Meeting with artists. Contacting businesses for partnership. Piloting an artist-in-residence project at Impact Hub Ottawa through CSArt. Running arts animations. Setting up at art fairs and open houses. Finding subscribers, contacting subscribers, trying to support subscribers. Supporting our season’s artists. Marketing, social media promotion, communications. Budgeting, cutting, budgeting again. Finding time for the growing pile of emails late at night or before dawn. Advocating for the social entreprise model with granting bodies. Running to art events to keep up with the scene. Starting up CSArt Ottawa is like all of the art producing I’ve done so far, except instead of being project based, it’s constant.
It’s tempting in running the organization to constantly refer to ourselves as ‘we’. ‘We’ decided to do this, ‘we’ were at the art fair. ‘We’ have got it all together. But when ‘we’ means one person working full-time to get things started while living on Master’s scholarships, that language kind of obscures the truth.
Why am I saying all this? I don’t mean to complain; I love what I’m doing. I’m writing so that you understand what CSArt is, and what we’re about. And by you, I mean those of you who’ve taken the time to tell me how cool you think this is; I mean the artists who are watching and waiting to see if this will work; I mean those of you who have thought about subscribing but aren’t sure yet; and I mean the people who have already taken the plunge and subscribed. We hear about start-ups being difficult, and working with the arts adds a whole other challenging layer, but what does that mean in concrete terms? I’m writing to continue to be transparent with you about who we are and the energy this takes.
So, who are we, really?
Well, there’s me, Megan, a theatre artist spending all my spare time making CSArt as great as it can be. This season we sold 23 subscriptions, representing 43 people. This means we have enough to pay all of our artists, which is fantastic. My challenge for the next 6 months is to continue to grow our event budget, and to try to pay myself for some of my work.
While I’m the only ‘staff’, I’m not alone. There’s my fantastic advisory committee: Nicole, a bottomless well of encouragement and arts admin wisdom. James, who is great with numbers and helps me see a different perspective. Gabbie, an actor with a great pulse on live events and the food scene. Jean, a painter with a history in event management. Dan, plugged into the start-up and government communities, who as my husband gets to be my on-call advisor at odd hours. Toni, marketing expert who sponsors us with her company RedBrick Rooster and inspires me to let people see the real, which is why I’m writing a blog like this. These are all busy people with their own work to do, and they generously volunteer a few hours a month to CSArt.
Then there are the artists, who are doing amazing work: Scottie, keyboardist and manager of The PepTides, who hustles on our behalf and is a big champion of the CSArt model. Geoff and Karen from THUNK!, whose specific brand of homemade interactive theatre is perfect for us. Mark, who in addition to being a talented painter is tapped into the maker community and helps us to branch out there. Susie and Chris, who care deeply for the natural environment and have been plotting their grand CSArt collaboration for over a year.
Then our awesome venue partners who are hosting us this year: Gallery Recording Studios, Pressed, Clover Food & Drink, and Impact Hub Ottawa. Lastly, our other partners, those helping to film The PepTides live concert EP, our upcoming event partner the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, and those at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. who have decided to lend us a hand.
That’s it. That’s who we are. That’s what it takes to make a crazy, collaborative start-up happen, at least in the beginning stages.
It’s been a big learning curve. It’s been a year of hard work. And finally, our first art event is approaching, the reason I wanted to do this in the first place.
CSArt is a growing community of people, who are going to make some amazing art and art events happen. We’re ready to go. Next weekend, the season begins.