John Boylan’s: The Conversation

| November 7, 2013 | 0 Comments
November 20, 2013 @ 3:00 am – 5:00 am
1508 11th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
John Boylan

John Boylan’s Next Conversation

This episode: “The Artist as Entrepreneur”

Tuesday, November 19, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at


The Summary

This time we’re talking about the intersections between art and business.

Read on for the details.


The Guests (see bios below)

Joselynn Engstrom, Managing Director of The Acrobatic Conundrum

Ben Kerr, attorney

Andy Fife, arts consultant

Erin Pollock, artist

Steph Kese, artist


The Story

There was a time, at least in the United States, when art and business were not supposed to mix. Artists and performers went to their day jobs and then off to their studios and stages to do their work. The business side of culture was to be left to the producers and art dealers, business managers and executive directors. Of course, it was up to the artists to promote themselves, but generally within the frame of auditioning or taking a portfolio around to a dealer, or convincing a curator to come up for a studio visit. Those who went beyond this frame were seen as self-promoters, or more, relentless self-promoters. Maybe they just weren’t good enough to make the regular cut, or in rare instances, they were too good, the misfit geniuses of this world.

That’s still true in some circles. But overall, it’s going away. The model generally began to change with the spread of percent-for-art programs. Artists found themselves working alongside architects and engineers, creating detailed budgets, getting business licenses, hiring subcontractors. And to pay for the training, tools, and workspaces needed to produce often huge-scale work, they have had to be pretty relentless in putting themselves out in the world as public artists.

The change really began to spread with declines in art funding, with the collapse of 2007-2008 that left everyone scrambling, and with increasing prevalence of social media, from crowd funding to Facebook. The rise of DIY and Maker culture has played a role, and even Burning Man has had an effect, where a team of thirty people might have to figure out how to get themselves and several tons of sculpture 1000 miles out into the desert.

Certainly, traditional support structures for art survive and even thrive. But rather than looking for a few patrons or a sugar daddy, now an artist might collect a set of 50 mini-investors. Impermanence is everywhere. Pop-up studios, galleries, theaters, restaurants, and music venues have become the norm. And projects may become so complex that they require a business plan and a budget.

So what effect do these changes have on the work produced, and on the lives of the artists producing it? Is this attention to business liberating, or can it make it harder to do good work? Could it be that art as business allows for doing things that are revolutionary?


Plug:  those of you who teach youth, especially in the arts, or have older children, look at this. On Saturday, November 17, On the Boards is presenting a youth-focused matinee performance “of ‘Cédric Andrieux,’ French choreographer Jérôme Bel’s work about the life of a contemporary dancer. Think of it as modern dance + ’The Real World.’ Andrieux danced for years with the Merce Cunningham Company and the Lyon Opera Ballet, and he speaks candidly and warmly about his life experience as a dancer – the joy, the boredom, the challenges; and he performs intricate passages from classic contemporary works (Cunningham, Trisha Brown). The show is splendid storytelling for all audiences and will speak specially to young dancers and actors lured by the stage. We recommend 9+, but mature 6+ are welcome.”édric-andrieux-0

The Guests in Detail

Joselynn Tokashiki Engstrom, a scientist by study, ran away and joined an international traveling circus in 2006.  A few years later she moved back to her hometown of Seattle, and immediately immersed herself in the circus community to study the trapeze.  She began training at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, where she met her artistic partner, Terry Crane.  This year she left her coaching position to pursue the creative dream of The Acrobatic Conundrum.  Joselynn has performed with many groups including Dream Science Circus, Circus Contraption, Orkestar Zirkonium, and Cafe Nordo.  She is currently juggling the art of managing a circus company and finding funds to get them to the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival.

Ben Kerr, of the Kerr Law Firm, has been an attorney for nine years.  He has an extensive background in civil litigation, having litigated multiple six-figure cases to verdict, but when he opened his own firm in 2010 his practice expanded.   He advises clients in a wide variety of practice areas including contract drafting, negotiation and review; entertainment and art law; copyright; business law; entity formation and intellectual property.   A portion of his practice is devoted to clients in the arts and he offers reduced rates for artists, representing many well-known artists in and around the Seattle area.  He has represented individuals and businesses in state and federal courts, and arbitrations on a wide variety of commercial and civil litigation matters.  He is licensed to practice law in Washington and Pennsylvania.

Andy Fife is an independent consultant, coach, teacher, and writer in arts and nonprofit management, located in the Puget Sound region and working throughout the country. His primary focus is on the intersection of art, civics, and commerce, helping cultural institutions and programs to bring relevant and impactful social benefit to broad and diverse communities.  He has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in arts and nonprofit management, especially in small- to mid-sized organizations, and specializing in new initiatives, programs and businesses.

He most recently served as Executive Director of Shunpike, a nonprofit arts service organization that provides support to hundreds of arts groups and projects annually.  At Shunpike he served as the primary spokesperson, consultant, advisor and director for all programs and activities.  Prior to that, he coordinated the Publicity Office of the Seattle International Film Festival, and was Director of Operations at the former art center Consolidated Works.

Current board responsibilities include the Washington State Arts Commission, the Seattle Lake2Bay Initiative and the Seattle Arts Commission’s Facility and Economic Development committee. A musician, theater director, and writer, he received a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and participated in the 2011 class of Leadership Tomorrow.

We don’t have bios for Kesey/Pollock (Steph Kese and Erin Pollock). Here is a link to their resume:




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