My DVR is full of recorded episodes of Charlie Rose.  I absolutely love his interviews, and although I rarely watch them as they air, I usually catch up within a week or so.

Last night, I watched an interview with David Brooks about his 2011 book, The Social Animal.  The interview originally aired on March 7, 2011, and it was re-broadcast on June 10. True to form, it took me until June 13 to click play, and I’m thrilled that I finally did.

I haven’t read Brooks’ book in its entirety yet, although I’ve read certain excerpts at my mother’s insistence.  She raves about the work, and I found myself laughing out loud as I read various paragraphs she selected for me, most of which related to a new mother’s struggles, confusion, and humor.  It didn’t hurt that the struggles included unexpected expletives, and I chuckled as I recognized myself in the character, irreverent musings and all.

Delightfully, the work has both personal and professional implications, and implications for both the arts and the business community. I listened as Brooks described the research he conducted to Charlie Rose and the very real, human implications of the research, and I nearly leapt out of my seat on the couch.  It was as if Charlie Rose was interviewing me, albeit in the form of a middle-age journalist instead of a thirty-something CPA.

Brooks expressed sentiments about finding one’s passion, feeling fulfilled by work, and being unable to not do whatever it is we are supposed to do, and I wanted to scream out, “Yes! That’s it!” And I probably would have, were it not for that whole new mother nonsense. My screams would almost certainly been followed quickly by the sounds of my waking daughter and my own muttered expletives (which I’m pretty sure will be a scene in the sequel).

Towards the end of the interview, Brooks said something else that particularly struck me in the broader artistic context.  He noted that art and literature contribute to a person’s emotional education, and he articulated beautifully that creative works add to a person’s repertoire of emotional experiences.

Perhaps a piece of music evokes an emotional response in us; perhaps a painting or a poem moves us to tears or glee or anger.  Our very real responses to creative works are just as important to our education as humans as reading and arithmetic, and arguably more so.  Creative works stimulate our senses, and responding to the very real physical reactions we may have (racing heartbeat, welling eyes) makes us stronger, more articulate, and more feeling individuals.

Of course, the reactions are very personal.  Brooks used the word “education,” but not in the academic sense.  He didn’t imply that exposing ourselves to art refined our taste or that the collective group of us would or should gain consensus about what was “good” or what was “bad.”

Quite the opposite, in fact.

I may respond to Bob Dylan or Green Day the way Brooks responds to Bruce Springsteen or the way someone else may react to an aria by Natalie Dessay.  Graffiti may evoke a more powerful emotional response than a painting by Van Gogh, and a theatre production in an elementary school can be just as stirring as the most provocative show on Broadway.

Evaluating subjective quality isn’t the point. Finding something that triggers an emotional response is.  And by opening ourselves to such emotional experiences, our education deepens delightfully.

As if my mother’s endorsement weren’t enough, the interview I watched convinced me beyond any shadow of a doubt that the book should be added to the stack of books awaiting attention on my nightstand, and I’m already looking forward to using it to deepen my own emotional education.

Every once in a while a good deed, a good gig, a good deal becomes bad, usually for the artist or the entrepreneur.  We are sometimes too quick to sacrifice ourselves or our worth for the sake of our art, and without realizing it, I found myself in that situation last week.

I thought I was doing someone a favor.  I was helping a young financial guru-in-training adjust to a new (and very challenging) position, and I was compensated for my time.

Some of it.

I wasn’t compensated for the three extra hours I spent training her as the list of tasks to review grew longer and longer before my very eyes.  And I wasn’t compensated for the time I’ve spent since our training session responding to a litany of e-mails from this poor guru-to-be.

Still, I know the training and the mentoring is important for her as an individual, and for the organization she’ll be supporting in the long run.  And that, of course, is good for the arts as a whole.

But it’s less good for me.

Perhaps I overstated my willingness to help.  Perhaps in striving to be approachable and recognizing only too well what a difficult situation this young guru faced, I gave the impression that I would infinitely volunteer in a self-sacrificial way.

I regularly share a bit of advice with the artists I mentor — Know your worth — and it’s time to heed my own words of wisdom.

Asserting my value in a professional, kind, assertive way only increases said value, both in my mind and in the mind of my client.  I can still be approachable, helpful, and of service without sacrificing my worth and my time to do so.

But it is so much easier said than done.  So in the spirit of sharing my personal experiences for the greater good, below is the text of an e-mail I sent in an effort to contain, support, and monetize the time I expected to spend supporting our young financier.

Dear Guru-in-Training,

I’m thrilled your transition to Great-But-Difficult-Arts-Org is going so well!  As we expected, there have been (and will probably continue to be) a long list of questions that may come up as you find your comfort zone within the position.

I think it might be most beneficial for both of us to set up a regular time to chat, perhaps on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  That way, we can go over your questions in the aggregate.  I suspect after three or four weeks, once the routine is more familiar, you’ll be answering your own questions brilliantly, but until then I’d be thrilled to assist.

I offer a discounted coaching rate for ongoing relationships, such as this, and I’d recommend setting up three sessions to be used over the next month or so.

Congrats again on the transition!  Let me know what dates might work well with your schedule for our first session.

And you know what?  It worked.

I received a grateful (and dare I say relieved?) response and booked our first (paid) coaching session for next week.  My time will be better spent, as will our young guru’s, and the organization’s investment in her future and my time will be exceedingly well-spent.

On Tuesday, I celebrated the amazing partnerships forged between the arts and business communities over the past year at the Encore Awards with the Arts & Business Council of New York. I had the pleasure of sharing a few words about the volunteer program, Business Volunteers for the Arts, and introducing this year’s winning volunteer, Linda D’Onofrio.

Linda is a tax attorney who specializes in municipal debt, and she has offered pro bono support to the Roundabout Theatre Company as an active member of its leadership council.

Below are the remarks I shared about professional volunteerism in general, before I turned the microphone over to Roundabout for Linda’s proper introduction.

I’m an accountant. I love ends that meet and budgets that balance. I also love the arts and artists. And I’m so proud to be a part of an organization whose mission is to cultivate relationships between business and the arts.

My own relationship with ABC has grown into budgeting workshops at the Foundation Center, the Kennedy Center, and – we hope – at an arts summit upstate this fall. As Will said, a couple of weekends ago I spent a Saturday afternoon with the ABC staff, at a wonderful event created by the Department of Cultural Affairs called “The Art of Money.”

One after another, under-resourced artists or staff from tiny arts organizations stopped by the ABC-NY table, and I told them about our professional development workshops, our internship and Emerging Leaders programs, about this evening’s celebratory event. But most of all, I urged them to take advantage of Business Volunteers for the Arts.

The Business Volunteer for the Arts program is just what it sounds like: Business professionals volunteer for the arts community. But here’s the most important detail, and the part that makes ABC-NY’s program special and successful. We volunteers don’t volunteer to help paint murals or pick up trash (both of which are fantastic things to do, by the way). Instead, we volunteer in our professional capacity. Marketing experts volunteer to develop new ad campaigns. Technology experts volunteer to enhance websites and help with e-newsletters. Human resource professionals volunteer to help document job descriptions and distinguish employees from contractors. Accountants volunteer to build budgets and file tax returns. And one attorney in particular helps with tax exempt debt issues.

All sorts of things motivate the professionals to volunteer their professional expertise, and there are more of us out there than you may suspect. Some volunteer because it fulfills them professionally. Some volunteer to learn a new skill set or take real ownership of a project. Some volunteer so they can sleep better at night or enhance their resumes.

But all of us volunteer because we love the arts, and we want to stay connected to the arts community by forging a bond that goes deeper than just giving money or buying tickets (although we do that as well).

Some volunteers are placed by the Arts & Business Council – In fact, there were more than 160 project matches in the past year and 20 business volunteers were placed on arts boards.

And some, like Linda D’Onofrio, place themselves.

It is clear that the BVA program benefits the arts community. After all, artists and arts organizations are the recipients of incredibly useful professional expertise.

But the real secret of the program’s success is that the business professionals gain just as much. Let me invite to the stage the 2011 winning arts organization, the Roundabout Theatre Company, and the 2011 winning business volunteer honoree, Linda D’Onofrio.

Congratulations to Linda and the rest of this years Encore honorees!

Encore! Encore!


Tomorrow night is the annual Encore Awards celebration hosted by the Arts and Business Council of New York.  It is a delightful party to recognize and highlight the partnerships forged between businesses and the arts over the past year, and it is an incredible opportunity to network with like minded artists and business professionals.

Tickets are a mere $25 and the event will be held in the historic Riverside Church (near Columbia University).  I for one can’t wait for the celebration, and I look forward to meeting you there!

This Saturday, I joined the Arts & Business Council‘s table at the DCA Art of Money event in Brooklyn, and for nearly five hours I listened to artists talk about their money needs. (Miss the event? Stay tuned to ABC-NY or DCA for more information on the next event.)

I loved meeting the artists and listening to their stories. Artists have better stories than nearly any other group, and the passion they exude in telling their stories is captivating. And inspiring. And motivating.

I learned an incredible amount during my few hours (and I hope the attendees of the seminars did the same!). I learned that artists need money. Lots of it. I learned that artists need support even more than they need money. I learned that an art world can be a lonely place. I learned crowd-sourced funding models and fiscal sponsors (who go way beyond fiscal sponsorship duties) may and should be the wave of the future. And I learned that even wearing a carefully chosen non-corporate corporate outfit for the day, I was affectionately called a “suit.” Twice.

It is the artists that make the world go round. It is their art that make life worth living. And I am thrilled to have gotten to hang out in their world for a bit this weekend.

This year, I’m waging war on the word “normal” and banning it from my vocabulary.  What used to be “normal” doesn’t exist anymore, and instead of getting hung up on why things have changed, I’m embracing that they have… and adopting a new normal. 

Larry Checco agrees, and his article in this morning’s GuideStar newsletter “Welcome to the Age of the New Normal” is a fantastic high-level summary of the new normal. He makes several great points, including one about using marketing and branding (formerly dirty words in the non-profit sector). By adopting practices that originated in the for-profit world (marketing, strategic planning, enterprise risk management), non-profits become poised for long-term success and sustainability while still achieving their missions.

The points on volunteerism could have come directly from the panel discussions I’ve joined over the past few years. Professionals — especially young, ambitious, motivated professionals — are continually looking for ways to enhance their professional experiences, not from a resume-building perspective (although that is important), but more broadly from a quality of life perspective. We want to feel fulfilled by our work, and offering our professional skills to non-profit organizations is an incredibly effective way for us to find professional fulfillment. (And it’s pretty great for the non-profit as well.) But we really don’t want our volunteer work to feel like work — We want some autonomy, some flexibility, and some positive feedback from the organizations, and we want to really be part of the organization’s work through attending performances or helping to serve meals to the hungry. Working with organizations helps us and them tell an even better story.

And speaking of stories…

My presentation at the Foundation Center last month, loosely titled “Tell Me a (Budget) Story” made many of the same points about cultivating and harnessing data that Checco’s article did. Gathering data and using it to really tell an organization’s story should be the new normal — It’s incredibly effective and compelling. An organization’s programs are the “moral” of its story… and effectively gathering data helps illustrate the moral over and over and over again.

That’s my story of new normal — and I’m sticking to it in 2011.

Baby Steps


I believe that professionals (doctors, accountants, attorneys) have a lot more in common with artists than either group is willing to admit.  As professionals, we pride ourselves on enjoying the arts… but not really being like artists.  We’re more “serious” we tell ourselves.  We’ve grown up. 

Artists, I imagine, feel the same way.  They recognize the value professionals add to the world… but they are pretty happy not being anything like them.  On some level, they are probably much more enlightened than we professionals are.  And they are definitely having more fun. 

But I have yet to meet anyone — professional or artistic — whose life has gone according to plan.  Instead, adulthood tends to be full of twists and turns, and as I look back now on my own meanderings I’m amazed at the path I’ve followed. 

Ten years ago, I never would have imagined I’d be where I am.  I never imagined I’d be working with small and mid-sized arts organizations, all of which are doing really interesting, and sometimes very unconventional, things.  I never thought I’d be teaching artists about budgeting and taxes.  And I really never thought I’d be working for myself. 

Point A was a graduate degree, a black power suit, and enough ambition to fuel the entire accounting community in New York. 

Point B is blogging in my living room at 9 p.m. on a Thursday, dressed in yoga pants and a pony tail, and waiting for a client/friend/artist to return my call. 

Going directly from Point A to Point B is fairly dramatic, but there is a long list of steps between A and B that help the journey make sense.  I found myself at an event for the Arts & Business Council (black power suit and all), learning about how professionals can volunteer in their professional capacities to support arts organizations, and my love of the volunteer work led me to a full-time finance position with an arts organization.  The wonderful people I encountered by chance along the way at various arts events helped build my network, my support system, and my confidence until it made sense to pursue work where I was a bit closer to the arts and the artists themselves on a full-time basis. 

As it turns out, there are plenty of examples of dramatic journeys from Point A to Point B in the arts world as well, one in particular from my friend Russell of The Dueling Fiddlers. Russell’s Point A was studying classical violin at Northwestern. His Point B is performing rock and roll songs on the violin opposite another classically trained virtuoso, Adam. A dramatic difference, yes, but understanding all the baby steps between A and B helps it all make sense.

So here’s to baby steps — One more thing uniting professionals and artists and helping us all find fulfillment, even if it doesn’t quite look like we thought it would.

Back to Minerva Financial Arts

The elections may be over, but the work has just begun. As ever, the races this year were close and contentious. Americans for the Arts has put together a wonderful snapshot of the current group of senators, based on six criteria ranging from a key votes and positions each senator has taken to involvement in arts-related caucuses.

Check out the full Senate Report Card and check back often to see how your elected officials are doing.



Welcome to the official blog of Minerva Financial Arts where I aim to bridge the gap between finance and the arts. Happy reading.