Archives for category: Regional New York / New England

Experts say there are a few things we can all do to preserve and even develop brain agility throughout adulthood and into our later years. One key is to incorporate divergent as well as convergent thinking – both the linear and the creative thought processes – into our days.

How do we do this?  As it turns out, the medium of sculpture offers a unique set of benefits.


According to neuroscientist and Tedx speaker Eric Kandel, “The tactile system is one set of neural pathways in the brain. The visual system in another.  When the two converge, the combined effect can be very powerful.” He goes on to describe how engaging with sculpture brings together memory, intellect and sensory impressions.

Because it is a “both-handed” endeavor, sculpture – more than other art forms such as drawing or painting – engages both sides of the brain.  This integration promotes overall cognitive function by mitigating the process of lateralization, or use of specific areas of the brain for different functions, which tends to progress with age.

Dr. Ivan Tirado, an artist who earned his doctorate in instructional design, appreciates sculpture’s connection to a pre-verbal state of human development. “Blending cognitive psychology with art has always been interesting to me. Sculpting, for example, connects us with the first loving touches we received as babies.”

He also points out that making art helps the brain access the state of relaxation so necessary to effective decision-making. “Research shows that tapping into creative flow offers the same neurological benefits as meditation or massage.”

Says one of his students, “When you’re up on your feet, moving around, encouraged to look at things in a new way, it broadens your perspective. It’s not just about art. It teaches you how to pay attention.”

Two years ago Tirado began holding Sculpture Parties to promote social and cognitive wellbeing through the creative process, particularly to encourage acceptance of our imperfections as we grow older by studying the human form.  “We’re all a book, writing it as we go.  We have to fall in love with all of the changes as they happen.”

As he wrote in his dissertation, art provides experiences that “improve self-efficacy, which is the perception of skills to achieve a goal, by bridging new concepts to known concepts and experiences, focusing on short-term goals, guidance, feedback, and motivation. Commitment to short-term goals leads to accomplishment, which improves self-efficacy, creating a cycle of transformation.”  These brief, linear sequences embedded into cyclical feedback loops achieve the combination of divergent and convergent thinking recommended for keeping an individual’s neural connections rapid, plastic and strong.


Tirado’s artwork is published in the books International Contemporary Masters VI (World Wide Art Books, 2012) and Important World Artists (WWAB, 2013). His research is published in the International Journal of Strategic Information Technology and Applications.

LEARN MORE and – if you’re in the New Haven area register for one of his Sculpture Parties!

Too many conversations lately go something like this:

Me to startup leader: are you Agile?

Startup leader to me:  as Agile as our clients let us be.

Image: choreography by Ann Carlson, used with permission.  More at

When I speak to various groups on The Agile Mindset, I point out that enlightening clients about the benefits of Agile begins with conversations leading up to the initial agreement.  While it’s less important to negotiate a contract than it is to simply collaborate with the customer, language choices do tend to support certain ways of working.

I was pretty pleased with my last experience using a Scrum-friendly contract.  The client said, “Wow, this is short!”  I replied, “Yep, let’s get to work!”

As always, get legal advice from a qualified attorney when you need it.  This is not legal advice.  I offer these sample blurbs as building blocks for your consideration.


The following items shall be presented for acceptance:

  1. Project backlog – revised monthly or as needed

  2. Retrospective report with relevant recommendations for improvement – monthly or as needed


The relationship between Client  and the Consultant will be managed and sustained by [NAME OF PRODUCT OWNER], who will be responsible for articulating goals and requirements and formally “accepting” the delivery of the work agreed-upon.

Since projects benefit from regular, purposeful, bi-directional communication, meetings shall be scheduled as follows – [INSERT SCHEDULE OF CEREMONIES].  Consultant will remain available – face to face whenever possible – offering reasonable response times, and shall expect that the Client shall be similarly available and supply all information and data as needed to complete the work to mutual satisfaction.

Consultant is happy to use any tools or processes preferred by Client.  Consultant will follow an Agile framework, which is a proven way of getting things done based on principles of entrepreneurial science.  As an Agile practitioner, the Consultant will help identify strategic opportunities to increase business value for the Client, believing that:

  • People and interactions are more important than processes and tools.

  • Working product is more important than extensive documentation.

  • Close collaboration is more important than contract negotiation.

  • Responding to change is more important than following a plan.

Last four bullet points are from The Manifesto for Agile Software Development


Recently I received this note and cheerful query from a colleague who runs a B2B custom software development company.

“Good news!  I think I may have convinced a client to use Scrum methods for their next project.

However I’m not really sure how to draw up the project’s contract.  Most of my contracts have very specific tasks and use change orders every time the spec changes.  This doesn’t seem like it would work with a Scrum project.  Any recommendations?”

So I sent him the above, and added a closing line which applies across the board.  Should you ever need backup helping your clients ‘let’ you be more Agile, be in touch for a consultation!

Conflict based on personalities is a time drain, wasteful on many levels.  Conflict rooted in differing convictions can be constructive and add value if handled correctly.  Yet doing so takes courage, and that means facing our fears.

company cypher

Openly invite conflict.   People are afraid of disagreement because, in hierarchies, the outcome can be loss of social status.  Invite people to share a multitude of ideas in open forums.  There will be less risk associated with offering the “wrong” opinions, and  communal trust will increase. [1]

Kill the experts.  Any organization that presumes to bring in “experts” is operating in a hierarchical manner.  Call them something else, like “instigators.”  It changes the energy.

Critique ideas, not people.  In the 12-step circles I’ve been fortunate to frequent as a participant-observer, this is known as “putting principles before personalities.”  In a training session on giving feedback, one company I worked with decided to embrace the model of the art critique.  This makes the process of observing what works and what doesn’t fun and engaging rather than scary and full of rejection. [2]

Strictly enforce timeboxes.  When deadlines loom, posturing and jockeying for position simply makes no sense.  [3] Study how theater ensembles manage deadlines: the date for opening night gets published and the public is invited in.  Everyone in the ensemble has a personal, public stake in meeting the deadline [4]

Reinforce goodwill.   Consistent, sustainable quality cannot occur when people treat each other badly.   One company I worked for spelled out its expectation that we would show “respect and candor in all communications.”  Too much candor can descend into brutality.  Overly respectful deference, on the other hand, can put the freeze on important conversations.  So say it, but say it in a nice way.  That’s goodwill.

Be #Flawsome. Show your imperfections and people will automatically feel safer around you.  A group of people doing this will be more united than a team of perfectionists.   Do you believe that awesome imperfection is sufficient to muddle through challenges?  Try it on a small project and see how much anxiety and energy get released for finding creative solutions.

Play with options.  Forum Theater is a way to stop action in a tense or conflicted setting and reinvent new futures.   [5]  The following questions can be posed in writing (to encourage introverts) or in dialogue, or acted out in skits.

  • What would I do if I were brave..?
  • What would I do if I were all-powerful?
  • What would I do if I were in charge?

The Traditions of one worldwide self-organizing group state “So long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart, all will be well.”   Here’s hoping that all is well and continues to improve with you and your teams.


[1] Brindusa Axon, “The Power of Productive Conflict”

[2] Narcotics Anonymous, “Why It Works: The Twelve Traditions of NA”

[3] Tom Wujec & Peter Skillman, “The Marshmallow Challenge”

[4] Lee Devin, “Artful Making” and “The Soul of Design”

[5] Sarita Covington, energizing the use of Forum Theater to help organizations and ecosystems


Arthur Fink, for sparking this essay and providing feedback and

Michael Romano, for being a trusted and reliable editor

Pictured: Company Cypher, founded by Sarita Covington with another fellow Yale grad.  Coming soon to The Agile Gym (all rights reserved) 

MPT-FBThe Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston is one of the nation’s premiere organizations to formally build an alliance between the arts and start-up worlds.

The schedule for their upcoming MPT workshop series – now in its second year – has just been announced!

The Musician’s Professional Toolbox (MPT) empowers musicians of all genres with the entrepreneurial skills they need to master the business challenges of being an artist. This program takes career musicians (limited to 35 participants) through a series of engaging workshops that further their capacity to think and operate like creative entrepreneurs. Now in its second year, the Musician’s Professional Toolbox program includes 10+ workshops over 9 weeks, presented by 8 outstanding instructors, each a renowned expert in their field. Musicians will leave the program with a business/marketing plan, improved materials, sharp insights into financial management and fundraising, tips and tools of the trade, the support of fellow musicians, and new industry contacts.

Workshops include “Musican as Entrepreneur,”  “Social Media Marketing,” “Grantwriting & Fundraising,” “Successful Contract Negotiation,” and more.  Partial scholarships and payment plans are available.  The contact for this program is D’Lynne Plummer, Director of Professional Development.

More information is available at

Today for Monday/Collaborate, Artbux interviews Stefanie Lynx Weber, an action-based artist based in Pittsfield, MA who specializes in dance, movement and performance.


Stefanie is presently developing with collaborating artist Monika Pizzichemi, They Dance For Rain which is an on-going Tap Dance (and Hoop Dance) project in Nairobi, Kenya. Exhibitions of photo work from the project (see above) are slated for various Tap Festivals through the US.

We spoke about an article The Washington Post published in August 2012 claiming that dance is the most successful category on Kickstarter.

AB: What experience do you have using Kickstarter for dance?

SLW: I have used Kickstarter for dance projects twice. The first campaign was to complete a 50-minute live performance piece, habitat (de)fragmentation, and be able to pay the performers for the many hours of rehearsal time needed in order to make something ready for a premiere. I also needed some funding for costumes, props, and video editing. I made it a little beyond my goal of about $2000 with much help from my community and many hours plugging away at it. The second time I used Kickstarter was for bringing that same piece eight months later to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I needed to cover expenses of travel, hotels, and performance fees. I reached that goal as well.

I also did two more crowd-funding campaigns on another site, Indiegogo, for my dance project They Dance For Rain in Nairobi, Kenya. (For more info on this and other current projects, please visit Stefanie’s blog: )

AB: What skills do dance artists practice all the time that might make them more successful than others in this space..?

SLW: There are three things that come to mind. One is that dance artists are often not strangers to taking risks. Launching an online campaign to raise money for your vision as an artist is risky business. To those of us used to falling on the floor and getting back up it becomes just another necessary part of the process.

The next thing that comes to mind is that dancers are used to grinding away at something till it flows. Practicing something over and over. Finding what is working and what is not. Crowd-funding can be a grueling and time-consuming process. Again, we are used to trying again and again to get something just right. And that is what you have to do with something like Kickstarter. You have to show up everyday and be willing to try another way to reach that next person.

Most importantly, many dance artists have to be able to really connect and reach others in order to make their work.  If you have other performers in your work, you find out quickly what makes this a different situation from other art forms. Paint does not talk back or have children to feed or need health insurance. Clay is not injured and then not available for 2 weeks or more. I think that dance artists, especially individually-based ones, develop an empathy, understanding and deep view into the human condition make it easier to reach out to others.  This makes it more likely that you would even try something like Kickstarter because you have to really appeal to your audience for their support.


You have to create an audience, not only a dance. You have to understand that most people funding you through Kickstarter are going to be people you know, or people they know, and so being connected to them as humans and not just a profile on a screen or a hand with money is invaluable. Most of the people that donated to my campaigns were people who not only believed in my ability to do the work, but worked hard for their living also and saw themselves as becoming a part of the creative process.

Generally speaking, dance artists already have the skills needed to bring people together to make something unique happen.

AB: Does word that dance kicks butt on Kickstarter seem like “news” to you? Why or why not?

SLW: I have not done a lot searching around on Kickstarter so I was not aware of what is working and what is not. I did see a lot of videos, movies, and film-type campaigns being featured often when I was using Kickstarter. I am not surprised at all that individual dance artists (especially), companies and organizations would use a source like this and be successful at it.

Dance is not generally funded broadly and dance artists often use other people to make their art. People need to be paid for their time, skill and energy.  And today’s dance artists are often on the edge, coming up with new perspectives and ways to say something that needs to said. Much of this goes over the heads of larger funding sources or doesn’t fit into their antiquated and limiting funding structures.  Also, dance artists often don’t want or have the ability to wait for long grant cycles, gain “permission” to carry on, or cater their work to a theme or criteria that does not really support their unique or complex process and vision.

Platforms like Kickstarter give more power and visibility to the many kinds of dance-making processes that exist. Dance art is cutting edge because it always involves bodies. Bodies are and always have been radical forms of expression. It’s nice to hear that individual dance artists (especially) are getting what they need from this community-based source because they certainly are not getting it from any corporate, government or nationally structured funding source. Maybe Kickstarter is helping to make the value of this need in our culture more visible.

AB: What message would you like people to take away from the article?

SLW: Sources like Kickstarter (and Indiegogo, etc) are making it possible for dance artists to bypass the worn out roads to funding their valuable and unique visions by providing a concise template and well-organized platform for reaching out and finding financial support. Dance artists therefore have more of an opportunity to successfully blaze their own trails. This is not a walk in the park, it is hard work! Most dance artists who are actively and consistently putting work out are used to that and will step up to the plate.


Stefanie Weber has worked with many organizations: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Opera Company, Simon’s Rock, Williams College, Berkshire Community College, Terpsichore Dance Studio, Lenox Community Center, Hudsons’ Operation Unite, East Harlem Union Settlement Association,  Somerville’s ArtBeat, and Cambridge River Festival; as an artist, educator, performer, or choreographer.  Presently she is on faculty with Community Access to the Arts, Berkshire Dance Theater, and Kinesphere Movement Arts Studio.

Stefanie is the founder and artistic director of the Creatures Of Habitat Physical Poetry Public Performance Project and Pittsfield City Hoopla. She is a performer and co-director of the performance ensemble Silver Swimmers (USA) , was in the Commonwealth Tap Collective based in Boston and is a performer with Nutshell Playhouse. A dancer with Caryn Heilman’s LiquidBody Dance for six years, Stefanie immersed herself in the the work of movement pioneer Emily Conrad. She collaborates frequently with various local and international artists, musicians and community development enthusiasts. Her work and development has been supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Stefanie is a certified Gyrotonic instructor, former Americorps Member, graduate of UMASS Amherst with a degree in Environmental Sciences (focus on toxicology), and has taken artistic residency with The Storefront Artist Project (02-06) and Dana Bixby Architecture (07).  She is a former board member of Topia Arts Center in Adams, MA.

In Spring of 2007, Stefanie was recognized as a “Young Woman Moving the Berkshires Forward” by the Berkshire Eagle newspaper and awarded certificate as an asset to the community by State Senator Benjamin Downing.

The image below is included not because anyone paid for it, but because it is directly relevant to the Story.  And, okay, the colors match!

picture Etsy

The other day The New York Times speculated that “hundreds of visitors in expensive suits will rush in a stampede elbowing each other like soccer fans to get in ahead of the competition” in the Netherlands this weekend at the 26th European Art Fair.

Ummm…is that a bad thing?

Business models are always needing to change and adapt.  The business model of the big art auction houses – the main source of Old Master paintings in past decades – has been disrupted.  And so, now in comes the “Art Fair” as the trending replacement model.

It is interesting to note that part of the value proposition of the auction houses was their function as imprimatur.  In most other sectors of the broader culture, the role of “Tastemaker” has waned as the crowd wants direct access to participatory experience, not spectacle.  The traditional art auction is indeed just that: Spectacle with a capital “SP – ECTACLE.”

The very word “fair,” on the other hand, albeit in English, connotes a sense of egalitarian access, a flattening of hierarchies.  The opportunity to leap over the gatekeeper and directly sense what is appealing is, in effect, a powerful chance to curate one’s own gaze.   The opportunity for a more considered negotiation process helps would-be collectors gather intelligence to match up with and learn about their own instincts.  This process of developing embodied knowledge on an individual basis is part and parcel of participatory experience.

Do we want hordes of art collectors honing their own sense of what is worthwhile to look at and purchase, irrespective of those topheavy auction houses that used to control the art market?

Ummm…what do you think?!

Joy Wulke is an environmental artist who founded Projects for a New Millennium,



The organization is about “creating collaborative events that foster the fusing of art and science as a means of discovery and appreciation of the natural world.”

Wulke’s work is now part of the nightscape of the train station in Stamford, Connecticut.  According to The New York Times, “The new look, different from one second to the next, was achieved for only $155,000 — less than the cost of a paint job.”

The project, funded  with state money awarded on a competitive basis, demonstrates a national trend toward “creative placemaking,” an attempt to make places more vibrant through artist-led projects.  The winning team, led by Norwalk-based painter and sculptor Sandy Garnett, included Jamie Burnett and Steve Hamelin as lighting specialists and advisers.  It was Jamie who coined the term “light wrangler,” which Wulke defines as an artist who responds to the character of light as a partner in creation.

Read more at:

At the 2012 Bessie Awards, the New York dance “community of communities,” as organizer Lucy Sexton put it, reaffirmed itself on many levels while honoring its standouts.  One question wove in and out of the remarks from the stage: “How lucky am I?”

As in: how lucky am I to be doing what I love?  How lucky am I to be allowed to work with such amazing collaborators?  How lucky am I that people see my work?  How lucky am I to be able to live my passion?

On an obvious level, this is a ritual of gratitude.  Listen closer, and it rings as a statement about belonging.  It sounds like, “I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

The award presenters and recipients made another act of belonging that night at the Apollo Theater: an affectionate rub of the golden tree stump positioned down right as each took the podium and prepared to speak.

I know there is a deeper story here than I’m prepared to tell.  Suffice it to say, this was an “insider” tree stump, and rubbing it an insider thing to do.  The performing arts are full of such things.

So are other fields.  I happened to catch world-class Alpine climber Conrad Anker at Yale Law School as part of The North Face Speaker Series.  He related how he and his two climbing partners, Renan Ozturk, and Jimmy Chin, promised the Hindu mountain dwellers for whom Himalayan summits are sacred that they would bring them back rocks from the very top to share their joy.  Last fall was the third time the three Americans had tried to scale the direct line up the Shark’s Fin of Meru (Garwhal), and they were successful.

What insider-type rituals go on in your workplace?  How could it become a place of adventure, a place of belonging?  And how often do YOU ask that golden question in the company of your colleagues, “How lucky am I?” 

Pop action hero Elizabeth Streb hosted the 2012 Bessie Awards at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, honoring New York dance artists who have broken new ground and/or made discoveries in the art form.  “Our moves are our message,” she remarked from the stage.  How true!

In that spirit, ta-DA! Here’s a move from business back into the arts today, hoping some people who might not normally follow “who’s who” in contemporary dance might just get curious.  It’s an illustrious roster, with a lot of great work to back up each name.

First of all, who is Elizabeth Streb?  I’ve written before about her in the context of garage art.  However, when she’s not throwing open the doors to her Brooklyn studio and inviting in the whole neighborhood, you might find her dancers, oh, I don’t know, walking down the SIDE of a FAMOUS monument in LONDON, maybe?

Streb Dance London: Dancers bungee off the Millennium Bridge

Among the artists honored with Bessies (named after Bessie Schoenberg, late, great professor of dance at Sarah Lawrence College), let’s hear it for Flamenco artist Israel Galvan, who created La Edad de Oro, performed at The Joyce Theater.  Let’s also agree to use the label of Flamenco loosely, as Galvan delves into the many possible futures such a specific form might take when freed from its original cultural moorings, melting into pure rhythm.  His native Spain has recognized him with a National Dance Award; this clip is from Barcelona in 2007:

Paul Taylor was singled out for lifetime achievement although he is still achieving and may yet bring out another masterpiece.  Author of 137 ballets, “lyrical, muscular, dynamic and humane,” Taylor led himself through layers of rebellion against artistic conventions to create a whole new dance category and vocabulary.  His works are now included in the repertories of 40 dance companies around the world.

Outstanding Production in a large venue: Event by Merce Cunningham performed at the Park Avenue Armory.

Outstanding Performer in a large venue: Silas Riener in Split Sides by Merce Cunningham at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Oustanding Performer in a culturally specific form: Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards for sustained achievement in performance and her work with Jason Samuels Smith at the Joyce Theater.  “Our mission was to show the audience what Charlie Parker’s music looks like,” she remarked in her acceptance speech.

Emily Johnson’s The Thank You Bar won for outstanding production in the context of the expanding field of contemporary arts, dance and performance practice.

Outstanding Performer in the expanding practice category was Nicole Mannarino in Devotion Study #1 by Sarah Michelon performed at the Whitney Museum.

Outstanding Emerging Choreographer: Rashaun Mitchell for NOX performed at Danspace Project.

Outstanding Production in a small capacity theater (under 400 seats): Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church by Trajal Harrell performed at New York Live Arts.

Outstanding Performer in a small capacity theater: Omagbitshe Omagbemi for sustained achievement in the works of Keely Garfield, Ralph Lemon, David Gordon, Urban Bush Women, and many others.

2012 Bessie Award for Service to the Field of Dance went to Alice Tierstien, who teaches choreograhy to teens.

Outstanding Revived Work: The Shining by Yvonne Meier, presented by New York Live Arts, performed at The Invisible Dog Art Center.  This was a new award category in 2012.

In the category of Outstanding Sound Design or Composition, Faustin Linkyekula was recognized for the piece “more, more, more…future” performed at The Kitchen in the French Institute’s Crossing the Line Festival.

And for Outstanding Visual Design, Doris Dziersk for her design for Blessed by Meg Stuart, in which a cardboard set was pummelled by stage rain at New York Live Arts.

A 2012 Juried Bessie Award went to Souleymane Badolo, who performed live at the awards ceremony.

MANY THANKS for the evening’s success are due to the New York Dance and Performance League.  Co-production kudos go to Dance/NYC, an organization I helped jumpstart with Andrea Snyder (as we remembered together last night).  I hope that these moves back and forth between the arts and entrepreneurial business worlds might spark some investigation into a new sector for some people, inviting those rare and precious wow moments of aesthetic, intellectual and purely visceral enjoyment beyond the norm.

Performing artists and those who serve them take note: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is accepting submissions to perform on its Inside/Out stage through October 31st.

Here’s to spectacularly diverse and rigorously excellent dance next summer!

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