Hi Sam, thanks for taking the time today to talk about your experience with the Creative Capacity Fund's Quick Grant Program. Can you tell us about your work as an artist?
In 2010, my mom and I decided to collaborate on a project about home. We lost a home when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and we decided to buy an old, 1951 ,30 foot long Silver Bullet Spartan trailer and restore it. It would be a home and mobile space for me as an artist and be a gallery space for people to exhibit and perform in.
As a student, I asked Cal Arts to let me do the whole restoration as an art project and to restore it on the parking lot there. I experimented with a lot of different practices. I asked dancers to come and perform in there and puppeteers and all kinds of people. Also, I have a professor who started this art collective called Nomad Lab with some kids in Newhall, California. They use vacant apartments in this neighborhood to give art classes in. We opened up the trailer for them to use as another arts space. They started designing furniture for the space and since obviously “home” was a big thing for them, too, we found common ground.
Very cool! Can you tell me a little bit about how hiring a management consultant helped with your project?
At the time we were applying for fiscal sponsorship and for some other grants and the consultant really helped us to “get our stories straight” and to get organized. We met with her a couple of times.
When you say “get your stories straight” what were you hoping to accomplish in those couple of sessions? What kind of work did she do with you to help you get “organized”?
We didn't have any experience working in the non-profit world, so some of the things we went to her asking had to do with fundraising and she would tell us things like: If you are applying for big grants you have to be careful, because you're going to be in competition with other big places, and you guys may want to stay small and start thinking about fundraising through individuals. Going directly to people who have family funds, instead of reaching out for the big grants. She, also, provided some advice about becoming a not-for-profit and advised us that maybe we should wait a little longer.
What did you take away from those sessions that you were able to implement?
I think the one thing that we took from that was to stay small. I feel that often times it's easy to cater to a grant and to what they want to fund. She really encouraged us to stick to our guns and do what we do and eventually we'll get what we need. The actual restoration is going to cost a lot of money, so we were really pushing for big amounts at first, but now instead of focusing on how to raise $80,000, we've been focusing on how to raise little amounts from little events, and eventually the rest will come.
Do you have any thoughts about the importance of these kinds of opportunities, or what kinds of opportunities you feel like you may need next to move forward?
Right now, I'm trying to find the balance between the J.O.B and my own work that I am doing with this project. That's been a real challenge for me. I would really love to be able to pay myself for doing this project and I haven't been able to figure that out. Especially, since it's a family art project. I feel like I have a lot to learn just in general, particularly the business side of it.
This grant in particular gives money for conferences, workshops, for consultants, to pay for coaches, etc. Going forward what do you think would be helpful for your career?
I think if I were to do it again, I would still ask for consulting, or coaching, but it would be something more lengthy and with a consultant to match really specifically what we are doing. The coaching is great. This was a great opportunity to work with someone.
Sam Breen is a Los Angeles based actor (M.F.A, CalArts) who frequently performs internationally. He is the founder of the Trailer Trash Project - a movable creative lab operating out of a solar-powered vintage silver bullet trailer.
Yesenia Sanchez, Soleil Coaching & Consulting www.soleilcoach.com
Yesenia Sanchez is a professional coach and arts management consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has over ten years experience working with artists and arts organizations as an executive director, financial manager, administrative director, program director, coach and consultant. Yesenia has served as a panelist and presenter for Theatre Bay Area, San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Foundation & Grants for the Arts “Best Practices Series", and the National Performing Arts Convention. She is a trainer and featured author in the newly published Center for Cultural Innovation's Business of Art© book, authoring the chapter on financial literacy for artists.