An Art Experiment Gone Wrong

Agnes in the structure

My good friend Philippa Hughes is hosting an artist in her home this week. It’s a project called Art is Fear.

Here’s the description:

This coming May 2011, for one week, the artist Agnes Bolt will move into the home of the very sociable and curious Philippa Hughes to playfully explore the dynamics between an artist and an art collector. With a naive optimism and subtle social critique the project will manifest itself with a large obtrusive structure situated within Philippa’s home in which the artist will live. The presence of the artist will be impossible to ignore. A series of rules, exercises, communication systems and bonding experiences will dictate the interactions between the two as will video cameras given to both parties. Both are required to follow the rules but mischief and expectations of an open spirited dynamic is highly encouraged.

A woman living in a bubble? I was intrigued. Continue reading “An Art Experiment Gone Wrong”

Why I'm Not at SXSW This Year

SXSW 2007
SXSW in 2007

SXSW Interactive is an annual conference of social media and web geeks in Austin. It’s a huge, exhausting event that takes place over a long weekend in March and is popularly known as the conference that introduced Twitter and other new forms of communication.

The criticism now is that it’s gotten too big and too corporate, dominated by giant corporations trying to be hip. And that it’s gotten to be such a chaotic moshpit that it leads to network outages.

I went to SXSW in 2007 and 2008, just the right moment before it became mainstream. The conference taught me to love the brilliant minds at 37signals, whose radically hopeful ideas about the future of work cannot arrive soon enough. I learned that project management should be as simple as possible. Gantt charts and MS Project should be avoided in favor of clear goals that everyone can understand. REWORK is their vision for the ideal work environment, where meetings and busywork are eschewed in favor of collaboration and results. Their philosophy is subversive and attractive for anyone stuck in boring meetings or lengthy conference calls. Continue reading “Why I'm Not at SXSW This Year”

2010: My Year in the Arts

Several years ago, I was sitting in a bar with a bunch of coworkers. We went out a couple times a week for beer, always to the same place. They were fine people but, good lord, how many times can you hear the same old stories?

While we were rehashing the same old petty little workplace dramas, a group of staffers from the Portrait Gallery came in. They had more interesting things to say than me and my coworkers, for they were talking about art.

It was then that I vowed to get more involved in the creative scene in DC.

In 2010, I was fortunate to not only sample a lot of what the city has to offer, but also participate in it. Continue reading “2010: My Year in the Arts”

Urban Exposure Exhibition

Four of my photos were selected for the Urban Exposure exhibition at the Carriage House Gallery and Studio. Photos in the exhibit documented the “changing urban landscape of our capital” and included one of my favorite photographers of all time, Matt Dunn.

Urban Exposure was curated by the DC Photo Coop, which aims to provide a workspace and gallery for area photographers with a focus on the D.C. urban landscape.

The exhibition is over now but here are the photos I had in it:

the musician

pawn shop

police car and crowds

Friends

Writing and Taking Pictures at the Capital Fringe Festival

I’ve been busy for the past couple weeks as an official photographer for the Capital Fringe Festival. It’s been a great experience, giving me the chance to use my new camera, the Canon Rebel T2i, and the opportunity to take pictures of performers, which I really enjoy.

And I’ve gotten to see a lot of theater in tiny spaces, where you’re inches away from the actors – that’s part of what makes Fringe so special. From women in passionate embrace to remixed Shakespeare, it’s an intimate experience that can be uncomfortable, strange or delightful, depending on the performance. Sometimes you just can’t look away, try as you might.

But Fringe is more than just theater. It aims to create community in DC, striving to be a citywide celebration of the arts. Fringe wants everyone to be involved.

For people interested in creativity, it’s hard not to be drawn into the Fringe orbit. For example, I attended a discussion on Does Art Matter as a photographer but ended up writing about the workshop for the Pink Line Project.

The Capital Fringe Festival runs until July 25 in Washington, DC.

Free the Artists – The Creative DC Action Agenda

artist at Adams Morgan Day

I finally had a chance to read the Creative DC Action Agenda. The report, commissioned by DC Office of Planning in partnership with the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, does a really good job at highlighting the role that the creative industries have in making DC a vibrant and fascinating city.  There’s some really interesting tidbits contained in the report, such as:

  • Creative jobs amount to more than 10 percent of the city’s employment base and generate $5 billion in income.
  • There are more than 75,000 creative jobs in the city, including 16,000 federal government positions.
  • With 69 theaters producing 8,723 performances in 2008, DC is now among the top tier of theater cities in the U.S.
  • DC was ranked fourth in the nation for the concentration of artistic talent, behind Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
  • The average wage for creative occupations in DC is $33.73 per hour.

The definition of creative occupations is fairly broad, and includes people in the culinary arts and even libraries.  However, DC has a fairly high concentration of writers and visual artists, as well.  This creative community adds to the city’s tax coffers and attracts newcomers to Washington.

Washington has come a long way since the municipal dysfunction of the 1990s. But there’s much that the city can do to empower the artistic community in DC, including:

  • Identify vacant spaces for theater and work spaces.
  • Increase visitor awareness of the creative arts beyond the Mall.
  • Improve access to funding for filmmakers.
  • Cut the red tape that makes DC unfriendly to small business.

As a member of the “creative occupations” myself, it’s really interesting to see the big picture.  What do I think should be done?  The last point on cutting red tape really resonates with me. DC should cut regulations that inhibit small businesses and artists in the city.  There are so many confusing city rules about running a business from home that I’m not sure what’s legal.  And everyone I know who tries to create some sort of festival or event encounters a thicket of regulations and forms, requiring countless trips to city offices.  It seems crazy in 2010 that dealing with the city requires filling out reports by hand and collecting stamps and signatures.  Eliminating this old-fashioned paperwork (or at least putting it online) would further encourage the ongoing creative renaissance of this city.

DC should capitalize on the creative talent drawn here by reducing the burden of regulation. As demonstrated in the Creative DC Action Agenda, a liberated “artist-entrepreneur” community would deliver economic benefits citywide.

I finally had a chance to read the Creative DC Action Agenda. The report, commissioned by DC Office of Planning in partnership with the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, does a really good job at highlighting the role that the creative industries have in making DC a vibrant and fascinating city. There’s some really interesting tidbits contained in the report, such as:

· Creative jobs amount to more than 10 percent of the city’s employment base and generate $5 billion in income.

· There are more than 75,000 creative jobs in the city, including 16,000 federal government positions.

· With 69 theaters producing 8,723 performances in 2008, DC is now among the top tier of theater cities in the U.S.

· DC was ranked fourth in the nation for the concentration of artistic talent, behind Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

· The average wage for creative occupations in DC is $33.73 per hour.

The definition of creative occupations is fairly broad, and includes people in the culinary arts and even libraries. However, DC has a fairly high concentration of writers and visual artists, as well. This creative community adds to the city’s tax coffers and attracts newcomers to Washington.

Washington has come a long way since the municipal dysfunction of the 1990s. But there’s much that the city can do to empower the artistic community in DC, including:

· Identify vacant spaces for theater and work spaces.

· Increase visitor awareness of the creative arts beyond the Mall.

· Improve access to funding for filmmakers.

· Cut the red tape that makes DC unfriendly to small business.

As a member of the “creative occupations” myself, it’s really interesting to see the big picture. What do I think should be done? DC should cut regulations that inhibit small businesses and artists in the city. There are so many confusing city rules about running a business from home that I’m not sure what’s legal. And everyone I know who tries to create some sort of festival or event encounters a thicket of regulations and forms, requiring countless trips to city offices. It seems crazy in 2010 that dealing with the city requires filling out reports by hand and collecting stamps and signatures. Eliminating this old-fashioned paperwork (or at least putting it online) would further encourage the ongoing creative renaissance of this city.

Capital Fringe Festival Preview

Fringe is fun. I went to the preview of the Capital Fringe Festival last week. I got to see sneak peeks of upcoming shows while enjoying my favorite beer (Bell’s Two-Hearted) all under the big tent of Fort Fringe. Singing Austrians, half-naked women, magic acts, rowdy bands – it was all there.

It’s hugely inspiring to be around so many fearless, creative people who have brought their visions to the stage. Plus, the festival is put on by my good friend Julianne Brienza, who I interviewed last year for the Pink Line Project.

The Capital Fringe Festival runs from June 8-25 across Washington. The shows are numerous and fast-paced so you’re bound to find something you’ll like. It’s not your typical theater experience.

DCWEEK Fires Up Techies

fire dancer at DCWEEK

What do fire dancers have to do with technology?  Attendees at the opening night party of DC Week had a chance to find out.  Digital Capital Week (DCWEEK) is a 10 day festival in Washington, DC focused on technology, innovation and all things digital in our nation’s capital. DCWEEK takes place in venues throughout Washington and runs from June 11th to June 20th, 2010.  The mission of DCWEEK is to strengthen the capital region’s digital economy via a ten day series of events focused on creativity, technology, entrepreneurship, marketing, content creation and innovation.

The week began with a party in Blagden Alley that brought together the worlds of art and technology.  Web developers, social media experts, writers, transparency advocates, government geeks, photographers and venture capitalists were inspired by bands, video displays, free beer and women twirling flaming hula hoops.  Set in a historic downtown alley, the party was a casual and creative affair where you could meet some of the brightest minds in DC.

But that was just the start.  DCWEEK continued over the weekend with CityCamp, an “unconference” that brought together local government officials and technologists, with the aim of building a better District of Columbia.

All week long, this festival of innovation continues with workshops on gaming, accessibility, communications, media relations and much more.  And since it’s not your normal conference, DCWEEK also includes happy hours, tweetups, a “schmooze cruise”, a flash picnic on the Mall and even a social media comedy show.

DCWEEK demonstrates that tech doesn’t have to be boring.  After seeing someone twirl fire, how could you not be inspired to try something new?

DCWEEK Fires Up Techies

There Are No Rock Stars

You do not need to take a class with a “rock star” to be creative. This faith in the magical ability of experts to transform lives is ironic in our secular  society. Gurus, rock stars, life coaches, Oprah – they can make you change. Most people don’t go to a priest for career advice yet believe that taking the workshop of a famous person will cure their creative funk.

I was thinking about this after reading comments by a talented photographer friend of mine, Mary Kate McKenna. She was writing about “rock star” wedding photographers and their high-priced workshops:

REALLY tired of newbie photogs (I still consider myself a newbie in the industry!) doing workshops for other professionals, charging a lot of money, with no real business skills and embellishing the amount of money they make in the industry. Before attending a “rockstar” workshop, do your research. Continue reading “There Are No Rock Stars”