The Arbor Fellowship

I’m developing a new project to mentor student artists to serve and shape culture.

Specifically, The Arbor Fellowship fills the gap in professional and entrepreneurial training,

  • to keep artists of faith creating over time,
  • as they increase in skill, social influence, and maturity,
  • and shape culture to be more loving in the image of God.

I’ll be ramping up the project in three phases. Phase 1 is already under way, and should keep me busy for the next year or so.

Book

I’m working on a book for visual and performing arts students. I actually started on the project about eight years ago and it got sidelined by a few years of a full-time job. I hadn’t gotten back to it until now, although it’s been on my heart ever since.

It’s the book I would have wanted as I was graduating from college with an arts degree.

The structure and format have changed since I first starting talking about it, but it’s still designed to shape visual and performing arts students’ expectations and give them a good start in their profession. There are chapters on theological topics (the value of the arts, how artists are called by God, making faithful career decisions) and practical topics (choosing and making the best of a training program, how artists make money, how “place” matters, lifestyle expectations) plus a chapter for parents and pastors of arts students written by parents and pastors of arts students.

You can learn more about the project – and help make it happen – on this page.

Speaking/teaching at colleges and universities

Never having written books before, I’ve been doing my research. And I hear that unknown authors don’t make much money on non-fiction books. But books are helpful-to-necessary in getting speaking engagements, especially in academia. Which is great, because what I really want is the opportunity to talk to student artists in-person. These are the people I care most about helping (see this blog post).

I plan to develop several short (50 to 90-minute) talks that I can offer to Christian colleges and universities. They could book me for one talk, more than one, or all of them in a two-day workshop. In these sessions, I’d share some content from the books and, hopefully, sell some when they’re published. But I’d also be building interest in a one-semester course in Arts Entrepreneurship. It usually takes 1-2 years to get a new course into a college’s catalog, so this will take some time to develop.

This takes the project into Phase 2.

Now that online and hybrid learning is standard fare, it would be easy enough to teach one course at several colleges at a time as an adjunct instructor, perhaps spending a few days in person on campus each semester.

This would be a multi-disciplinary course, since I strongly believe that artists need to be hearing how artists in other disciplines work. Some folks in academia <ahem> believe that their musicians, for instance, <ahem> can’t learn anything from artists in other disciplines; when in fact, a French horn player has much more in common with an actor than she does with a composer when it comes to creating paying opportunities for herself.

Today’s young artists tend to be multi-disciplinary anyway. Many artists are what I call “Well” artists because, when I ask them what kind of work they do, they say “Well,…” Maybe they write songs, DJ, and tag. Or they paint, tattoo, and do performance art. The era of the one-trick pony, artistically, has passed.

Community and Coaching

Phase 3 of the project would add one-to-one coaching and building a community. I’m already doing some coaching informally with already-in-the-marketplace artists, but as soon as I have the time and funds, I plan to start training to become a certified coach.

I also plan to match emerging artists with experienced artists in their field for short-term mentoring, hearkening back to the premodern “apprenticeship” model. There’s a British project, Arts Emergency, which has had amazing results with pairing high school-aged artists with experienced professionals for “opportunities, contacts and advice so that young people can flourish in higher education and the cultural industries.” I’d like to do something like that.

But the community aspect is really the most important part of the project – thus the name “fellowship.” Artist communities have been important through history. Think of The Inklings, a group of writers who met weekly to “spur one another on to love and good works.” In the book Originals, Adam Grant talks about how it takes a skilled eye or ear – another artist – to really see or hear what’s happening in another artist’s work. Artists also get each other better than “the public” ever will, and it’s encouraging to be understood as we do the hard work of making.

So how will this happen?

For at least the first two years, I’ll need to be supported through financial partnerships. The books won’t generate much income and, although I’ll welcome being paid by colleges to come and speak, I wouldn’t want their ability to pay a fee or travel expenses to keep Arbor’s services from their students. Once I get to the point of teaching 2-3 classes each semester, the need for financial support for me will go down, but I might need to hire help to manage other aspects of the project.

If The Arbor Fellowship sounds like something you might want to support (and you’ve read this far, so sounds like it might be…), please read more here.