at CMU, but I continue to work on various artistic projects. I am also a grant award finalist for a film project called Reel Pittsburgh, a community-based video project focusing on the people of the greatest city in the world.
Matthew: This past summer we invited you to join the Internet for Artists team as a workshop leader. How has your experience been so far?
Brad: My experience with the IFA workshops has been incredible so far. I work with technology every day, so it’s easy to take its impact for granted. Helping artists more fully leverage the power of online tools to enhance their careers has been incredibly exciting, fun and inspiring.
Matthew: Pittsburgh is one of the most wired cities in the U.S. But do Pittsburgh artists—even those in the greater Mid-West—face similar challenges to artists in other parts of the country regarding web sites, social media presence and new Internet tools?
Brad: I think artists everywhere face similar challenges. New technology tools surface every day, and only those who are immersed in the geek culture are fully aware of the latest and greatest. When you’re focusing your attention on making great art, it’s hard to take the time to learn about the many ways the Internet can work for you, and a lot of tech concepts—while mainstream for the most part—can also be very intimidating. Some of the resources may be more available in cities like Pittsburgh, so it’s certainly easier to find help in many cases. Fortunately, though, digital tools are shrinking the world and making it easier for many artists to connect with people and other resources they need to market their work.
Matthew: What sessions during the IFA weekend workshop are you particularly excited to lead?
Brad: I think CMS (content management system) software is one of the greatest things to ever be created in the history of humankind, so I’m looking forward to discussing and demonstrating the ins and outs of CMS tools. That is also a fun session to lead because if people have never used a CMS, they look at you like you’re a wizard when you quickly and easily make a modification to a website. It is bested only by the Practical Toolbox session that I’ve seen Steve Lambert lead so well. He always gets rockstar status with that one.
Matthew: Whenever I teach at Creative Capital workshops, I always feel like I learn way more from the participating artists than I give to them. Have you learned anything memorable during a recent workshop?
Brad: I’ve learned to take my face away from the computer and get back to making things. Creative Capital workshops are a big reason I’ve moved forward with a couple of my own more artistic projects recently. Technology is a tool to accomplish other things, and tech should work for you… not the other way around.
Matthew: How do you spend your weekends when you’re not on the road with Creative Capital?
Brad: I have a 3-year-old daughter named Sadie, and she is so awesome. I spend time with her and my equally incredible wife, Gayle (also a very talented theater artist). Now that it’s fall, I spend my Sundays screaming at a TV screen about the Steelers. Hands down the best football team to ever play the game.