Financial Literacy: A Cheat Sheet for Artists

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Amy Smith and dancers from Headlong Dance Company performed at the 2015 Creative Capital Benefit.

It’s a well-worn cliche, but it’s true: “Knowledge is power,” and nowhere is this more apparent than in our financial lives. Because being deeply invested in money management often feels uncreative, many artists get comfortable with keeping their understanding of their financial health and future as vague as possible, a kind of “if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist” approach.

On January 25th, performing artist turned finance guru Amy Smith will be empowering artists to raise their level of financial awareness and literacy — regardless of their prior experience. It’s an excellent opportunity for artists to gain critical understanding ahead of tax season, a great primer for our Tax Preparation for Artists workshop coming up in February, and a unique chance for artists to set themselves on the right financial track going into 2017. Below is a sneak peek of many of the great insights Amy will be sharing during the workshop. For more detailed information, be sure to join us at the Creative Capital office on Wednesday January 25th, for “Financial Literacy for Artists.

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Travis Wilkerson Explores Contemporary Politics By Investigating a 1940s Murder

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Filmmaker Travis Wilkerson (2015 Moving Image) has made a career out of creating works dedicated to anti-oppression causes, so when he learned that his own great-grandfather played a role in murdering a black man in rural Alabama, he was devastated. As he set out to unravel the story of the murder, he only encountered further obstacles. Using archival footage, documentary and a live performance, Wilkerson explores the way the past continues to haunt us today. His Creative Capital project around the tale, entitled Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, premieres at Jan 20 & 22 at Sundance Film Festival as part of their New Frontier series. We spoke to Wilkerson about the project.

Alex Teplitzky: Can you tell us more about the film and how it unfolds? How does it relate to the performance you’re preparing for?

Travis Wilkerson: The story basically circles around an incident involving my family in the 1940s. My great grandfather, S.E. Branch, was charged with first degree murder of a black man. The charges disappeared somehow. It’s really just a family legend at this point. I wanted to try and sort out what actually happened all those years ago. What documents still existed, perhaps any living witnesses or relatives (of the victim or the perpetrator). It just seemed like a story of this time in this world and I wanted to find a way to make it live here and now.

Of course, it’s all so incredibly fraught. My family is the family of the murderer. My relative was a racist. A thug really. I’m a white male college professor. All these things are really troubling and complex to navigate. So, how to do it?

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Creative Conversations: Artists Addressing the Built Frontier

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Renderings of American Riad by Ghana ThinkTank; Renderings (by goCstudio) of Mini Mart City Park by SuttonBeresCuller; III by Liz Glynn; Blood Pudding by Sharon Bridgforth

As cities grow more crowded, built environments are increasingly a dear commodity for all of us. For artists, their careers are also at stake in the never ending quest for space. On January 25, at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), Creative Capital will lead a conversation between artists who are addressing community, gentrification, and displacement through their art practice. These artists—Sharon Bridgforth, Ben Beres (from SuttonBeresCuller), Liz Glynn and Maria del Carmen Montoya (from Ghana ThinkTank)—are using architecture, community organizing and real estate to creatively push how we think about the built environment. The panel discussion, moderated by Moy Eng, Executive Director of Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), is the second in our series of discussions called Creative Conversations, and is co-presented with SFAI.

We will livestream the conversation (RSVP here) from 7-9pm PST on Wednesday, January 25, and take questions from Twitter. Use the hashtag #CreativeConvos, #GutRehab or our handle @creativecap to follow along. In the meantime, read on to learn more about the presenting artists.

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Through Many Platforms, Yara Travieso Interprets Medea as Infinite

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Medea is the Greek mythological character who kills her own children. Hers is a storyline that has so resonated with us that nearly every generation has had its own adaptation or interpretation of her. In her adaptation of the myth, Yara Travieso (2016 Performing Arts), does not provide the audience with one version, but a multiplicity of interpretations simultaneously. Her Creative Capital project, La Medea, premieres this weekend as part of PS122’s 2017 COIL Festival. True to the concept of multiplicity, there are a number of ways to experience the work: either live at BRIC on January 20-22, where the audience will watch and also take part in the making of the film;  livestreamed online; or, eventually as a film produced by Dance Films Association. Amid preparing for the performance, Yara joined us at our offices to talk more about the project.

Alex Teplitzky: Ok, start with a run down of the project. What is La Medea?

Yara Travieso: La Medea is essentially a made-for-camera, Latin-disco, pop musical that is simultaneously a show, and a livestream feature film. It’s based on Euripides’ Greek tragedy of Medea. I’ve readapted, rewritten the work to fit inside a musical composed by Sam Crawford and to exist as a live-television special tell-all, all surrounding this one myth-character Medea. It’s a portrait of her more than anything else, and it takes on many forms: it’s a musical, it’s a dance-theater work, it’s a feature film, it’s a live-television special, it’s a concert. It takes on many lives.

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Rule Your Universe: Dread Scott on Marketing Your Work

Dread Scott's "Burning the US Constitution."

Dread Scott’s “Burning the US Constitution.”

We all know that an artist’s work doesn’t end with her time at the studio. Artists are their own creators, and also their own cheerleaders. It is their passion for their art making that can get other people—be it viewers, curators, critics, or collectors—involved and interested in their practice.

Artist Dread Scott knows this better than most. The revolutionary potential of his own work—including installations, performances, and paintings—feeds off of the attention and participation of his community. On January 19th, he leads Creating a Marketing Strategy, our upcoming webinar that covers all aspects of marketing your work, including defining your goals, developing effective communication tactics, and building your support community. We asked Dread what artists need to know about MailChimp and how we can be rulers of our own universe. RSVP today!

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Tips and Tools: Advice from a First-Time Grant Winner

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“Assent” by Laine Nixon, Courtesy of Laine Nixon

Abstract painter and Professional Development Program alumna Laine Nixon recently applied for and won her first major arts grant: the John Ringling Towers Fund Individual Artist Award. When she talks about her recent win, Laine stresses the lessons she learned through Creative Capital’s “Grantwriting for Artists” webinar and was kind enough to share the top tips she walked away with that helped push her application over the top.

To experience Tracie Holder’s highly requested webinar for yourself, join Creative Capital on January 18th for “Grantwriting for Artists.

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Wakka Wakka’s ‘MADE IN CHINA’ at home in the USA

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A scene from “Saga,” from Wakka Wakka Productions and the Nordland Visual Theater. Credit Jim Baldassare

These people may be geniuses. –The New York Times 

The Obie and Drama Desk-winning performance group Wakka Wakka produces puppet shows. The company tackles relevant social and political issues like climate change, financial crisis, consumerism and human rights. Creative Producer, Gabrielle Brechner, answered a few questions about the evolution of Wakka Wakka since its founding in 2001 and the development of MADE IN CHINA.

Baby pandas, dancing appliances and romping middle-aged lovers populate Wakka Wakka’s universe of tiny-to-huge puppets, belting out original songs. As with climate change in Baby Universe (2010) and the global financial crisis in Saga (2013), the company spins issues of our times into a vastly entertaining tale with surreal dimensions, lots of laughs and powerful take-aways.

MADE IN CHINA features 30 puppets, seven puppeteers, music inspired by both American and Chinese traditions, and animated video. MADE IN CHINA premieres Off-Broadway in January 2017 at 59E59.

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In Remembrance of Bill Bowes

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We were saddened to learn of the passing of William K. Bowes, Jr. in late December. A giant in the venture capital field, Bill Bowes was a founding partner of U.S. Venture Partners, a prominent Silicon Valley firm. He was also a founding member of the Creative Capital board of directors. Additionally, he served as a trustee for a number of research and education oriented nonprofit institutions, including the Exploratorium: Museum of Science and the University of California, San Francisco Foundation.

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Telling Our Stories on Our Terms — The Power of Strategic Marketing

The dangerous power of negative marketing, clockwise from top left: Detroit = miserable (photo by Rebecca Cook for Reuters); Occupy Wall Street = directionless (photo by Odell Payne); “A Fire In My Belly” video = sacrilegious; and prospective travelers = potential terrorists (photo by Craig Walker for AP).

The dangerous power of negative marketing, clockwise from top left: Detroit = miserable (photo by Rebecca Cook for Reuters); Occupy Wall Street = directionless (photo by Odell Payne); “A Fire In My Belly” video = sacrilegious; and prospective travelers = potential terrorists (photo by Craig Walker for AP).

As the saying goes, “everyone is trying to sell you something,” and in today’s hyper-connected digital world it couldn’t be more true. Whether it’s algorithmically personalized ads across social media, spam emails or product placement in popular music videos, we are constantly bombarded with branded marketing that is subtly attempting to influence the way we think about our selves, our desires and the people  in our lives.

Given all of this, why should artists want to participate?

On Thursday January 12, join Creative Capital artist leader and marketing expert Brian Tate for Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing, where he will detail how and why artists can and should understand marketing their work in a way that’s strategic and authentic.

According to Brian Tate, there are three main reasons why strategic marketing is essential for artists (now more than ever.)

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