creative economy capital region
January’s #CreativeEconomyMixer was a hit! with over 220 in attendance Troy Savings Bank Music Hall we enjoyed beautiful installation created by Glowing Pictures, a performance by Albany Pro Musica, Signed up for the new ACE Jobhub, and received FREE headshots by Ska City Photography. We had delicious food from Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen as well as beverages from Rare Form Brewing Company and Schmaltz Brewing Co. We discussed preservation of the arts in our communities and Rensselaer County Historical Society shared the history behind the box seating at the hall, and more! The Mixer began with a Taste of Troy Food Tour and ended at 518 Craft, with drinks and swing music! A VERY SPECIAL thank you to our sponsors MVP Health Care, Rensselaer County Historical Society and Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, and promotional partners, Troy Cultural Alliance and Albany Pro Musica. Produced in partnership with 2440 Design Studio and WMHT Public Media.
ACE’s Ashleigh Kinsey spoke with Meg Affonso, a creative who is a creative in every sense of the word – singer,dancer, actor, model, yogi, and now producer! Meg shares her journey as a creative and what led her to collaborating with other creatives to present the production of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf and The Women of Color in the Arts Expo in Albany NY.
Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Martinsburg, WV. I have lived in the Capital Region of NY for 12 years.
Did you seek out higher education, or are you self taught? Where did you study?
I studied Musical Theatre at Shepherd University for a few years before moving to Upstate NY. I then went on to study Meisner Technique with the Deena Levy Theatre Studio in NYC. Most of my training comes from being on set and around the stage.
Would you say you have always been a creative person? What other work have you done?
Creativity is in my bones. I began singing in my church at age 4 and formal dance lessons started at age 5. This was where my creativity really started to come out of its shell! I loved my dance lessons, so I cannot recommend them enough. If you have a creative child who is interested in that sort of thing, you could take a look at DivaDance to see if you could get them some lessons. I’m sure they’d love it and its so good for creativity and confidence building as well! Then, once my dancing and singing skills were practised, I became involved in the local theatre scene at 14. I’ve performed in plays, films, web series, commercials and occasionally do freelance modeling.
How did you become interested in your industry?
I’ve always been an entertainer and once I discovered how to tell a story through performance, I was hooked for life. There was a period of time that I stopped performing and doing creative work; I was discouraged because my life wasn’t working out the way that I had hoped it would. I had a child very young and I needed to find a means to an end to be financially stable, so I left the creative stuff behind and tried to move forward. Fortunately, my creative work wouldn’t let me go and I was forced to face it, to begin again. Beginning again didn’t come without some uncertainty and embarrassment. I’ve had my share of terrible auditions and worked through the awkwardness of learning how to communicate what I need. A true artist is not one who loves the work, but one who cannot live without it.
Did you have a defining moment that pushed you to start working on your production?
This play has been nagging at my mind for 9 years. From the moment I read Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, it struck a chord in me that had never been struck before. Having gotten back into professional acting in the past 3 years has put me in a lot of situations where I recognize that I am sometimes the only person of color in the room for an audition or on set. I wanted to celebrate the beauty of black women artists in all their forms and this was the way to do it. I’ve also entered a point in my life where it’s time to tell my own stories, so I have been writing a few short films and I am beginning the process of directing a documentary. This whole process occurred all because my heart and my mind won’t let me rest. I want give life to stories that will help heal myself and others in the process, specifically women. I want to start a conversation and give people space to share their stories, as well.
What does running a production like this entail?
This is my first time producing and it’s probably the most difficult thing that I have ever done, but it is also incredibly rewarding. As the producer, I have had to find funding, secure the location, secure rehearsal space, hire creative talent + crew, be responsible for everything that goes along with promoting the production and more. As the director & choreographer, I am responsible for bringing the story to life through blocking, dance and working with my actors. There’s a lot that falls on my shoulders because I am doing so many things at once, but I am incredibly blessed to have a great crew, cast, mentors and a supportive network of people who want this to be successful.
What would you tell others who are aspiring to be doing what you are doing? What would you have done differently? Any advice?
The most important thing for others who are aspiring to do what I do, is to have people around you that can advise you though the process. I am doing well because I have a wonderful support system of other creative professionals who know more than me, which is quite possibly the most important asset that anyone can have. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help. Don’t be afraid to ask more than one person for advice or help. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t have all of the answers, because you never will. The second most important thing is to start where you are and be okay with that. It’s so important for artists to be able to do their own work and tell their own stories. Advocate for yourself. I don’t know that I would have done anything differently, except begin sooner. I have no regrets, only lessons. A piece of advice for artists making their own work is to begin the grant process early, if you’re going that route. It’s very time consuming and a lengthly process. Also be prepared to hear ‘no’ frequently, but keep going. Be honest with yourself about where you need to improve and be flexible about working with what you have until you can work with what you want.
What would you like the community to know about the local arts scene and creative economy?
The local arts scene and creative economy is rich and diverse. I myself am excited to become more immersed in it. We have a huge theatre scene, visual arts, dance, music & several films are made in Upstate NY each year. Go out and experience all of the different art forms, support one another, spread the word and if you don’t know here to begin – ask around.
If there was one thing you would change about our creative economy, what would it be?
This goes without saying, but there has to be more diversity. Employers, theatre companies, filmmakers, producers, galleries, creative businesses must be aware of having workspaces that are conducive to a positive environment for women and people of color. I’m not talking about filling your quota of diversity, having your one woman at the top, or your token person of color, but I am saying make space for everyone and be consciously aware of the environment that you create. Advocate to see more art by women and by people of color, ask for it, show up for it and PAY for it. Hire that female director. Fund that female producer. Demand equality and set the standard for it to be commonplace.
Lotus & Bamboo Productions + Albany Barn are proud to present the production of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf & The Women of Color in the Arts Expo! On September 27th we will be debuting the SHOW ONLY at 6 p.m. On September 28th & 29th doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 6 p.m. The Expo will immediately follow the production on September 28th & 29th. You will be able to mingle, enjoy art in all forms and shop a variety of artistic items + pieces.
The Expo on Friday, September 28th will feature live music by Audrey Zaccarya & Sibie LaVoz, spoken word by D. Colin, an art exhibit + sale with work from Takeyce Walter, Danielle Colin, Anusha Sekhar + Paula Frazzle, vendors, light passed hors d’eouvres by 677 Prime, plus Beer + Wine cash bar by Umana Restaurant & Wine Bar.
The Expo on Saturday, September 29th will feature DJ Poetik Selektions, moving art by Victoria Rutledge with live drumming, vendors, women of color in food showcase & sampling, plus a Beer + Wine cash bar by Umana Restaurant & Wine Bar.
Sponsored by Albany Barn, Mantralogy, Ungerman Electric, Fifi’s Frocks & Frills, 677 Prime, Umana Restaurant, The Good Karma Studio, Heart Space Albany, Jai Albany, Yoga Mandali, CHEEK by Re’z Cosmetics, Yoga Garden, Mel eMedia, and Birth New York.
Guest post by Ashleigh Kinsey, owner, AK Design
A new study has shown the self-employed both enjoy their work more and find it more rewarding – despite longer hours and less job security – than those who work for others.
The study found that those who were self-employed were not only amongst the most engaged, but also experienced greater opportunities for innovation, achieving challenging targets and meeting high standards. Many people are intimidated by the prospect of going it alone, but there are plenty of consultancy firms that can help you, like SGI who guide contractors in setting up their own business, so you’re never really alone if you do want to take that leap.
Do you find it shocking that self-employed people are happier? I don’t. With freelancing on the rise, and many reports showing that more and more people are either freelancing full time or as a “side hustle” It all comes down to independence, flexibility and freedom. Three things that would contribute to anyone’s happiness.
There was a time when businesses would hire an employee and that employee would be offered wonderful benefits and great retirement incentives, and people would generally work one job for many years of their life. They would work 40 hours per week year after year, and then be able to retire with a nice pension they could depend on.
Times have certainly changed. With glass ceilings in corporate jobs, and uncertainties around the future of benefits like social security, and retirement or pension plans, self-employed individuals are simply trying to build their own future, and a life they love. Certain people like to change their careers when they are no longer happy in their current one, especially if is having an impact on their life. A lot of people may decide to become self-employed in an area of work that they know they will enjoy, whilst others decide to join an organization in which they have a specific interest. For example, certain people who have knowledge and experience with medical cannabis may decide to go into the field as they could find that they enjoy this more than their current job. Read more here for further information about some jobs in this industry. Whichever route you decide to take though, whether that’s becoming self-employed or changing career, make sure that it is the right one for you and your personal happiness.
Then there’s the internet. This has leveled the playing field for many and allowed people to access a multitude of resources without gatekeepers. Freelancers on and off-line are making opportunities for themselves, not just waiting for handouts. That sort of independence is freeing, and makes freelancers feel in more control of their lives. Want to work at night vs. 9-5? No problem. A freelancer can adjust their schedule as much as they wish. As they become more efficient in their work, that boosts confidence, (making them happier) and allows them to be a more valuable freelancer.
Many times those who moonlight are doing it to get a sense of fulfillment. Perhaps the job pays the bills, but is not engaging enough. Or maybe they went to school for music, and when they got out of college, could not find a job in their field, and had to settle for another option to pay the bills and student loans.
Kierra Jones of Kierra Jones Inc, has said; “For me personally, happier isn’t the word. I believe that is something only the individual can express and it’s completely subjective and case by case. What I will say is I do believe we are more fulfilled. I believe although sometimes we find ourselves doing some tasks we don’t love, we are ok to do them because we see how they lead back into our bigger picture vision. Working for your dream feels massively different then building someone else’s.”
“I don’t know if self-employed people are happier. I know that I am happier as a self-employed person. There are many pros to being self-employed they’re almost endless depending upon who you ask. The specific one, for me is time flexibility. There are also many cons however I think the first one that comes to mind are the fluctuations in income.” says Chef Tiffany Davis.
Kathleen McLean, of The McLean Group mentioned that “Yes I think people who have their own are happier because they can choose their clients. We also have flexibility in when and how we work. The pros in my business is I can see and feel the changes. The cons is it is a long sale cycle. People need to trust me to invite me to engage in difficult dialogue. It is a risk and sometimes people have had negative experiences with previous consultants in my field. I keep going because I need to eradicate systemic racism in every single institution and empower others with new tools to do the same”
These are just some of the reasons people are taking their lives into their own hands and creating their best life. When a person does that – it makes them happy knowing they are doing what they love, even if they are working more hours. The boring tasks are still there, but being on a path you create for yourself, and seeing that pathway lead you to more and more opportunities for happiness would be worth it, right? What are your thoughts? Are you self-employed? Do you moonlight? Do you feel you are happier? Share your thoughts in the new Facebook Group![/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]
Guest post by Ashleigh Kinsey, owner, AK Design
On April 11, 2018, ACE had a Creative Economy event with the subject “Open Forum: Diversity in the Creative Economy.”
The purpose of this meeting was to engage members of the community and have a conversation about diversity in upstate New York’s Creative Economy. Although this is the fourth largest employment sector, providing over 35,000 jobs to Capital Region residents, there is an issue with diversity. U.S. Census data reports that in July 2016, 76.9% of those who took the census reported they identified as white alone, with 13.3% identifying as Black alone.
As a lifelong resident of Troy and Albany NY, I can tell you those numbers seemed accurate when I was in grade school, but in 2016 I personally saw much more diversity. And in 2018, my daughter attends an elementary school with students from all over the globe, in a predominantly non-white classroom. I would love to take the time to sit with my daughter one day to really research our family history – we might visit here for starters and take a look at old census records to see what that can tell us. I want her to only be proud of who she is and where she comes from.
Although there are many groups and organizations in the Capital Region that cater to Creative Industries, they are quite separate culturally. Organizations like ACE and Power Breakfast Club have been instrumental in providing ways to bridge the gap and truly work towards a greater, more inclusive creative economy. However, nationally recognized organizations, of which I had a membership, did not make me feel welcome as a woman of color.
The Open Forum, moderated by Ada Harper of 518blk.com, had 5 panelists:
- DJ Trumaster, Founder of Beat Shot Productions,
- Dale Davidson, Owner of Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar,
- Bhawin Suchak, Executive Director of Youth FX,
- Hana van der Kolk, Troy-based touring Choreographer and Performance Artist,
- and myself, Ashleigh Kinsey, Owner of AK Design, Digital Media Services and Consulting.
Panelists shared their experiences in the Creative Economy, and the successes and struggles they have overcome to get where they are today. Many of the stories shared were successes that have come out of the need to create something for others like themselves, as many times they were the ones being left without a seat at the table. The conversation went on. How do we create a truly inclusive environment for creatives of any race, culture, gender, etc. to come together and share their gifts and voices in a way that benefits the entire community?
After a formal discussion, the audience asked their questions of the panel, and many were of the same common thread. What do we need to do? How do we do it? What would the next step be? Organizations need to be more inclusive and not just plan a diversity event, but make diversity a part of the planning for every event.
One of my suggestions was to create a community within ACE that would provide a digital Rolodex of sorts, and include the freelancers and professionals involved with ACE between event times. A network where these creatives could share their ideas and collaborate with one another. ACE networking events have been a wonderful resource for me as a creative to meet other creative folks and has lit a fire in me when it comes to creating change in my community. I appreciate the event, and the opportunity to share my thought on it. I certainly hope this conversation does not die as mere words and ideas, but lives and thrives on the energy it has been given to make the Capital Region one of the most diverse, and creative regions in the country.
If any part of this article has stirred you, feel free to write to me by clicking here. I encourage you to take action and get involved with ACE and your Creative Economy. For other events and more information, visit https://www.upstatecreative.org/.
This is a guest post contributed by a member of the ACE community. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views or represent official statements from ACE or ACE partners.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]