Small Art: Meet Emily Gastineau

November 29, 2012

I met Emily last year, when she was performing a dance solo in the window of Patrick’s Cabaret. I love that she’s always experimenting with her work, reading, and taking in new things. When there’s a Twin Cities modern dance event, I can always guess that she’s involved in some way. This year she’s been performing a series of solos in various living rooms around town. Totally fitting that she’s a part of Small Art– I’m so excited to see what she’s sharing!

What’s inspiring/exciting you these days?
Collaboration (I am not always excited by this), Spangbergianism, Hewitt + Jordan, Ivana Muller, general fall mania/nostalgia, bourbon.
What were you thinking about when you made what you’re sharing?
“Exit”: Appropriation art, performance presence, repetition, how to exit and stay onstage at the same time.

“This Is Your Fuel”: Inflammatory statements, institutional critique, overloaded improvisation, tactical thinking, magic.

What’s something that folks might not know about you?  
I am obsessed with the Enneagram.

What do you do when you’re not writing/dancing/singing?
Typing like a machine, doing admin for choreographers, hot yoga, reading books, making soup, riding the bus.

Come see Emily dance at Small Art, this Friday night in St. Paul.

Small Art: Meet Brad Liening

November 27, 2012

Brad Liening and I used to scoop deli salads next to one another at the Birchwood Cafe. But, that’s not his claim to fame. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has written 4 chapbooks (including, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Whitney Houston), and a book–Ghosts and Doppelgangers– published by Lowbrow Press in 2010. He writes about Nicholas Cage and celebrity in a way that makes my heart sing. So, come and listen to him read! 
{Small Art is happening in St. Paul on November 30.}

What’s inspiring/exciting you these days? Music and Michigan football.
What were you thinking about when you wrote what you’re sharing on Friday? The USA’s weird relationship to celebrity.
What’s something that folks might not know about you? I love trash/cult cinema.
What do you do when you’re not writing? I pamper my cats, mostly.

Find your creative community: Giant Steps

November 26, 2012

Just over a week ago, Ben and I attended Giant Steps. It's a Twin Cities conference, founded 3 years ago by consultant Susan Campion and hiphop artist M.ANIFEST. The description: a gathering for Creative Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurial Creatives, and people doing what they love. And, like it sounds, it was quite the perfect fit for me.

There are reasons I toy with skipping out on events like this, and let me tell you-- BE YE NOT SO FOOLISH. It's worth the time, the money, and the potential for awkward first encounters with strangers (my biggest concern). Esther Robinson, who taught a workshop on financial stability for artists, reminded us: You are your own infrastructure. Invest. And being at this conference was just the right investment. The event was like a gigantic hug of affirmation, paired with an equally large kick in the pants.
Affirmation? I needed only to get as far as introducing myself to the rest of my table at the opening comments to know that I was in the right place. More than one person looked a little uncomfortable explaining their entrepreneurial pursuit, and at least one person apologized about how they used to do one thing, but were transitioning their career into something new. Bottom line: creatives share many of the same struggles, and we need community to challenge us, inspire us, and remind us that others have been right where we are. In fact, others have thrived from where we are.
My favorite pannel discussion was on the topic of resilience. Four creative entrepreneurs talked about working through some incredibly low lows, only to go on to build thriving businesses, steady artistic careers, and notoriety. Scott LeGere, owner of NoWare Records, reminded us that "nothing good in life happens overnight." What was extraordinary about the panel participants was that they learned from their shortcomings, and went on to continue to shape their business (and business content) until it worked-- to continue to build their personal brand over time. Persistance, folks. It's powerful stuff.
I wrote down dozens of generous words of wisdom. And, the group I sat with at the end compiled a list of 5 takeaways.

But, maybe the most powerful thing I was reminded of is that if you want to make a living creating, you just have to do it. The workshops and classes and conferences are great, as are the conversations with fellow creatives. But, the only way you can do it is to--- do it: get specific about what you're trying to do (I highly recommend this part), and then, act. After that you cen see what's working, what's not, and micro-adjust your game plan. Or, scrap it and make a new one. So, that was the fire-under-my-ass part of Giant Steps: just keep going.

Small Art: Meet Kristen Graves

November 21, 2012

Kristen Graves is a folk singer, songwriter, and activist currently living in Connecticut. She often works with Simply Smiles, an organization that helps impoverished children. Sometimes that means building houses in Mexico, and other times it means starting a guitar camp on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. I love watching Kristen play live, because I know that it will mean listening to a few good stories blended in with her I-refuse-to-take-my-life-too-seriously dry sense of humor. And, she has a big beautiful voice to go with it all. 
[Small Art will be held at my house in St. Paul on November 30.]

What’s exciting you these days?
Honesty – because that’s what this is all about, right?  The political and social moving forward-ness of this country.  I think that the election was a huge success for human rights, equality, and hopefully social justice in this country.  I still have almost no faith in our government to get anything done, which is why I prefer small grass roots scrappy insurgency type non-profits and will support them forever, but I love that it seems that folks are excited by goodness, rather than afraid of fear tactics.  That’s been incredibly inspiring to watch.
What were you thinking about when you wrote the songs you’ll be sharing?
Almost all of my songs are inspired by underdogs.  Two of my favorite songs (which I’ll be playing) are ‘Dear Mister’, which takes on our government’s inefficiency and willingness to let politics getting in the way of serving the people who need them, and ‘Moving On’, which was inspired by a group of kids in Fairfield, CT, called The Loft.  The kids of The Loft are amazing, and I’m a huge fan of them.  They formed out of necessity when a young teenager in Fairfield committed suicide after being bullied incessantly for being gay.  Her friends needed a space to mourn their loss, as well as a space to feel safe, so they’ve created one.  After attending their first annual Lavender Lights Vigil, which was held to honor the lives that we’ve lost to bullying, I wrote this song.
What’s something that people might not know about you?
I can be kind of a weirdo.  I truly believe that I have a super power called super gravity, and I use it when my husband and I have ‘wrestle mania’.  Sometimes our dog gets involved, and it’s truly what it sounds…a wrestling match.  I usually end up winning by cheating and tickling him, that is if my super gravity has failed me that day.  Other than that, I watch dark TV shows like ‘Bones’, ‘Law & Order: SVU’, and ‘Criminal Minds’, even though I’m a pretty chipper person.  Last thing…I have a pet frog named George.  I got him when I was 10 and he’s still alive, which makes him 21.  The world record is 28, so at this point we’re just riding it out for the win!
What do you do when you’re not making music?
When I’m not singing, I’m usually at the computer trying to convince someone that they should have me sing.  I do all of my own booking, promoting, etc, so I’m usually trying to sell myself to the masses.  It’s really fun, because I get to connect with people, which is one of my favorite things about music.  If not at the computer working, I’m usually watching one of my dark shows or reading, and if not those things, it usually means that I’m away working with Simply Smiles (my husband Bryan’s non-profit) in either Mexico or South Dakota, but I usually try to work some music into that as well.

Small Art: a living room performance series

November 15, 2012

I’ve wanted to curate a performance series for over a year now. My requirements? Performers from multiple disciplines, so that the audience isn’t sitting through 90 minutes of one thing. Or even an hour. At least some kind of visual art element (preferably one that can be easily purchased). Beer and wine, because shows are more fun that way.
When my singer/songwriter friend Kristen Graves told me she was coming to town– and then wondered if we’d offer up our house for a concert– I figured it would be a fun way to hear Kristen, as well as motivation to unpack any remaining boxes from our move.  Then I decided to invite a couple more folks to perform: my friend Brad Liening, who writes poetry about celebrities (among other things). And choreographer Emily Gastineau, who does a lot of living room dance performances (modern/post-modern dance). 
So, November 30: Ben and I will bring the beer and wine, you bring some money for the performers and sit in our living room. I’ll be posting more little updates about the artists and what to expect. If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and want to come, drop me a line at

I've been thinking about the kitchen cabinets

November 13, 2012

On election day, I had trouble focusing on anything other than listening to the news and the nervous feeling in my stomach. Rather than pretending to work while thinking about how my Ohio relatives might be voting, Ben and I decided to take on a house project. As in, we removed the doors to the kitchen cabinets.

The plus side--You can see what you have in your cabinets! It gives the kitchen color and space. It's less permanent than painting.

The down side-- You can see what you have in your cabinets! So, if you're like my old roommate Joe, and use your kitchen cabinets for general household junk storage, this might not be the change for you.

You guys, I got oddly excited about this. The kitchen cabinets. And then I bought a rake, and I got excited about that! It turns out that raking in the moonlight is very therapeutic. In short: my experience with adulthood keeps surprising me.

Learned and Noted: People Aren't Scary

November 9, 2012

Almost a year ago, I started interviewing creative people for this blog. I was convinced that most working artists were facing a lot of the same struggles that I was, but actually talking to people face-to-face seemed daunting.

I know. Maybe this sounds really ridiculous-- why would talking to people seem intimidating?-- but I'm a tad shy, and at the time was sucked into an insecure artist spiral. I was convinced: everyone has it together, and why would they want to talk to me? {Oh my, looking at the strength of insecurity is frightening.}

Luckily, Ben talked me down off the wire, and I wrote an email. To this face, because I knew she'd be nice.

Everyone knows that Jen Scott isn't scary-- she's delightful. Also, reassuring, humble, and smart. I learned about books to tame my artistic demons. And, I was reminded that pretty much every artistic person is figuring out their journey a step at a time.

Talking to Jen led to talking to more people. STRANGERS! People I had admired but could never bring myself to make eye contact with. And, you know what? No one was scary. Not a single person that I've interviewed has been overly self-important or unwilling to be honest and forthright about the highs and lows of creating an artistic life. They've also been full of smart insight-- that I get to benefit from!

It's really quite an amazing realization: even the artist who gets the grants and has the established company still has days of uncertainty. I mean, we're all just people.

I'm most grateful that writing that first email has given me the confidence to think long and hard about who I want to collaborate and share creative energy with-- who do I want to exchange ideas over bourbon with? I believe that the ladies at Braid Creative put it this way: who do you want in your sandbox? If you could be having coffee or making art with anyone, who would you choose? Probably the people that scare you with their awesomeness, just a little. I'm here to remind you that a little fear is healthy, and that life's too short for us not to be putting together kickass creative teams, and groups of friends that inspire us to think bigger than we would on our own.

So- ask someone intimidating to coffee. Which reminds me of smart words that Candy Simmons-- one of the artists I interview-- shared with me: Ask for what you want. The worst thing someone can say is 'no'.

{The artists series will soon return with an interview from wise badass actress, Mo Perry.}

Performance For Your Election Season Stress

November 2, 2012

This pre-election week is leaving me in need of some media fasting and a few extra downward dogs (with accompanying deep breaths, of course). I cleaned out my google reader and felt so much better. Now, to stop listening to election amendment debates...

As I mentioned before, this particular election is really important to me. Lots of my dear friends and their kids would be hurt if the marriage amendment passes. I've let my voice be heard (and tried to educate others), posted my lawn signs, and now I'm needing to practice emotional separation so that I don't turn into a cloud of negativity. DON'T DO IT!

But, if you live in the Twin Cities, you don't need to look far to find a bubble of happy, because there are so many wonderful things on stage right now! Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool are kickass talents that will make you laugh until your abs hurt. Their show 2 Sugars, Room For Cream has been remounted at the Hennepin Theatre Trust. There's also some great Sondheim playing thanks to Theatre Latte Da's Company-- and that guy always makes me get in touch with my soul and all of that. Also- Open Eye Figure Theatre's The Learning Fairy is back with episode 2! The first episode was my favorite performance from last year. It was pure joy- every minute of it- so maybe I'll try and catch it a few times before Tuesday.

Happy voting.

[Image by Lisa Congdon, used with permission.]

© This is the Blog That Laura Wrote All rights reserved . Design by Blog Milk Powered by Blogger