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From the Desk of Jonny Stax

Creation exploration is a blast!

Boy howdy, this creation exploration is a hoot! The Alliance of Artists Communities conference was illuminating. Lacy Katherine Campbell’s showis inspiring. The Creators Salon is filling up with some of my favorite people. Heidi and I are taking folks to Costa Rica for a retreat in February. We’re on an incredible journey.

Bounded. Determined.

Thank you to so many people who sent in references, reactions, and responses to the hypothesis we are testing this fall. I have had a great time digging through the various sources presented me, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Hypothesis calling

Ah, my return to the blogosphere! It hasn’t been for a lack of thoughts or insights to share that I have been offline for so long. It’s just that sometimes one needs to shut the hell up and get out of the way to invite clarity. So, I’ve been shutting up, playing with the niechews*, and letting clarity clothe me in the fashion that suits me best. Wanna know what that looks like? Here we go.

Entering our third year with full steam

I am pleased to announce that Jonny Stax Presents, Inc. has turned two years old. Only an estimated 66-70% of small businesses survive two years. Half make it to year four. One hurdle down, and we’re ready to jump the next.

Rage against the machine or work the system?

April must be my month of confessions, because here goes confession number two. I’m a change junkie. I love change. So many people say, “Everybody hates change.” Not I. I can’t get enough of it. I know this seems out of line with my last confession about being a planning junkie who fears moving into action. They actually balance each other out pretty nicely.

Letting go

I have a confession to make. It’s probably not wise to publicize this as a producer and business owner, but speaking something out loud is the first step toward recovery. I’m a planning junkie. I love to plan and strategize. I love to dream and scheme. I love to design and propose. I could do it all day long. Actually, that’s the bulk of my consulting work.

Artists as entrepreneurs

When I left my career in non-profit social justice work to become a producer, I was very set on creating a for-profit company to produce live entertainment. I knew this would limit funding resources available to me, but I also knew it would increase the flexibility I would have in my approach to running this company. I have not regretted that decision, though I have been shocked at how few supports there are for small businesses in this country, especially considering that we employ about half of U.S. workers.

Expressions of gratitude

As we wrap up the year and our inaugural 5th Star Expo [LINK:], I am filled with gratitude. This has been such an exciting year, season, and project. Instead of trying to put a pretty bow on it all, I just want to express five things for which I am grateful. Trust me, the list could go on and on.

That’s what it’s all about

One of my favorite breakfast spots, A Taste of Heaven has a sign that I love. No, it’s not the sign that telling kids of all ages to behave themselves and use their inside voices that caused so much controversy, though I do love that one as well. This one says:

“What if the Hokey-Pokey really is what it’s all about?”

That is a very good question. Scooty wants that sign to hang over his desk. I think I want that sign in every room of my existence.

What kids do better than adults

I had such a fun Thanksgiving holiday break. My original plans to work throughout the weekend were thwarted when Uncle Scooty told me that we would be spending the time with our nephews and nieces in the Quad Cities. Those kids DO NOT like Uncle JoJo to be working, unless it is developing a star turn for Jack, the third of four and loudest of all. So, I put aside my work and decided to get lost in playtime.

Selling out or just paying the bills?

I became a producer because I saw too many talented people not being able to pay their bills AND do the artistic craft they love to do. I don’t know why I thought I could change that, but it is the primary motivation behind me being a producer.

Chicago and retreat: two key elements in innovation

Okay, truth be told, I missed two Expo events this week. I was so disappointed to miss them, but everyone who went reported back great things. What was I doing? I was retreating to my home country before my head was going to explode all over this lovely town I now call home. I think everyone is the better for this retreat.

While I was gone, I was reminded of two critical elements of innovation that have become clear to me over the last few years of my life: retreat and Chicago.

The joy of a collective experience

We just came off the fifth installment at Metro of Alien Queen: The Concert and the second installment of Battlestar Fantastica!  What a way to kick off the Halloween weekend. Both of these innovatious productions reminded me first and foremost about the collective experience of joy that art and entertainment can create, and why live performance is such an important medium for this collective experience.

Artistic technology provides access

This week’s 5th Star Expo adventures revolved around technology and art. Can I admit that technology annoyes and overwhelms me? It consumes our culture and is so hard to track. Through my adventures, I found the beginning of salvation this week by experiencing delightfully unusual pairings of technology and art.

Dialogue: that overused word with such potential

Dialogue is a word that is thrown around so much that when I see or hear it used, I assume the person or organization using it just likes the sound of it over discussion, conversation, or similar words.  That is an unfair assumption, and I got three very different opportunities to see that word in beautiful application this week.  One was in cabaret, another in theater, and another in street performance.

To innovate or not to innovate

Okay, so the title is a little cheap, but it gets my point across.  This was a week for theater, and I experienced two remounts of Broadway shows that are decades old.  One was performed in a very traditional manner with few innovative tweaks – just enough to strengthen the storytelling – and the other was such an innovative production it felt like it left the original source material behind.  However, in retrospect, the latter (which was The Ladder) actually grounded us in the source material behind the source material.  Okay, enough pontificating.  Here’s what I experienced.

Impact: whether you like it or not

This week’s exploration into Chicago’s innovatious artistic and cultural scene took me all over town and all through my soul. 

I attended Arturo Sorio’s one person show at the Greenhouse Theater where I laughed, cried, and learned about mothers.  At Decompression, a coming home arts festival for people who attended Burning Man, I marveled at spectacle and felt connection with people living deliberate lives.  At Urban Village Church’s first service in Andersonville, I was swept into unselfconscious ecstasy and reminded of the power and beauty of grace.

5th Star Expo

As we prepare to launch the inaugural 5th Star Expo and invite you to join us in our exploration of innovation in Chicago’s arts and culture, I am filled with expectancy, curiosity, and optimism. I expect to find astonishing things in this city that celebrates experimentation. I am curious about the connections we will find alread exist between innovators in different fields. I am optimistic that people will partner with us in this quest.