It was standing room only this past weekend when the arts careers workshop sponsored by Prince George's County's Arts Division opened at the University of Maryland in College Park.
The workshop participants, who had come to hear successful artists reveal their secrets, heard one speaker after another stress the necessity for self knowledge, organization and professionalism. The message from professionals in the arts world was clear - planning a career in the arts is not that different from planning a career in any other field.
All day long the accent was on the practical, which was exactly what the participants wanted.
"I came to promote my career," said Columbia resident Karen Leibowitz, who has a degree in fine arts and is doing free lance work. "I want of find out how to more successfully present a portfolio, get more art commissions and get more confidence."
Nancyrenee Rowe, an actress in her senior year at American University, said she came for the kind of specific information not found in schools. "I thought this was very much needed - writing resumes, getting agents, the business end of it. Actors need to know how to survive."
Keynote speaker Patrick Hayes, managing director of the Washington Performing Arts Society, opened the workshop with his concept of the three As of arts management - the artist, the auditorium and the audience. The artist, explained Hayes, is the creative center of the arts world. The auditorium is the place where the artist performs or exhibits work and, finally, for that artist in the auditorium an audience must be developed.
Virginia Freeman, movement specialist for Arena Stage and the Folger Theater, focused on what she called the fourth. A, the audition, without which an artist cannot get an auditorium. She stressed the importance of calling up before the audition to find out what was wanted and to prepare oneself as fully as possible.She suggested that dancers, for example, take a variety of shoes with them so they would be prepared to do whatever was asked.
Freeman added that it is essential to know what audition techniques are best suited to one's personality. "You have to go back to 'What am I?' I'm not the 18the copy of Barbara Streisand' - (if you are, you probably won't be hired). You have something to sell; give yourself the chance to give that something extra. Don't inhibit any of it by being unprepared."
Christopher Cade, executive director of C-3 Associates, a TV and film production firm in New York, said an essential first step for a performer was a definition of goals. "Most of the people who come to New York and fail, do so because they don't have any idea of what they want to do."
Cade is himself an illustration of the local boy who made good. He began his artistic career several years ago as a puppeteer with the county arts division. In addition to his session at the workshop he also directed the Prince George's Civic Opera premiere last weekend of the baroque opera," "Alceste."
Cade explained to his audience the importance of a thoroughly professional approach to an acting career. "Your body is youe business; know its limitations, and if it's something you can fix, do it. Take classess. It is a business. You are selling yourself."
For those interested in setting up their own business in the arts Thomas Peniston, a loan specialist with the Small Business Administration (SBA), explained how to secure funds. On the average loan in a new business, said Peniston, the owner supplies 20 percent of the financing and the SBA 80 percent. To many in the audience these figures were a welcome surprise.
Dianne Pickering, an art teacher in the District, said she was excited of the possibilities of a small business inthe future. "I always figured if I went into business, I'd need a lot of money. It would be possible to open a small business and not wait forever."
In response to a question on whether there was a minimum loan amount set by SBA, Peniston said there was no official minimum but the smallest loan granted has been $5,000.
The workshop ended with comments on the future growth of community arts by Vantile Whitfield, director of the National Endowment for the Arts Expansion Arts Program, which had given a grant to the county arts division for the careers workshop.