Heritage Toronto Awards

You may have noticed that I like heritage. Last year I attended the Heritage Toronto Awards, which includes an incredible lecture and recognizes the best heritage projects in the city. Not all heritage buildings are razed for new condos!

I think you should attend. I know, cash it tight, right? Well I’m happy to say the tickets are super affordable – general tickets are only $30 – and I’ve got a 10% discount to share! Here’s how:

2. Click “Purchase Tickets Online Now” and choose your seats (I recommend the lower balcony!)
3. If this is your first time buying tickets at the Royal Conservatory of Music you may have to create an account. A bit of a pain, I know, but worth it!
4. Use the discount code HeritageJunkie to get 10% off.
5.

See you there!

Falling ever deeper in love with the Toronto Public Library

I’m a Torontonian, born and raised, and I love this city. Yes, even now.

One of the things about Toronto that makes me so very, very proud to live here, is our Toronto Public Library.

Toronto Public Library Central Branch, College St. and St. George St., 1920

My A/C-less childhood summers where punctuated with trips to my local branch to carefully select the book for my Summer Reading Club passport. Decades later, Toronto Public Library was there to support me with my research as a ROM researcher and with myd gruelling grad work. As I lived a 1.5 hours away from campus, it became my regular study buddy, and I credit the environment it provided as a huge reason I passed the GMAT. As a way of saying thanks, I volunteered at its Book Lovers’ Ball gala the following year.

Toronto Public Library has been there for me, and given me opportunities to engage with it at every stage of my life. As a full-time-working, childless twenty-something, this is not something I can say for some of my other beloved cultural institutions.

And it just keeps impressing me. Through apps like Overdrive Media and Zinio, I can access countless ebooks, audiobooks, and digital magazines online through my browser or mobile device, for free, with my library card.

We’re not talking odds-and-ends offerings either. New releases and best-sellers abound.

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Did I mention there were cookbooks too? Cookbooks, people.

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For ebooks and audiobooks, just head to Toronto Public Library’s Overdrive Media site, log in with your library card, and get to checking out available titles to your heart’s content. You don’t even need to return them – when your borrowing time is up, they just disappear. No late fees! Just like the library, you can put holds on books that are currently unavailable. When they get returned, you receive an email notification and they show up in your account.

The Zinio sign-up process is a little more awkward, because you need to sign up for a separate Zinio account, but once you are set up it works like Overdrive Media. Head to the Toronto Public Library Zinio website and pick your magazines.

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The great thing about both Overdrive Media and Zinio is that once you’ve downloaded the ebook, audiobook, or emagazine, you don’t need wifi to access them again. I can tell you my commute to work has become a heck of a lot more bearable thanks to that. You can even bookmark pages, email quotes, and in the case of Zinio some magazines have the option of stripping away the layout, leaving you with the bare text of an article for easier reading and sharing.

It just makes me proud that Toronto Public Library is so dedicated to making quality content easy to access. Ok, that’s kind of its mandate. It’s just a bonus that Toronto Public Library is thinking about how to use new technologies and the way folks interact with media to do accomplish this.

So, dearest Toronto Public Library, thank you for being one constant and yet evolving reason that Toronto is great.

(And don’t even get me started on how great its SunLife Financial Museum + Arts Pass is – I’m saving that for another post.)

What say you about Toronto Public Library? Have you tried out Overdrive Media and Zinio? What do you think?

There’s no business like show business

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario‘s NextGen group (which does some pretty cool stuff) organized a job shadowing day. Pairing emerging and established professionals in the fields of heritage, arts management, architecture, and city planning, the initiative was meant to make meaningful professional connections

It was with absolute pleasure that I was selected for this and paired with Kevin Harris, Events and Sales Manager at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre. Many years ago I worked at Theatre Museum Canada, where I spent my days in an office at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre organizing artifacts from costume design sketches to Christopher Plummer‘s sword.

(One day I got to attend a J. K. Rowling press conference and she signed my sister’s copy of The Philosopher’s Stone.)

So being back at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre was like coming back to an old friend. Kevin gave me an extended tour (pictures at the end of this post), and let me in on what happens on a typical day in Events and Sales there. As the Canadian Music Centre, where I currently work, recently launched its own performance space, getting to learn about how a theatre complex and heritage building like the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre handles rentals and programming was invaluable to me.

In addition to seeing firsthand how the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre promotes itself, handles rental bookings, and plays a role as an Ontario Heritage Trust property, it made me think about my career goals. I could see how my skills can be put to use in such an environment, and it really gave me a boost in confidence about my own suitability for a role in arts management that is still tied to built heritage. If you’re new to my blog, those are two things that are near and dear to my heart (and career).

As one of those horrible Gen-Yers (entitled, lazy, the worst) I am always interested in articles about how to address the generation’s over-educated/under-employed dilemma. The term “mentoring” comes up a lot. It makes sense. How better to learn about career options and in which direction to aim than by getting to know someone who’s already there and learn about their role? In the course of a handful of hours I learned from Kevin’s experience what it would have taken me months, or years, of trial-by-fire to work out myself. I came back to work brimming with ideas of how to address the Canadian Music Centre’s own rental space, and with renewed excitement for the future potential of my own career.

I would sincerely like to thank the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and its NextGen group for organizing this job shadowing project, and of course Kevin Harris and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre for taking me on for a day and showing me the ropes (and rigging, and travellers) for how arts, heritage, and business can work together.

And, in closing, If you’re not familiar with the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, here are some pictures to show you just how beautiful the space is.

The ceiling of the Elgin Theatre

The original light switches, set in solid black marble

The Winter Garden Theatre, which was sealed away for decades. These seats were bought from the theatre outside which John Dillinger was shot. One of these seats is the last one he ever sat in, but we don’t know which one it is!

Those who can, teach

A year ago I attended my first coding workshop with Ladies Learning Code. This past weekend I returned, this time as a mentor.

I think it speaks wonders for Ladies Learning Code I went from complete n00b to someone who was able to teach the basic building blocks of HTML and CSS after just attending three of their workshops over the course of a year (if you’re curious, I went to their HTML & CSS, Mobile Coding, and Hack Day workshops).

Over a hundred of learners and mentors were packed at the CSI Annex for a full day of learning and mentoring. I remembered what it was like to sit down as a learner for the first time, opening weird and new programs, typing odd combinations of words, and slowly creating a real-life website (which later became this beauty). I remembered it being an intense day, and at the end of it rubbing my eyes from having stared at a screen too long, and needing a drink from absorbing too much material. It was a strikingly similar experience as a mentor.

Sure, there was an instance or two where I had to ask another mentor for help – I did only start a year ago, and other mentors were full-time developpers. But that’s the glory of the Ladies Learning Code structure – there are so many mentors in relation to the learners that it’s so easy to draw from others’ experience. And by teaching, I relearned a lot of the basic coding tools and feel even more confident in my abilities.

It was exciting to teach, and see everyone’s faces light up as they all, one by one, successfully implemented code. The mood was just terrific, and my heart melted when my learners thanked me for my help.

I was reminded of how much I missed teaching. I’m definitely going to mentor with Ladies Learning Code again.

Are you interested in learning more about tech skills? See what Ladies Learning Code (yes, men are welcome!) has in store for you.

Newest Crush

I was asked recently which nonprofit organization I thought had the best social media. I normally answer with one of the local powerhouses, like SickKids Foundation, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Alexander Neef (yes, he’s an individual, but he presents himself as an extension of the Canadian Opera Company, and in so doing makes the COC accessible and relatable).

But there is a new social media stud on the scene – the Aga Khan Museum.

If you’re curious, the Aga Khan Museum is that intriguing building going up to the west of the Don Valley Parkways just north of Eglinton. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re stuck in soul-crushing DVP traffic.

The Aga Khan Museum isn’t even open yet, but I already feel like I’ve been welcomed in its doors, received a guided tour behind the scenes, and been able to peruse its collection. A picture says a thousand words and it’s no news to any community manager that audiences love imagery. The Aga Khan Museum has been using its Facebook feed almost like an image-based tumblr, posting a high proportion of images showing the construction of its building and some of the artifact they’ll have on display.  Feast your eyes on the kind of posts they share:

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Not only are their artifacts beautifully crafted, but I really appreciate the amount and tone of text that accompanies them. Informative without being patronizing.

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This place will have a reflecting pool, people.

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Oh, no big deal, just an absolutely swoon-worthy geometric screen.

Part of my infatuation with the Aga Khan Museum is that it’s new, yes, but also because it’s dedicated to the “intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities” – of which my knowledge and experience is sorely lacking. I enjoy going to the ROM and the AGO, where I have worked and volunteered, and which exhibit artifacts that I’ve already learned about at some point along my +12 years of art/historical studies. But I am genuinely excited to be exposed to artifacts, whose details and significance are new to me.

I’m chomping at the bit to visit this museum. And I’m relishing the confident ease with which the Aga Khan Museum manages to promote itself before even opening its doors.

Now, how to get myself an invite to its opening…

I’ll turn the question to you — which nonprofit organization do you think has the best social media?

Sell yourself

It doesn’t sound great, does it?

I mean, selling. Sales. Makes one think of pushy salespeople and Glengarry Glen Ross.

(Heads up, this clip includes adult language and outstanding acting.)

I once had a sales job that reminded me too much of that scene. But selling yourself, promoting yourself, doesn’t have to be like that. And you can have all the coffee you want.

Now selling oneself, for a lot of people, is intimidating. It was for me. It still is, to be honest. You don’t want to sound self-absorbed, or braggy. But if you have skills to sell, you need to tell people you have the skills, and that they are for sale.

In my line of work I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of creators. Artists, curators, musicians, authors. And we often talk of how hard it can be to promote oneself. There are some creators who are awesome at it. But that doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and can be a real source of anxiety.

If you’re a creator, it’s quite possible you went to school and learned to develop your work. You learned your place in academia, and how you fit in the narrative of art/music/literary history. At art school I learned how to talk about my art to other artists, and how to assemble a portfolio to apply for grad schools and galleries. But I didn’t learn how to introduce it to new audiences, or promote it outside of the confines of the art world. Or, you know, live off the avails of my work.

Why would I? Art is art. It isn’t for sale. It isn’t some crass commercial transaction. How can you accurately sell something, the value of which is indeterminate?

Right.

Well, if you want to make any kind of a living off your art, you’re going to have to learn. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, getting the word out about your skills and work is easier than ever. And you can make progress in baby steps.

In no particular order, here are some key elements to self-promotion:

HAVE A WEBSITE

I’m so proud that the first three websites I’ve designed were to promote artists. It kills me that one of my art school colleagues, whose art absolutely blows my mind, doesn’t have a website for his art. How is he supposed to show off his art? How am I supposed to show off his art?

Thanks to platforms like WordPress (which very cool people use), it’s easier than ever to set up a personal website - for free!

Online tutorials can help with establishing your own domain (www.yourname.com is always a good idea) and web hosting (I strongly recommend Island Net, but really anything but Go Daddy will do the trick). If you need a bit more help, the wonderful people at Ladies Learning Code (yes, men are welcome!) and Hacker You can help.

Or if that’s a little too daunting you can always hire an up-and-coming web designer to create a page for you.

GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Use it to drive traffic to your website, build your personal brand, build your network, connect with clients, share your artistic process, bond with others going through the same thing… Social media is a powerful tool when wielded appropriately.

Another great benefit of social media is you can learn about events relevant to your pursuits, and even learn about the folks who’ll be there. Which is important because another important step to promoting yourself is to…

GET OUT THERE

As much as I love promoting myself from behind a screen, it really is important to get out there. Get face-to-face. Shake hands. If you’re an artist, go to a show to support other artists. An author? Go to a book launch. I’m currently doing web and print design for some amazing individuals and organizations, all who heard about me from someone else, who met me in person at various events.

WORK FOR FREE

*record scratch*

Hear me out. Work for free when/if appropriate. I direct you to this chart, which I wish someone had sent me years ago. I agree with it.  Is it a luxury to be able to work for free? Yes. Was I selective about who I was willing to do free work for? Yes. Is it a guarantee to lead to paid work? No. But, for me, it helped me get exposure, and build a portfolio, and led to paid work.  Feel absolutely free to ignore this step.

GET PAID

That’s more like it. If you’re trying to make money from your art, you actually need to make money from your art. Make the hard decisions about putting a price on your work and your time. You’ll need to separate yourself a bit from the artistic side and put your business cap on. Track your hours and income. Learn to create invoices and contracts. Alternatively, get yourself a Medici-esque patron to bankroll your artistic pursuits. If you succeed in this, tell me how.

Are you a creator who is trying (or has succeeded!) to sell yourself and your skills? I want to hear about it!

And do you want help with a website or design? Because I can totally do that.