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Why This Texan Creative Is Working To Bridge Business And The Arts

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In the United States alone, creative industries (like the arts, entertainment, design, etc.) contribute more than $760 billion per year to the US economy. In fact, they actually contribute more to the national economy than what many of us perceive to be more common and stable jobs, like construction, mining, utilities, insurance, and accommodation and food services industries.

Yet, despite the amount of capital and opportunity arts and cultural production has to offer, many of us are familiar with the age-old “starving artist” stereotype—this idea that creatives don’t (and shouldn’t) have any interests in practical business development. Creatives are often encouraged to shy away from skills assigned to the “right-brained,” like financial planning, budgeting and business development.

For Austin, Texas-based entrepreneur Ashland Viscosi, this disconnect became the foundation for her own company, Creatives Meet Business. Viscosi launched the project, also referred to as CMBATX, after her experiences working in independent film. She noticed the lack of community infrastructure and professional development in Austin’s creative scene and decided it was time to bridge the gap. So, for the last three years, Viscosi has hosted everything from meet-ups to workshops to goal-planning sessions, all centered around spurring financial sustainability for artists and creatives.

With her company’s annual conference, the Creatives Meet Business Experience, coming up, I chatted with Viscosi about her experience straddling different communities, working as a cultural producer and creating entrepreneurial programming.

Ashland ViscosiAshland Viscosi

Jane Claire Hervey: Let’s start with a basic, simple question—how would you describe who you are and what you do?

Ashland Viscosi: I love this question! I describe myself as a connector. I help connect people with each other and with knowledge. I care about creating a connected and empowered community and all of the programming I curate and produce, as well as the workshops I teach, are toward this goal. Under the Creatives Meet Business umbrella, I do several things. Our roundtable events provide insights and knowledge into how to be successful and sustainable in creating and growing a business (even if it’s a business of one). In addition to learning, these events are all about connecting attendees—creatives and entrepreneurs from all different backgrounds—with each other. Our podcast is created from content from these events and is a great way to learn or refresh yourself on every business topic under the sun. Then, there’s our annual three-day extravaganza that’s right around the corner, The Creatives Meet Business Experience, or CMBXP for short. It’s everything that we do on steroids! Over the course of three days, there are 51 hands-on workshops, mentorship sessions, and nightly happy hours that are all about helping attendees connect meaningfully with each other and learn the skills they need to thrive in business.

Hervey: So, when it comes to merging the biz and creative worlds, what do you find most interesting about the overlap? What comes from intentionally exchanging information between these two spaces?

Viscosi: In actuality, I don’t think there’s all that much that divides these two worlds, and I hope that my programming can help expose that. Everyone, regardless of industry, is creating something and looking for a way to make a living from it. There’s so much that unites everyone from that struggle. There are separate norms or sets of rules, but fundamentally, the struggles of being in business are all the same.

I love the lightbulb moment that folks experience when they realize that, yes they’re a creative, and yes they’re an artist, but they’re also a small business owner. Every exchange we can have between these worlds helps to minimize the gap between them. This space between worlds is also a great place for collaboration. You never know what kind of friendships, work opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations can emerge from mixing these worlds.

Hervey: You yourself are a multihyphenate creative. What sorts of projects are you working on now, and how did you get into creating experiences for others to learn, engage and share?

Viscosi: At the moment, my biggest project is CMBXP (Creatives Meet Business Experience) as we’re days away from this year’s event. One thing that makes CMBXP extra special is how intimate it is. By limiting the attendance to 300, attendees are better able to connect with the content and better able to create meaningful connections. It’s important to me to maintain the intimacy as it’s a special feature of the experience, but I do have plans to grow it. Instead of increasing attendance and making the Austin event larger, my goal is to provide resources regionally. I’ve been spending time in Portland, Oregon, determining if it’s the right next place to expand into.

How I got into creating experiences is a different story. I went through the Leadership Austin Emerge program back in 2014 and learned so much about myself from the process. I’ve always had a knack for building relationships and a really supportive network for myself, but that no longer felt like enough. Every now and again, I would find myself reflecting on the immortal words of Ben Parker (Spider-Man’s uncle): “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” I felt like it was no longer adequate to create a network for myself, I wanted to help others have that, too. Once I learned that my truest and deepest passion is helping others feel included and part of a community, everything else fell into place from there. My North Star, so to speak, with all of my programming and everything I do is to maximize connectivity, help knock down the walls that divide us, and create a space that everyone feels like they’re a part of.

Hervey: And how does that translate into your upcoming conference, the Creatives Meet Business Experience?

Viscosi: I’ve produced and been a part of the production team or staff for several conferences, festivals, and 800+ attendee galas. It was the morning after a three-day event I’d produced and I was driving to a meeting. Usually, my thoughts, if I’m capable of having any after the sheer exhaustion of it all, would center around being so glad the event was over. But that’s not what happened. Instead, there was this thought that hit—why do I keep helping others grow and develop their businesses but not focus some of that energy toward my own? While still driving to the meeting, I’d mapped out what I thought my audience would most want and had a framework for a three-day event by the time I parked.

CMBXP excites me in so many ways. I’m able to connect experts and thought leaders with an audience that’s thirsty for resources and support but do it in a way where they’re approachable. It also feels like summer camp, there are amazing opportunities to learn and grow, but the element I’m most proud of is how easy it is for attendees to meet and connect with each other. And they stay connected. Some have created sketch groups, others get together once a month for brunch, others now work together.

Creatives Meet Business Experience / Workshop in 2017.© David Brendan Hall / davidhallphotog.com

Hervey: In your experience, what makes an event most successful? Logistically and programmatically?

Viscosi: Listening to your audience! I don’t operate inside of a vacuum. I’m always interested and excited to hear from past and current attendees about what will improve their experience, however great or small. Whether they’re sharing about a venue being too warm or wanting a certain type of workshop included in future years, I always want to hear it. I do everything in my power to be as available to people as I possibly can be, whether that’s in person, text message, email, or social media.

Hervey: Speaking to your journey with Creatives Meet Business, what’s your best bit of bootstrapping advice?

Viscosi: Running a business is an iterative process. I constantly measure, tweak and adjust things. I know I mentioned it earlier, too, but a big piece of that is listening to your audience. They’re why I do what I do and I want to make sure my services and events are in alignment with their needs.

Oh, and one more thing. Celebrate your successes. It’s so easy to move onto the next thing, but before you do, take a breath and find something that you can actually do to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. My favorite way I’ve stopped and celebrated was drinking a bottle of wine I’d purchased on a family trip. I bought it just for that occasion—to celebrate completion of the first CMBXP—and it was a magical way to take a moment and reflect on what I’d actually just created.

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Brooks: Women for Men's Health Gala launch at Hotel Arts

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Pictured, from left, at the Women For Men's Health (WFMH) reception Sept. 11 at Hotel Arts are, from left: Dr. Marty Duffy, WFMH founder Dr. Shelley Spaner, Karen Gosbee, WFMH's new mental health ambassador, Dr. Geoff Gotto and Dr. Anthony Cook. The reception introduced guests to Gosbee and also announced details of the second annual WFMH gala — The Big Ball — Feb. 1 at Hotel Arts.


Bill Brooks / Bill Brooks

Listen up Mother Nature. I’ve got a bone to pick with you. Not only did you create the postponement of the Hull in One golf tournament, but you made organizers of the Women for Men’s Health pool party at Hotel Arts somewhat stressed. But the terrific team at Hotel Arts can turn on a dime and seamlessly moved the Sept. 11 party indoors to Raw Bar.

The Women for Men’s Health (WFMH) Group, with the support of the Prostate Cancer Center (PCC), was established in 2016. Since  inception, the group has raised more than $250,000 and has secured more than $1 million in funding for expansion of Men’s Health Initiatives at the PCC. Readers may recall the inaugural WFMH gala held this past January at Hotel Arts was an enormous success. And the plans unveiled at the pool party for the second annual event — The Big Ball taking place Feb. 1,2019 had all in attendance buzzing with anticipation.

A powerful statistic that hits at the heart of the need for Men’s Health Initiatives comes when one looks at the top 13 causes of death in Alberta. This includes all cancers, heart disease, accidental or unintentional injury, diabetes, stroke, chronic liver disease and respiratory disease.

Men lead women in every category except one. Women die more frequently than men from Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. The reason for this is that men simply do not live long enough to die from this. The inequity in gender health becomes even more staggering when one looks into men’s mental health struggles. Annually, more than 500 Albertans die of suicide. Of these, more than 400 are males between the ages of 30-69.

That is why the focus of The Big Ball will be men’s mental health. WFMH founder Dr. Shelley Spaner spoke eloquently as to the cause for support and took a great deal of pride in introducing Karen Gosbee as the ambassador for the 2019 ball. Gosbee’s husband George took his own life in November last year. Karen has since become a phenomenal advocate and community leader in mental health. Her address this night was powerful indeed and will no doubt ensure the Big Ball will be an enormous success.

Among the select group of guests in attendance were: Hotel Arts Group general manager and PCC board member Mark Wilson and his wife Kerry; philanthropist and community leader Ann McCaig; Freedom 55 Financial’s Danielle Sutton and her daughter Olivia; Brandsmith’s Shea Kerwood; YYC Cycle’s Andrew Obrecht; PCC executive director Pam Heard with colleagues Shannon De Vall, Eva Moreau and Anthony Prymack; ARC Financial’s Nancy Lever; PCC board members Maryse St-Laurent and Andrew Abbott; Kathy Hays; Patti O’Connor; bestselling author Kirstie McLellan Day; Dr. Marty Duffy; Dr. Geoff Gotto; Dr. Anthony Cook; Lana Rogers; and Kim Berjian.

Please mark your calendar for Feb. 1 and plan to attend and support The Big Ball at Hotel Arts.

With files from Dr. Shelley Spaner


From left: Herald scribe and Prostate Cancer Centre (PCC) board member Bill Brooks, PCC executive director Pam Heard, PCC board member and Women For Men’s Health founder Dr. Shelley Spaner and PCC board member and Hotel Arts Group general manager Mark Wilson.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


Freedom 55 Financial’s Danielle Sutton and her daughter Olivia Sutton.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


Dr. Shelley Spaner (left) and Women For Men’s Health mental health ambassador Karen Gosbee.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


From left: YYC Cycle’s Andrew Obrecht, Prostate Cancer Centre’s Shannon De Vall and Brandsmith’s Shea Kerwood.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


From left: Patti O’Connor, Kathy Hays and Kirstie McLellan Day.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


Ann McCaig (left) and ARC Financial’s Nancy Lever.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


From left: Dr. Anthony Cook, Anthony Prymack and Dr. Marty Duffy.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks


Hotel Arts’ Fraser Abbott (left) and his brother, Prostate Cancer Centre board member Andrew Abbott.

Bill Brooks /

Bill Brooks

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Uncertain future for arts centre neighbouring damaged Fairview Arena

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The owner of Indefinite Arts Centre says increased demand for the program’s services for people with disabilities warrants an expansion but his hands are currently tied as he awaits a City of Calgary decision on what will become of the attached arena.

On February 20, the roof atop the arena at the Fairview Arena and Community Hall collapsed after the building in the 8,000 block of Fairmount Drive Southeast, was deemed unsafe and closed to the public. The structural damage to the part of the building that housed Indefinite Arts Centre was minor but the studio was forced to vacate the premises.  

The art program was displaced for nearly five months, operating temporarily out of the Shane Homes YMCA, before it was permitted to return to Fairview in July.

The building has been without heat after the gas lines were severed and the artists have resorted to wearing jackets indoors in an attempt to stay warm.

CTV Calgary was notified of the heat concerns and, after the story aired, Indefinite Arts Centre’s owner, Jung-Suk Ryu, says he received a call from a senior official in Mayor Nenshi’s office stating she wasn’t pleased that Ryu had discussed the issue with the media.

“My responsibility as the CEO of this organization is to be a strong advocate for our needs first,” Ryu told CTV on Friday. “The fact that it may not have been taken so well is very upsetting.”

In a statement, Nenshi’s office stated their concerns. “We continue to be committed to helping any organization that does important work in Calgary to the extent that we can but it is always easier if we hear it directly first instead of through other channels.”

Ryu says he has been supported in his effort to have the issue addressed. “The general consensus of our team members was I did the right thing when we went to the media to talk about the issues facing this building. We talked about some of the frustrations

Contactors from Indefinite Arts Centre’s insurance company have since restored heat to the studio.

Ryu hopes the City of Calgary will come to a decision on the fate of the property in the near future. “We’re in an eyesore of a building. This affects the community, not only the community that we serve but the broader community of Fairview.”

A stakeholders meeting was held Thursday night to discuss potential options for the building but the arts centre will not permitted to expand or renovate until a decision on the property is finalized.

With files from CTV’s Jaclyn Brown

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Puerto Rican Arts Alliance celebrates 20 years

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The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is celebrating a milestone this year: 20 years of arts education in the Latino community.
Their programs in art and music give kids a chance to learn about their culture hands on.
After school rehearsal at the Latin Music Project are in full swing as students prepare to record their own CD — an opportunity of a lifetime thanks to the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance.

SOT: Carlos Hernandez – Founder & Executive Director Puerto Rican Arts Alliance

“There are youth, there are children in our community that are yearning for music classes, they’re yearning for arts,” said Carlos Hernandez, founder and executive director of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance. “Arts and music is what resonates in this organization. I’ve seen so many students over the years come through our doors and leave our doors and go into higher education and become professionals.”

The Latin Music Project is one of several programs within PRAA that allows kids ages 4 to 18 to learn the music, history and instruments of Latin culture.
“Music from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil and any part of South America. We get kids involved in their own culture by teaching the background of the music, the people who write the music,” said José Carrasquillo, music manager for the Latin Music Project.

In the Studio Arts Program, kids age 14-18 now have their work on display at the Chicago Cultural Center. The installation currently on display was done by students over the summer and showcase six paintings significant to Puerto Rican art history and shows a timeline of natural disasters in Puerto Rico over the years.

“The thing that I really believe in is that we need to fill that void. We’re providing an arts program that provides skills in the arts and design but also provides some heritage, culture and heritage,” said Jorge Felix, the studio arts and exhibition program director.

As the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance grows, they hope to expand these programs while continuing to educate others about Latino culture.

SOT: Carlos Hernandez – Founder & Executive Director Puerto Rican Arts Alliance
“We are growing in a city that is very diverse and equity and inclusivity in the arts is important for the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance,” Hernandez said. “We’re opening up our centers for other cultures to come in. Those are the kind of things that we see ourselves growing in the next 20 years I think it’s going to be fascinating.”

Visit the PRAA’s website for more information.

(Copyright ©2018 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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