Here is my latest column from The Times, where I examine entrepreneurship in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario. While the column is about people and “place”, I believe many of the stories I write about can happen in rural communities across the globe.
A business plan, a target market, diversified revenue streams and business partner alignment. Those are the first things that stood out for me when I sat down with artist Krista Dalby of Small Pond Arts. We often think of artists solely as artists, as if somehow they didn’t have a business to run. They are very much business people and entrepreneurs. The successful ones are good business people, they have to be in order to survive. They are also very creative, business-wise and talent-wise. But art and being an artist, like it or not, is a business, especially in a small rural community. Click here for the 9 Lessons I Learned from Krista Dalby.
Krista’s role is not easy to define. She is something of a connector. She connects people at events, on the street, at puppet shows and more. Over the last year or so she resurrected a community networking event and tweaked its name to Creative Rural Minds. She sees herself as a social knitter, weaving different communities together. Connecting the general public to creatives, art and artists and artists to artists, something she feels needs ongoing nurturing.
Krista Dalby’s art is show business. While she wears many hats, her main hat is that of puppeteer. Her passion is to conceive of shows, create and write them, and while she is happy to be a performer, her preference is to be the creator, director and producer.
That is, if she is not spearheading the Firelight Lantern Festival, the Scarecrow Festival, hosting artists from around the world at Small Pond’s artist residency program, helping her prolific painter partner in life and business, Milé Murtanovski, on one of his painting marathons or helping to sell his art at their gallery. And we are not even going to talk about the bizarre and definitely creative Festival of the Stick.
So I asked Krista, who came to the County via, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto why, why the County? She indicated that the strong creative and artistic community was a draw, as was the affordability of real-estate. But what really struck me is that when her and Milé were doing their research on the market for art in Canada that the market for art was here in this region Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal. This just enforced what I already knew about artists, that they can be and are very shrewd business people. And thank goodness, we need them to be so that they can survive and thrive.
Krista has a very community-minded approach to her work. She feels that art is for everybody and she likes to work on projects that are accessible to kids, moms, dads and grandparents alike, not to single out families, as single folks are welcome, too.
The Firelight Lantern Festival, a collaborative initiative she runs with Susanne Larner, is all about making creativity and art available to all. They host workshops that are designed to find the creativity in everybody not necessarily artistic people only, the art itself is temporary – paper lanterns and the process is even experiential both at the workshops and then after at the parade and event. The Scarecrow Festival is similar, bringing people of all walks life together to express creativity, intermingle, connect and find their inner artist, all on a budget.
When she is not running festivals and events or the gallery and artist residency with Milé, you might see her animating the streets in costume as Mrs. Claus or other characters, she is the shorter one of the two as Milé can often be found higher up near her side as a stilt walker.
Speaking of show business, Unjustly, her most recent production was a shadow puppetry play based on the double hanging that happened in Picton in 1884. What Krista enjoyed about the show is that it was a local historical story, performed in an historic building – Macaulay Church, a block away from where the hangings occurred. To add to the experience, after each show the audience was brought on an informal tour of the gallows and jail courtyard, where the hangings took place, as way to make the play even more meaningful.
This was the most successful production of Krista’s career including her experiences in Toronto. This says to me that as an artist she is quite a business woman. I asked her what was next? After some pause she suggested that she’s going to keep doing things that she enjoys and that are working like Firelight Lantern Festival, etc.. and that she really wants to do more productions like Unjustly that are locally based stories that bring the community together and that share our history, culture and story.
As we wrapped up I asked her what her key to success was and she reminded me that being an artist is being an entrepreneur. She summed it up in two very powerful concepts. Persistence and hard work. She said you have to be thick skinned, pick yourself up in difficult times and put in the hours. Amen! Click here for the 9 Lessons I Learned from Krista Dalby.
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