Business Acumen for Artists - An Online Learning Log

STICKY IDEAS EVENT - The invite to final group exhibition

The Group Exhibition for this course is planned as a collaborative fun event, with selected visual art, jewellery, ceramic art, performance art, installations and screenings on display for one evening (30 November 2007).  The thrust of the event is to have a final get-together where all delegates will have a chance to show their work to their classmates, and to increase their network. A catalogue of exhibitors will also be loaded onto the blog soon.

See you there, Elske

Open the invite to see the details.

Sticky Ideas

Active Listening Skills

Here are a couple of points to provoke your thinking from Paul Abrams' workshop on Active Listening Skills.


Listen to understand the other’s thinking, assumptions, and point of view, you don’t have to agree

Check understanding

Ask questions “This is what I understand…is this right? What do you mean when you say…?

Ask for examples

Suspend judgement. Probe for another point of view. Remember there are many right answers

Ask : are there any other views? What are we missing? What will happen if we go in this direction?

Listen for the thinking behind the other’s actions

Why Business is Suspicious of Giving

I have just had the most extraordinary experience. I know some of the people at iCommons and at the request of someone interested in what we were doing in SA re the Business Acumen for Artists came up with the idea of creating an open source on-line learning log for what we were learning on the programme. So I posted a link to the blog and invited anyone interested to check out what we were doing and to comment or at the least, give their insights from other countries. I also thought it would be an amazing way of linking in the aritsts from 15 different disciplines to other like-minded individuals. This evening I saw a post that someone had made which said that they were suspicious of this and that it may well smack of self-advertising. What's in this for me in terms of my career is beyond me but still it made me think about why Business remains suspicious of entering this open source arena. And I think perhaps, that it may well be for the exact same reason that after reading this I thought, what is the point of sharing if people are only going to look for the underbelly. At least with a going concern, you can be measured on tangible profits and realisable shareholder value. No wonder Big Business is wary of the amorpheous place of giving freely - if the repose is suspicious and laden with undirected, unsolicited vitriole. If the Open movement is really going to succeed, perhaps more care needs to be taken with understanding how to embrace the gifts that those in organised environments give freely. Until then, it will remain a place of watching uneasily from both sides. Here is the link to the post:

Even Art Products Are Conversations

HughtrainTell me... Are you more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend or a marketer? Are you more likely to make a purchasing decision based on expert advice or an advert? If your answers to the above were "friend" and "expert advice", then you probably already understand that recommendations are far more credible when they come from a third party.

It stands to reason then that you should probably consider why someone would talk about your work.


Your work needs to be Remarkable. Literally interesting enough that people would Remark on it. And people will tend to remark on subjects which help them connect with other people - unusual, funny, shocking, beautiful, arresting, admirable or some other quality which has a clear affect on the person who experiences it.

This is not a matter of how good your work is; it is about how much conviction it has. Conviction is more important that quality when it comes to ideas that spread.

Social Currency

It is useful to think of ideas that spread as "Social Currency" - they add value to social interactions between people.

Once your art product is a part of people's conversations, you have earned a very valuable form of attention, for virtually no financial outlay.


The next question to consider is how you wish to channel that Attention. Would you want them to contact you? If so, how would they?

The answer is that once you are a part of the conversation, you need to be accessible in order for people to act on their knowledge of you.

The Web

The internet can help here. Each mention of your work online leaves a digital cookie-trail which can be tracked to it's origin. Furthermore, each mention online remains there for other people to discover, and so you build momentum.

Blogging Blogging is a great way to build your presence online. A blog is simply a website that you can very easily create yourself, and then add content such as writing, pictures, videos or audio to.

You can create your own blog at or These free blogs will give you an address that looks like: There isn't much wrong with this, except that it's longer to type.

But if you would like a cleaner domain (i.e. without the ".wordpress"), then you can get a .com here or a here. Expect to pay around R100 per month for hosting. The two hosting services I have linked to here contain a section in their control panel called Fantastico, which will allow you to easily put your blog online. If you have any  difficulties, you can contact their Support staff and they will assist you at no extra cost.

Growing Your Network

The next step after creating your blog is getting people to visit it.

Search engines like Google are most helpful for this. When people search for words related to your work, you want to be as near to the top of the Search Results as possible.

Here are four ways to improve the effectiveness of your site on Search Engines (and add value to the people who visit it):

1. Content: Write well about your subject. Explore it from many different angles. The more you talk about it, the more likely you are to use all the words associated with your subject (which can then be found by people searching for them) 2. Links In to Your Site: The more links you have to your site, so your authority online increases. You can ask people to link to you directly (especially sites with related content) or list your site on directories (such as for blogs or a directory specifically for your industry). Also, make sure that you link to your own site from as many other websites that you use - such as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, or any other website you've set up. 3. Freshness of Content: New content is often more useful than old content, especially as you comment on news or developments in your work or in your industry. In addition to this, search engines "notice" that you maintain your site well and they rank you higher as a result. 4. Amount of Content: The more content you have on your site (around a particular subject, particularly), the more likely you are to be picked up by search engines. Furthermore, your site grows into a rich resource of information about your topic.


Remember that relationships are built over time. When you first start building your online presence, it can seem like it is more effort than it's worth. However, as continue to engage with people through this medium so your network will expand and more people will join the conversation around the work you do. At this point, the work and time that you have put in initially will start working for you, and you will see better rewards on anything you do to build on it.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has". - Margaret Mead

By Dave Duarte, Huddlemind Labs *The Market for Something to Believe in, pic from Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void