On May 21st, 2020, the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation hosted a virtual discussion about the importance of artists leveraging technology as entrepreneurs. The online discussion, a first for ICAI due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, provided the Calgary art community with an opportunity to gather safely online and listen to local artists discuss their views about the growing importance of technology in their professional and creative careers.
The panel included local artists Maya Corona and Samuel Obadero, as well as Stephanie Horner, the lead Culture Banker with the ATB Financial branch in Calgary responsible for supporting creative entrepreneurs and arts organizations.
Corona, a former graphic designer, who has since transitioned into the world of selling vivid watercolours online, believes that the use of technology and social media is increasingly becoming essential for artistic growth.
“We need to realize that technology is here to stay, it is here to help us and it is always evolving,” Corona said.
“As artists, we evolve when we learn new things. I started with water colour, but then I moved to acrylics and wash and trying to do some pottery; so I’m always exploring and I’m always learning. When you keep yourself curious and you are always trying to learn something new, which includes technology, then you will [reach a larger audience.] It is so true that when we think we don’t need technology to keep growing or evolving, that’s ego talking to you and it is keeping you safe and just keeping you in your comfort zone.”
Samuel Obadero, an award winning photographer and social advocate, echoed the sentiments shared by Corona regarding how artists need to understand technology today and how its proper use can have incredibly positive results.
“It is a good time for artists to find ways in their craft to build strong roots, so that when things begin to look different [after the pandemic], they can shoot up faster and show how much they have grown,” Obadero said.
Obadero suggested that in order for these roots to grow, artists need to follow a simple formula as they move forward through this pandemic.
“Ask questions, learn as much as you can and then use these answers as much as you can. Ask questions because what you don’t ask, you’ll never get to know. When you get the answers, quickly learn from them. And once you learn it, begin to use this information, even if you don’t feel comfortable at the beginning. These lessons are important, especially for technology. So get comfortable with any platform, so that your skill set improves. The more you use it, the better you will get. Don’t be complacent. Learn. Evolve. Adapt. And pivot.”
Horner, a classically trained pianist, agreed with the panel that looking towards the future is essential for artists in this current environment. She suggests that as artists go through this extended period of physical distancing, they need to take this as an opportunity to recalibrate and change the trajectory of their businesses.
“More than ever, it is the entrepreneurs who pivot their business operations or their strategy to serve their community, rather than selling to customers, who are deeply rewarded,” Horner said.
“Many local craft markets have moved online to support their vendors and engage the community who would have otherwise attended markets in person. I’ve been checking out these markets online and you can see that many stores are now offering local delivery and curbside pickup. Visual illustrators and photographers, who would have been booked for corporate events and weddings this spring and summer, they are now shifting to offering smaller custom designs. Prepare yourself now. Take action knowing that next year, you can be even busier.”
After the virtual discussion concluded, Toyin Oladele, the founder and Executive Director of ICAI, gave credit to all of the panellists for taking part and sharing their thoughts with the online audience.
“It’s really amazing to see the support that ICAI has received,” Oladele said.
“I feel very lucky and privileged to have people of this quality involved with every event. They are all wonderful people and wonderful panellists, taking time to speak about their own experiences. They really give so much back to the newcomer artists who attend our events.”
Despite the Covid-19 curve beginning to flatten in Calgary, Oladele said that she does expect ICAI to continue hosting virtual discussions rather than returning to face-to-face events in the summer and fall. Regardless of what happens in the coming months, she remains steadfast in her commitment to helping emerging artists in Calgary.
“The continuing pandemic is definitely worrisome, but it’s not taking away my energy, not at all,” Oladele said.
“As an organization, we have even more of a desire to keep working now and keep building what we have started. We are always looking towards the future and we are ready for any challenge.”
The next event for ICAI is currently scheduled for Thursday, July 23 at 5:00pm and will include a round table discussion involving producers and emerging newcomer actors.
This event was generously supported by Calgary Arts Developments.
For more information about the panellists, please visit the following links:
Facebook: Maya Corona Art
LinkedIn: Maya Corona
Facebook: Motif Photography
LinkedIn: Samuel Obadero
LinkedIn: Motif Photography Samuel Obadero
LinkedIn: Stephanie Horner
ATB Branch for Arts+Culture:
By Marc LeBoeuf
ICAI Communications Manager