A look into the inspiration behind the work.

A Celebration of Women Who Rock!

Women Who Rock Topeka

The seveneightfive magazine's third annual Top City Ladies / Women Who Rock issue is filled with many amazing woman who are rockin' Topeka day-in and day-out and who know what many of us are looking for. Whether it’s helping our neighbors, providing great food, art and entertainment or carrying on traditions and community culture. And I am honored and humbled to be one of the featured ladies. To check out all of the amazing women who make our community better here is the PDF Link: seveneightfive magazine Feb-Mar 2015

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Visual Arts Business Basics - A New Calling?

Garage door and butcher paper make a great white board for planning big!

There is a short break in my Selfies because I am seizing an opportunity to give back and learn something new every day! My husband Chuck Leivan, a master trainer for the KS Army Nat'l Guard taught me a new planning technique to develop my class Visual Arts Business Basics (AR 399) at Washburn University Art Department.

This is a simple, put butcher paper up on the garage door and layout your plan. This method really helped me see the details and how they fit into the big picture.

My objective for this class is to give the students a clear understanding of the mindset, skills and actions that are involved in building a visual arts career beyond creating their art.

This has been something sitting in the back of my mind for years. The memory that keeps coming back to me was Frank Nichols, one of my art instructors at Fort Hays State University told me "What I see for you in the future is you telling people like me what to do."  At the time I thought it was a weird comment and I wasn't sure what he was talking about. Of course who understands the sage when we are 25 years old? Was he being prophetic?

When I was in college we had a similar class. Back then it was all about getting into galleries and how to take good slides. To tell you the truth, we were discouraged from thinking of art as a product. Art for arts sake was the motto of the day. I always asked myself why I was paying all of this money for a degree that wasn't intended to pay for the courses I was taking... however I saw beyond that and saw through that lie. I think the winds on that myth are shifting.

The opportunities for artists have exploded in the last few years and I have done my best to keep up with it all while building my own art  career.  As I see it, this mindset is the crux of the problem and it is a solvable problem. Building an independent art career is a viable career decision for artists today if they are willing to step beyond their comfort zone and learn simple business skills.

I'm so excited! The first session starts a month from today on Thursday August 21st! Time will tell if this is a new calling!

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Aaron Douglas Art Fair

Still accepting artist's entries until August 28th!
Aaron Douglas Art Fair

Youth, High School, College Student, Amateur, and Professional so artists of all ages can apply!

Don't miss out on this Family event! 4th Annual Aaron Douglas Art Fair Don't miss out on this great family event!
Mark your calendars for the 4th Annual Aaron Douglas Art Fair coming this fall on Saturday, September 26, 2009 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Aaron Douglas Art Park 12th and Lane in Topeka. This year's fair will be bigger than ever, featuring:
  • Over 30 local artist exhibiting original artwork in a variety of mediums
  • "Kansas Silkers" will be doing demonstrations of their art process
  • Live musical entertainment
  • Lots of fun FREE children's activities
  • Affordable Food and Beverages sold by community NIA's
The fair will showcase the work of diverse and emerging artists from the region to keep alive the legacy of Aaron Douglas, a renowned artist from Topeka who was the leading visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

Initiated in 2006 by the Topeka TurnAround Team, the Aaron Douglas Art Fair simultaneously celebrates the memory of Douglas, nurtures up-and-coming artists from all walks of life, and provides a fun and creative environment for residents of Topeka and beyond.

Check it out, apply - forward to your artist friends!

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Art in Embassies Program Accepts Kansas Wildflower Artwork

I am so excited! Two of my Kansas Wildflower Series paintings were chosen for the  Art in Embassies Program. They will be a part of the exhibition at Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay in the U.S.. Embassy Residence in Asuncion. It will be on loan for the next 3 years. The pieces "Apollo in Delphos Facing the Evening Sun" and the "Apollo in Delphos Facing the Morning Sun" were both selected.

It is amazing how serendipity plays a part in life. I work two days a month a the local co-operative gallery Collective Art Gallery of Topeka. This month, I swapped work days with a fellow artist, this is common when we discover conflicts in our schedules, just seemed like a typical day at the gallery. I received a phone call from a gentleman from the Art in Embassies Program and he inquired about member artists who have sunflower pieces. He was putting together an exhibition for the Paraguay Ambassador and sunflowers where a connection between the two countries. He had called the gallery because he knew there had to be an artist in Kansas who painted sunflowers.

Being caught of guard by the call, not a single artist came to mind... except my own. I stuttered and hemmed a second or two and said "At the risk of sounding self serving, I paint Kansas wildflowers and have several sunflower paintings, but I could make some calls and see if our other members have sunflowers they'd like to submit."

He asked me if I could send him Jpgs of some of my pieces and I told him he could have instant access on my website. We disconnected, I made a phone call to help my foggy brain, gathered a list of fellow sunflower painters.

A short time later, he called back and was very complementary about my two Apollo in Kansas paintings and requested to send them on to the curator. Making a long story short, they were accepted by the curator and off we go on the adventure. These pieces will be more world traveled than me! How exciting!

Had I not been working for someone else that day, would my pieces have been suggested or selected? All I can say is WOW! You can never predict what a day will bring you.

I didn't know about this program and I am pleased to discover it. The Art in Embassies Progam also accepts submissions.

About the Art in Embassies Program:

Established by the United States Department of State in 1964, the ART In Embassies Program is a global museum that exhibits original works of art by U.S. citizens in the public rooms of approximately 180 American diplomatic residences worldwide. These exhibitions, with art loaned from galleries, museums, individual artists, and corporate and private collections, play an important role in our nation's public diplomacy. They provide international audiences with a sense of the quality, scope, and diversity of American art and culture through the accomplishments of some of our most important citizens, our artists.

ART's curatorial team develops thematic exhibitions in collaboration with each ambassador, taking into account the host country's artistic traditions and cultural mores. They recommend artists and works of art, negotiate all loans, and propose placement of the art within the embassy residences. After all loans are secured and the art insured, ART's registrars coordinate with professional art handlers for the assembly, packing, crating and safe shipment of each exhibition to post.

Art in Embassies Program

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Sweet Tweets! New Twitter Fan!

A Part of the Crowd

I joined Twitter several months ago. There was some buzz about the application and how cool it was. Well, as I spent a couple of days tweeting the whole business just didn’t make sense. I had 3 followers and didn’t know who to follow myself… it was just so foreign to me. Why does anyone what to hear what an obscure artist is doing during the day? Ok, I just wasn’t getting it.


Then fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with Chad Manspeaker and Joshua Dieker with Mixed Media (a new Topeka company offering their experience with Web 2.0 and website development.) They had worked in our local elections as Nancy Boyda’s campaign management. They used Obama’s campaign model by utilizing social media to enhance her constituency outreach.


What an eye opener. He made it really simple, tweet about yourself, use the search tool to find people in your area to follow or people who have similar interests and watch your circle grow. Also, he introduced me the integration of Twitter and Facebook if they find you on one application they will probably seek you out on the other.


He also explained how it’s changing the entire concept of marketing back to the oldest most original concept of marketing – by word of mouth (or should I say by stroke of the keyboard) and friends recommendations. The only difference is that it goes at light speed rather than plodding along via Pony Express. He wasn’t kidding.


To keep from being intimidated I didn’t want to grow too fast, just a steady growth so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed and this is exactly what I got. It’s amazing! In just a couple of weeks and maybe 3 hrs total of poking around, I have 47 followers on Twitter, many whom I don’t know but have found my tweets interesting and I have found their tweets interesting as well. On Facebook, my friends have grown to more than 42 (and not all from my personal solicitation) from around 5 many local people who have access to the galleries that I show in and many who I know but haven’t been in touch with for years.  My circle includes many from the local media circle as well. The best news of all is that my website gained 171% in activity from last month.  People are starting to find me online and it is literally growing on a daily basis.


Between Twitter and Facebook if used properly can launch your online presence from obscurity to a targeted, interested, friend base. Now, I am not even going to pretend to know all the ins and outs of either application, because I am still learning. My strategy is simple. Use Twitter and Facebook in tandem to enhance my online presence and drive traffic to my site.


Facebook has several perks for artists who participate: just take a look at their Statistics. http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

Specifically for artists, more than half of their 150 million users are outside of college and their fastest growing demographic is people over 30 years old…. This adds up to educated people who have the funds to buy art. Many people who are on twitter own the high end phones with internet services. If they have those kinds of toys, logic follows they can also afford fine art. Just take a look at those stats on the site and see how that plays into a marketing goal for the artist.


Next, not only did I have my profile on Facebook, I also created a “page” about me and my artwork. These can be found at the bottom of the page under “advertising.” Creating a “page” is completely free and then you can add applications to them as well.  With “devices” turned on and the Twitter application added to my Facebook profile, I can update my status on one and catch both systems in one sweep, even from my cell phone.  Also, I discovered that I can RSS (really simple syndication) my blog to pick up my blogs as notes for both my page and my profile. What a time saving applications! No more cutting a pasting my blog so that all of my friends can find it!  


A local group of Twitter fans started to gather in the evenings at “Tweet Ups” where you can actually meet fellow Tweeters in real life. What a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows with those interesting people! I have planned a “Tweet Up” for SouthWind Gallery in Topeka where I work, it is a preview opportunity for the tweeters to get together, enjoy new art (some of which are mine) and get to know each other. All in building bonds across the area. (If you are interested take a look at my events on Facebook “Michelle Leivan” or follow me on twitter @michelle_leivan)


Finally, one final thought – people buy art from artists they connect with, either the art itself connects or they know the artist and therefore enjoy the artwork even more through the relationship connection. The advent of the Web 2.0 creates the “conversation” era for the information age. The web is no longer a simple tool to find or present information, now we can make connections, social interactions! Share and have conversations with people across the world. It’s just simply amazing! Isn’t life Tweet!

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Simple Art Both Design

Art booth from the front.

In the last couple of weeks I was asked to be the Art Director of the Aaron Douglas Art Fair. It's a wonderful community event here in Topeka. In the last couple of days it has come to my attention that many artists do not have a booth and some are intimidated to make one.

I designed my booth years ago and it has served me well. If you have simple construction skills, such as being able build and stretch a canvas, you can build a booth. I have made a PDF that explains my design which is compact and easy to construct from common materials at the lumber yard. 

My booth design is a simple Plastic Lattice Design the final size of the lattice work is a 3 sided 8’ x 8’ lattice frame. With basic construction skills you should be able to create it in an afternoon. Some advantages of this design are: the lattice work allows for breeze to flow through on hot summer days. When used with the 10’x10’ gazebo (typical space allowed at art fairs) your artwork is inside enough that if you have a light rain it will be somewhat protected.

If you are interested in building this style of booth here is the PDF link.Simple Art Booth Design. This is the exact design I used to build my own art booth so I know it works and is sturdy enough to hold medium to light weight artwork. It has lasted years even though I store it outside exposed to the weather. I accept no liability on construction or design. You build at your own risk.

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