Why Strategy Is The Artist’s Best Friend

Alexis Fedor

Why Strategy Is The Artist's Best Friend
artist in a straw hat with tassels in hand

Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed when putting together a plan for your business with your art? And does this feeling keep you from moving your work forward to fulfill the vision you have for your art because you fear it will compromise the integrity of your work?

When I first moved to New York City to attend NYU for grad school I used to feel this way, and the feeling alone was enough to bring on a state of paralysis that stopped me from even thinking about what I wanted to accomplish past the current project I was working on. I was determined to get past that somehow, as I knew I had big dreams I wanted to see through, but wasn’t sure how to begin.

During my second month in the city I had the privilege of auditioning for Bill T. Jones’ dance company. He was looking for two dancers to take the place of two who were leaving his company, and the audition was open to any and all dancers. It was my first New York audition, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew coming from Chicago that these “open” auditions were usually a huge ring of chaos because so many people would attend.

When I arrived two hours early, there were already close to 150 dancers there. Within the next two hours that increased to around 250. This was the exact scenario I had predicted, and was sure it was going to lead to mayhem, with dancers fighting to get to the front of the huge ballroom room to be seen.

Suddenly, one company member stepped onto the stage an announced they were ready to begin. The room fell silent as she proceeded to explain very thoroughly how the audition would go. When I say she was thorough, I mean she explained every detail about how they had organized the audition. She ended by saying, “we assure you we are watching each and every one of you so you will all be seen.” I immediately felt the whole room relax, including myself, with that last statement she made. The vibe changed from completely tense and anxious to a more focused, in-the-moment tone.

As we began, the routine was just long enough for us to learn it fast, feel challenged, and repeat it several times. We rotated lines like clockwork, with company members appearing on either side of the room to guide us. Everyone had a chance to dance in front. They then took a few minutes, made their cuts, and separated the room. I made the first cut, so stood on the left side. The right side of the room was for those who did not make it. However, they were not dismissed immediately, as would normally be the case in an audition. Instead, they were asked to line up in a single row. Bill T. Jones then walked down the line, to look each person in the eye, said “thank you for your time and your commitment to your art” and shook each person’s hand. I stood in awe of the class and graciousness he displayed.

I did not make the next round, so got to experience the same handshake and personal thank you from him. I left that audition feeling completely transported to a new place within myself. Normally I would have felt defeated after being asked to leave an audition, as if I had failed in some way, but this time I felt absolutely confident that I had not only done my very best, but also that my best was good enough. I did not take it personally that I was not chosen to move on because I knew I was not what he was looking for specifically. I knew this because of the tone that was set during the audition, and because my presence was seen, felt and appreciated.

I was struck deeply by the level of organization the whole company had achieved during that audition, and wanted to know exactly how they got to that point, because it was what I knew I needed in order to move forward with my vision for my art. A year later I was at a dance gala and Bill was the guest speaker. I was able to connect with him and let him know how much that experience meant to me. I asked him how he managed to organize the audition so well, and he simply said, “strategy, my dear. You have to have a strategy for everything you do.”

In his speech that night he talked about how hard it was to run a company, how challenging it was to create the pieces he creates in the name of the vision he has for each, and the responsibility of an artist to stay as true to that vision as humanly possible. I understood then what he meant by strategy. It meant he spent more time than anyone planning every move of his company so that everyone knew, without question, what steps to take, including how to run an audition, a rehearsal, a show, and most of all how to inhabit each role they were given in each piece.

As an artist who runs your own business for your work, and who wants to see that work grow and blossom into a financially solvent, fulfilling entity, you need to have a strategic approach to seeing that through. There is no question this is what enables to most successful businesses to thrive, and the most wonderful work to spill out into the world.

Since then I have been focused on creating powerful, streamlined strategies for all of my work, both with my art and with my clients, to ensure I do everything I can to uphold the vision I am working to fulfill. It has become my mission to gather the best strategies from entrepreneurs like Bill T. Jones, who take great pride in fulfilling their artistic vision they create without compromise. There has been no greater accomplishment for my life as an artist than to have such a powerful strategy in place to build from. It has enabled me to build my business exponentially- well into six figures- while staying true to my own unique creations.

I believe artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world. Help me prove my belief by taking action and sharing a theme that is integral to your art in the comments below or share a visual on Instagram using #artistsinbusiness and tag me: @alexisfedorpics!