By John Welker of Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre
I have been on a wild ride lately. Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre (TMBT) has only been fully operating since this past August when four dancers, Tara Lee, Heath Gill, Christian Clark, and Rachel Van Buskirk convinced me to take an entrepreneurial leap of faith with them. Somewhat naively, in the same month of August as we were learning how to operate as a company, I also committed myself to a 19-month graduate program in order to earn my executive MBA at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business.
It has been a humbling experience to say the least. My daily routine often consists of emails before dawn, a quick kiss and “good day” to my wife, attempting to convince my four-old to eat his breakfast, then into the rehearsal studio to dance and create, and then back home to dive into homework and the languages of business: I go from sleep to computer, to parenthood to tendus, from pirouettes to regression analysis, to accounting and marketing strategy.
These past few months, people have often asked me, “Why don’t you stick to dance, and let others take care of the business side?”
There is truth in that question, but I don’t feel completely comfortable with it either. I have been privileged as an artist, I speak its language, know how to communicate its power, and know many people who practice and appreciate it. But why not the business side? Businesses help arts thrive, so why can’t I increase appreciation and participation for the arts working with businesses and the people who practice it?
Arts and culture is good business. People create business, arts and culture. Spaces bring people together.
I see and experience the daily proof of our city growing and expanding every morning rush hour. With greater Atlanta’s many new developments has come an increased appreciation for the excitement arts can bring towards activating spaces. I have participated in many public art events and experienced first-hand how art activation is rewarding for businesses and artists alike, but I also feel that it is often a temporary arrangement; once the event ends, the idea of art creating value fades with it. Where do artists go after the event is over? They too must have a space to do the business of creating.
What can we all do to help artists and businesses alike create spaces of permanent cultural activation?
There are organizations and people who are doing great work to this end; two immediate examples are TMBT’s partners, the Serenbe Institute and the Westside Cultural Arts Center. They, and many others, know we are all stakeholders in the culture of Atlanta. As we do our work it is important to realize in the relationships we create, the continuous and long-term nature of making vibrant spaces that is good for both business and art.
I challenge myself, and the many passionate people already doing the work, to create far reaching opportunities that require us to build our relationships beyond the short-term. There is so much value to be realized. We all deserve it, Atlanta deserves it.
(Atlanta Skyline) Image Courtesy of Queen Capital