The Truth In This Art Podcast - Insights for Artists, Creatives, and Cultural Leaders

Building Sustainable Businesses for Artists: A Conversation with Scott Burkholder

Building Sustainable Businesses for Artists: A Conversation with Scott Burkholder

Rob Lee: You're welcome to The Truth in This Art. Thank you for tuning in to these conversations at the intersection of arts, culture, and community. I am your host, Rob Lee. And today I'm excited to be in conversation with my next guest, who is analytically minded and is in awe of the power of human creativity. He is the principal at Burkholder Agency, which builds businesses for fine and commercial artists of all mediums. He's also played a pivotal role in developing major creative projects, as well as mentoring artists to elevate their professional careers. Please welcome Scott Burkholder. So thank you for joining the podcast, Scott. I appreciate you taking the time. So for those who are undipped, unfamiliar, I mean, I've seen the name. Name's been floating around. I was referring to you, but could you give the fine folks out there sort of that introduction of who you are and sort of in that, what was your like first art experience? I find it's either, you know, the making of art, the appreciating the art, the coming online when it relates to art and creativity. So who are you and sort of that first art experience?
Scott Burkholder: First of all, I want to say, you know, thanks for having me and just giving me the opportunity to connect with you. And The conversation I feel like is is a cherry on top of that, so I'm glad to be here and excited to be here and appreciate this question and I'm probably going to. Throw you under the bus is the wrong word, but you sent questions ahead of time so I didn't script it. It's improv, but I definitely had the opportunity to think about it and I want to tell you I think this is a powerful question like what is that first encounter that sticks with you and all oftentimes use it in. in my profession of coaching artists and getting them to think about the value of what they do by going back to that really intimate first experience that just lingers with them. And oftentimes, it's magical to discover that. And I had to scratch my head a little bit on this because I haven't pondered it for myself and probably the way that I push my artists that I have the opportunity to work with. I grew up in Roe, Minnesota, and I thought it was a big town because we had a Walmart, a Kmart, and a Target. But we were void of real cultural experiences in many respects. But I think as I've matured, I'd say the cultural experiences were different than what you find in a metropolitan center like Baltimore or these spaces that we know as cultural producers. In my childhood, I think the exposure to art probably came mostly through music. And one of the critical or pivotal cultural things that I remember is there was a classic concert series that came to my hometown. And my mom and dad were subscribers of that. And probably the first half dozen years that I went, I think I felt like I was forced to go. And by the end of it, though, it was something that I look forward to. And I think seeing these professional musicians performing in our high school gymnasium in this small town lingers. And that's probably, I'd say, that first exposure to the arts and what we know is refined culture. From thinking about my own practice, again, I'm on the business side of art, so I'm not necessarily the one that's on the stage performing or producing the painting. I think my first real intimate foray into that was right out of college, I had a business going on the side of my day job where I was a residential painter. And when I say painter, I mean like living rooms and bedrooms and things like that. And as that business was growing, I started employing artists like musicians and writers and painters. And It's those relationships that I think were pivotal and like the real introduction into, if you will, the business side of the arts and afforded just deep conversations about life and all of what art allows you to step into, as well as how do you make money? You know, like, how does that actually work for you? And so I'd say that that initial foray into my medium was probably, in some stranger's living room, painting it a shade of off-white so that it looked clean and fresh and new.

Rob Lee: Yeah. Wow. Thank you. And so in that the sort of one of the other things I like to start off with in the introductory portion of the pod is, you know, having having a person, you know, you know, introduce themselves in that way of like, how do you deem yourself? Like when someone asks me, like, are you a podcaster? I've been called an influencer. That's the one thing I rebel against. I rebel against that terminology. I've been brought on like influencer Rob Lee. I'm like, no, not at all. So how would you describe your sort of role around the arts? You mentioned the arts business side, the coaching component. How do you describe like your role in and around like arts?

Scott Burkholder: I call myself an agent and that's a loaded term in some respects. And there are certain sectors of the industry where, like, for instance, Hollywood, where you you think of an agent and the record labels in the music industry, there's agents and it's brokering deals. But for the most part, that's captured where I definitely want to head and go is I do want to be brokering deals between the audience, the patron, the the individual who is providing the resources whether that's money connections whatever to an artist and the artist and be doing that in a capacity that really benefits the artist and you know hopefully the the audience is fulfilled in that transaction but it's a term that that I use to just really capture all of that business side because even within Hollywood, you have agents, but then you also have managers, and you also have publicists, and you also have a fill in the blank, 27 other roles that it takes to, to build, you know, multi million dollar careers. And what I do in my capacity as an agent, particularly in the market of Baltimore right now is, is potentially all of that. I mean, I was thinking about this last week as I'm contemplating the growth of my agency. Well, what am I looking for? And I think back to the client meetings that I had that week. And there's a part of it where, yes, I'm talking about your bookkeeping and getting deep into the finances of a business and need to have the vernacular that an accountant has. I looked at a licensing agreement and had to contemplate some of the legal implications of utilizing an image in a corporate setting that a photographer had made and what that might be worth. Then there's a component of helping an artist articulate their own value proposition, which most of the time is going to come out in an artist statement. And then there's also Frequently, clients will refer to our meetings or sessions that we have as therapy. Working with a client to even comprehend why it's difficult for them to ask for the price of their work because they may not value the work because they don't necessarily value themselves in the way that they need to, to confidently go out there and ask for what that work is worth. Right now I call myself an agent which means sometimes I'm your accountant, sometimes I'm your lawyer, sometimes I'm your marketing person, sometimes I'm your therapist and helping work through whatever it is that it's going to be required to really create a sustainable business first and foremost but eventually a thriving business.

Rob Lee: So a man of many hats, despite not wearing a hat currently.

Scott Burkholder: I think we have a similar haircut if we're honest. I mean, yeah, it's close.

Rob Lee: It's close. Recently shaved, recently shaved. And, you know, and I read and this definitely got my eye. You know, it's a lot of stuff, and you're a very interesting dude, but there's one thing that really caught my attention, the engineering background and the analytical background. Like, I always tell people, like, I'm a data analyst by day. And they're like, so how do you engage in this career? So I was like, I don't know, it's the system. You know, that's the way I look at it. It's like, that's kind of the way I consume it and the way I, like, kind of make sense of it. And on the other side of it, I guess it's left brain, right brain, I don't know, but on the other side of it, the storytelling component and doing this podcast and crafting it and so on, I'm able to present that data in a way that I'm building out scripts for and so on. Talk a bit about that background and that decision to shift a little bit more from that engineering and analytical work more to what you're doing these days.

Scott Burkholder: I'm still an engineer. I'm still engaging in even the rudimentary math and scientific end of things. And I like the packaging that you put around engineering. Much of it is building systems and creating efficiencies within systems more specifically. And that's particularly important and valuable when you're talking about the business side of things. And I think I think the transition, or I don't even think, I know the transition happened through relationships, just meeting people at the right times in my life, including the folks that I was painting living rooms, various shades of awful light with. The value of my background in engineering plays out and manifests today still. I love spreadsheets. My clients hate spreadsheets. And so oftentimes I have to be an intermediary between the two. And I get excited and see the creativity in accounting and understand why accountants find joy in their work. Similar to, I appreciate a great melody or a fantastic painting that that one of the artists I'm working with might be putting together. And so the engineering is certainly a part of what I do. And for whatever reason, I'm able to engage, I think, comfortably, if you will, both sides of the brain, as you mentioned. And it's curious, as I tell We'll say that the general population who's not familiar with artists and may put them on a pedestal or you know Unfortunately look down upon them for being artists even in the sense of like they should go get a real job where they need desperately someone to do the business side of what they're doing and I want to be careful in that conversation is to Honestly say engineers need a balance in what they're doing to you know like most Most engineers would be horrible at building a business if they had to do it on their own. Most engineers probably are horrible at business in the sense that I have no idea how they would do the very interpersonal and the narrative storytelling part that is critical to growing and expanding a business. And kind of the way I think about it is we need artists, and this will sound weird to say it this way, but we need artists to be bad at business. to operate in the way that they do. And what I mean by that is I think to be good at business, you have to be a concrete sequential thinker. Again, to use language that's oftentimes used in describing personalities. And you've got to see time in this linear fashion so that you can plan and allocate resources appropriately. That's a lot of what good business is about. And that's very different than being an abstract and in the moment type of person, which is what we need for artists, we need artists to feel things to see things and perceive in a way that can only happen if you're in the moment. And to expand upon that through a medium that requires incredibly abstract thinking. And that runs contrary to what is, again, required oftentimes for the appropriate allocation of time, money, and, and energy. And so Again, the place that I get to sit in is somewhere between those two things. It's a real deep appreciation for both of those mindsets. If I'm honest, I'm good at both and I'm not excellent at either. I found a place where I can excel by just being good at both of them.

Rob Lee: Yeah. And thank you. I think that makes a lot of sense where it like I like baseball, right? I always think of baseball. And, you know, when you look at pitchers, everyone is specialized. It's like we have our starters. We have our relievers, our middle relief, all of that stuff, set up, man, all of that stuff. And I think of this idea of having the team, as you touched on earlier, you have these publicists, you have a manager, agent and all the other 27, you know, people that are a part of it. And those are the folks that are thanked when you do your acceptance award speech and all of that. And that's I think that is a really salient point there. And one of the things that I've been told more and more recently Because like I have a business degree, I have that as the background. But this is something that I've been doing probably as long, you know, being a podcaster for about 15 years. So those things kind of just run concurrently. doesn't mean that I'm particularly good at either or great at either of them. I'm serviceable, I suppose. And I think a lot of folks run into that where you're maybe in alignment with or out of alignment, rather, in doing sort of like opportunities that don't fit, but scarcity is there. So you have to do it. You're trying to think as the business person, but you didn't read over that contract as well and all of the different things that can happen. And it's not out of being bad at something. It's more so this, this idea that you're an artist, you, you paint, you, you, you're, you're a podcaster, you do podcasts. And the thing that I'm told more and more recently is you have a job, you don't want another one. And so trying to build out sort of that capacity as, you know, I touched on before we got started, you know, or maybe I did, I put out 333 episodes last year. So that's the whole other undertaking, right? And having all of the responsibilities of a real person. I'm just a podcaster. If someone is like doing a bunch of paintings or put on a bunch of music and having all of this stuff, things inevitably will fall through the cracks.

Scott Burkholder: That's my spiel. It's so true. I think one of the hardest, hardest components for an artist is to understand that to be a business owner or to be in business and particularly if you're the only employee of the business, there's a lot of jobs that have to happen within the business. One of them is production. One of them is making the painting or making the podcast. But there's still in the 27 other things that need to happen in order to build the business. The incredible thing about being in a field like art or, you know, realistically anything that is what you want to do in life is you'll probably do that job for free, which is what most artists do. And one of the ways I like to frame those 27 other roles is like, that's actually the job of being an artist, you know? at least when you're the only employee in your business right now. You need to be the one that is making the phone call to initiate the opportunity or to follow up on the opportunity or to ensure that you get paid or you need to go to the bank and deposit the check, not that we do that anymore, but you've got to make sure that those things happen. Otherwise, the time in the studio is just not going to be possible. there's just a lot of jobs in any business. And if you're the only employee of your business, you, you gotta muscle through like, how do I do those other jobs?

Rob Lee: So I want to ask you this, because let's touch on the Burkholder Agency a touch, you know, because, you know, we're talking around it, but I want to talk about something a little bit more specific in that vein. You know, could you share a moment or a project or a client, you know, let's not be specific, obviously, because that's your business, but, you know, that really captures the essence of building those sustainable business, empowering artists and and building that out? Was there a painter that you really helped with X, Y, and Z? Talk about that a bit.

Scott Burkholder: There's a part of me that, I would say there's an obvious answer that if you're of a certain age or a part of a certain era in Baltimore, you'll be familiar with what I've done. I want to separate from that a little bit, but at the same time, that's the obvious thing. I'll speak to that in a minute. The stuff that gets me up in the morning, literally, is small steps because it's consistency. You talk about 330 podcasts in one year. That's consistency. The other part you shared in our pre-talk before that is you only did I don't know how many dozens or hundred before that, the year before. The opportunity to do 330 the following year is because you did the hundred. And my guess is, and you said this as well in the pre portion of our conversation, like that's leading to better clients next year. So it's consistency. And to use that baseball analogy, there was a time and we're maybe progressing away from where, you know, getting on base and singles is what's winning games more than home runs. And again, strategies are changing, so we won't go down that path too far. Stuff that gets me excited are just steps. I had a client I'm working with this week that was stoked that 30 people signed up for their newsletter as a result of a strategic marketing decision. That to me is exciting because if that happens consistently, you'll obviously grow your list of individuals that are now in your CRM or customer relationship management where sales can start to happen. And it's those types of things that I get really excited about. And yes, I think a lot of artists or people will be like, well, that's not that big a deal. They're like, yeah, but if that happens once a week, over the next year, that's something. And those are people who've raised their hand to say that I'm interested in what you're doing. And there comes a time where that interest leads to the next step, which is to show up at an event, which leads to the next step, which might be to purchase that first work, which leads to the next step, to purchase a work for a friend or to tell a friend about it. And so I think that's one of the ways I like to think about what I do and the value that I feel in a real way, as much as like, you know, clients, um, clients that I've worked with who have landed a deal that is where, you know, video artists would want. It can, we can think in those terms and there's those examples too, but, um, you know, you ask like what encapsulates what the agency is about. Um, I'd say it was the Baltimore Love Project. And again, part of the reservation about this is at that time, I didn't know if I wanted to be an artist agent. I hadn't hung my shingle out as Burkholder Agency. I got invited by Michael Owen to come work on the business side of his project. But that experience was pivotal. That cemented the role that I feel called to and has now become identified as my vocation is in the capacity of the business side of art. And, you know, that project was for all intents and purposes, my MBA, if you will, in arts administration. And I got it on the streets of Baltimore and learned how to open the doors that are needed to open in order to build, in this case, to fund and create a movement around a work of art. And so that project, I think, really speaks to what I do and what I'm capable of doing with artists, is to take a vision that the artist understands and can see very clearly, but translating that into paint on walls across an entire city.

Rob Lee: Yeah, and it's a Rosetta Stone sort of situation there. I like it. And I've interviewed Michael, so big shout out there. And it's I think it's I think it's important to have folks that are savvy in that way and that are knowledgeable in that way and touching on consistency. One of the things that I've been utilizing is this idea around exercise, even this. This is an example I think that fits. You have someone go to the gym, you try to do that curl and it's like those 30s aren't moving the way that they used to. But you still gotta go after it you know you might have a partial revenue i have a failed but you're getting something out of your learning something out of it and then maybe the next day you go you're a little stronger maybe the next week you go you're a little stronger but you don't just give up on it and i think that's the same way to apply it but also. Sometimes you got to talk to people who know a bit more than you, who have a bit more capacity. You might get some unsolicited advice from a trainer there at that same gym. I know I do. But, you know, you're getting that sort of support and that sort of direction to take what you're doing to that sort of next stage and flesh it out. You know, one of the things that happens, and I use this on occasion, and as I'm moving into sort of this next stage of the podcast, I'm being a bit more intentional of who I want to work for. I'm not really in the business of chasing opportunities. It's like, I'm fine in that regard, but it's like not doing raggedy stuff. It's like, oh, you got to have your stuff in order and having, you know, a team or having folks around to vet these things. before you even get to the person that is in the production side, as you were touching on earlier.

Scott Burkholder: Yeah. What's curious about what you said is it's super valuable to have people in positions to do things for you, like vetting it. But to make that happen, this is the systems language coming. You've got to create your system for how vetting happens. What you're doing is you're articulating how your decision making happens. That's really hard to do. And this is where, again, working with an expert who kind of knows how these things happen and how these decisions do get made and can draw out your precise way of doing it becomes valuable. And I recently had to do free virtual workshops. I call them co-working sessions. And we had a session where we were talking about hiring. At one point, one of the participants had said, I don't even know what I want to hire someone to do. You know, I just want someone else to do it for me. And I realized, wow. And this is where a lot of artists are at, is they want someone to do marketing. The thing is, someone can't do your marketing for you if you don't know what your marketing is. which then means you probably need to work with someone at a very strategic level of marketing. And I'm going to tell you, a marketing strategist builds at a very different rate than someone who's just going to make an Instagram post for you. The person that decides what would go into that Instagram post and that would actually do the thing you want that Instagram post to do is a lot more expensive than someone who might be able to go out and capture the content and write the caption and put it onto your post for you. Again, when we're hiring individuals, we've got to know what we're hiring. What's curious is there's a lot of really hard deep, heady work that goes into writing a good job description that leads to the results that you're looking for. This is really true in the realm of sales and marketing.

Rob Lee: I had my first job out of college was a marketing job, but on the marketing analytics side of it. And I was like, man, I want to do some of the sexy stuff. And I was able to do some of that. But then being a person that on the back end. So what was the ROI on that? What do we invest there? All of these different things. And, you know, I think it's It is very telling, like when you see these things, like I have a pretty decent vision of what I want, but I'm not unmovable. I'm never really sort of, you know, caught on. This is what this is always. There are some things that are non-starters. I'll give you an example. I was sitting down as part of a project with a school, a college, and I was the subject for this project. And they were giving me design expertise and breaking down things. And I was like, yeah, so if we do this rebrand of your thing and maybe change your logo. I was like, no, the logo is part of the ethos. That's a non-starter. you know, very point, you know, on point when it comes to that. I was like, I'm open to things, but that's like one that's not. I was like, it fits, and this is why it fits. And being able to articulate that, it was so many, oh, it was a lot of that, but I think it's being able to articulate that sort of vision or even when and I'm and I'm serving as, I guess, an avatar here of an artist or of someone that would be potentially like reaching out to someone like you, you know, and that sort of role of like knowing what you want. And that that thing you said so eloquently about sort of the rates between someone that's doing more of the order fulfilling part of it versus the strategy part of it. The strategy person had no rate is crazy. It's up there.

Scott Burkholder: I mean, especially if they're good, right? Cause it's going to lead to the results that you're looking for. But, um, I think, and this is, this is the thing that I want to give to a lot of my artists is it's in you. It's like, you know, these answers, it's just, it's hard to pull it out. It's hard to articulate it. And any business has to go through that process of, um, defining their value propositions. And it's one thing to say, that you're selling a painting, it's another thing to sell, we'll say the emotion that might be in that painting. And if you're not clear on the context of the painting or the work that you've made that might allow someone to step into that emotion, it can be really hard to sell that painting, you know? yes there are going to be people out there who don't need any of the context to be told to them in any way and they'll feel it but that might be a hard population to get in touch with or it might be a population that you haven't again really identified in a way that that you could even get them in front of the painting to feel that thing that would cause them to value it in the way that you do and so When I'm working with an individual, much of it is to get them to articulate what's going on in their head. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? And using that to create your strategy. You have that ability. And again, it's just hard work. And it's not potentially as enjoyable as what the studio might do for you. If you're capable of doing that, you probably can, one, be successful in building your business of your own accord, but two, even hiring people to do those things for you because you've done the hard work.

Rob Lee: And I've been in that spot a few times where you, you know, you have a bad hire, you have someone who just doesn't quite fit. And it's never they suck. It's more so like what's missing from this sort of description? Why is this the person that I'm getting or why is this the skill set that I'm getting? Maybe I need to look at that a bit harder. And I think a lot of folks encounter that. There are instances where I'm booking someone and I get the assistant and the assistant is not assisting. And I'm like, oh, this bad hiring is going around. But also it is sort of the shortcuts too that we do. I'll say we're about a year into it being so prevalent, but using like chat GPT or AIs and so on to try to tighten some of those things up because there is a sort of person power limit or person power lack. And I've been in that spot before where not knowing how to properly use it. Like if someone is like, write my artist statement for me, they can't have everything that you're going to capture in it. But if it's like, hey, this is my artist statement. I wrote this. Put this in a proper context. That's actually how that loop is supposed to work. And, you know, just just sort of having this understanding, really being able to to look at it. And I think it's a collaboration thing. Going back to the Rosetta Stone thing I touched on. I think if someone has an idea of what their aim is and they can talk with another person, say having a second set of eyes or having a proofreader in many regards, if you have a semblance of what your work is about and what you're doing, and doing this podcast and having folks who are creatives, having folks that are in this sort of business side of things as well. They I get different viewpoints on what this podcast is about and what I do. And I'm like, oh, that's interesting. That's better than what I had to say. I just got a microphone. And it's funny. So I think talking with someone who has that mindset and is doing it strategically and has that sort of background of this is how you best position yourself from a value proposition and present yourself strategically. I think you go a long way in that regard. You can get back to the cool stuff like the production of the art.

Scott Burkholder: Even riding along with the Chat GPT, a few thoughts come to mind. If you ask the wrong questions or put in the wrong prompts, it's going to be terrible. Similarly, Chat GPT is a great writer, but a horrible editor. Thinking about the business side of art, you need to know how to ask the right questions to get the right support output that you're looking for. And if you don't know the right questions to ask, again, it can be super helpful and beneficial to work with somebody at that strategic level. Again, it costs more than potentially hiring an admin assistant or someone to just do the tasks that you know need to be done. But if you don't know the tasks that need to be done, like, it's incredibly valuable to work with someone that can help you figure that out, who potentially has more expertise in that realm, and can do it in a way that is respectful and empathetic and considerate of what it is to be an artist, you know, because you've It's one of the conversations I've gotten into in the last month a lot or I find myself getting into is just, I want to advocate many of the talented people to look for the thing in their business, in their creative practice that can generate cash. And if they can figure out how to make that profitable, they can use that profit to invest in the other risky and new creative endeavors. And if you're smart and savvy about it, I was talking to an artist who does a variety of things, but we'll say his commercial cash engine now is a light installation. And light festivals have been du jour for the last decade or longer. the artist has done the same installation for all intents and purposes in 80 locations around the globe. And he's like, this is a commodity, you know, like this is no longer art. And for his well being, he's like, I need to separate this commodity from my art. And he's doing that. He's creating a separate business entity that's explicitly for the commodity light art that light festivals can still hire. He's still going to be the guy doing it, or at least the head of the production to make it happen. But it's no longer their name that's going on it. It's actually the commercial entity's name that's going on it. So it allows him to preserve his creative practice. And oh, by the way, That's making so much money. It's not only sustaining the business of the entity, it's spinning off profit that he owns and can put into his own creative practice and go do the next thing that he wants to do.

Rob Lee: That's so important. It's using, you know, you're in that spot of figuring out what the cash cow is, what the funding generator is. You almost use yourself or an extension of yourself as the funder. And, you know, that that's a really cool thing. And at one point when I was in this realm of writing scripts and so on, I remember talking with one of my buddies about sort of like, hey, if this goes anywhere, spend a lot of time and energy on it. Right. I was like, can we have like a bucket of stuff that's for us that we don't want to really, you know, like have interference and the other stuff that's this is good. We want to do this, but this is sort of our B material. We want to keep the A stuff for ourselves. It's like when a rapper keeps all of the best beats for themselves, it's sort of that move. And or even, you know, use another sort of comparison, you know, filmmakers. It's like one for me, one for y'all. It's like I can do my art house stuff, but I need that Marvel check. I need that thing coming in.

Scott Burkholder: And I don't, you know, I don't know that it has to be so commodified, like I use that language to probably exemplify the extremes. But I think there's a way to find something that is still aligned with who you are as a person and your values and what your art is. And to ask, like, how do I make this sustainable and profitable and potentially get to that place where It's a separate thing from you. It's really not the thing that you're going to be identified with. It takes hard work, thought, strategy to get there.

Rob Lee: So in that, I have sort of one more real question and then I got four, five, five rapid fire questions for you. So this is sort of the bringing it all together. We've talked about like just strategy and just gems are being dropped. You got to pick some of them up. Gems are being dropped. And so being here in Baltimore, what have you, How, how has, like, you talked about getting that sort of, like, arts administration, like, like MBA out there in the streets of Baltimore. So, so talk about, like, sort of that impact as far as the culture of Baltimore. Like, you know, we have the quirky thing, we have the very DIY thing. I think that we have really discerning taste here. Talk about, like, sort of how Baltimore has impacted you as a, you know, you've been here, transplant, right? How Baltimore has impacted you when it comes to sort of being in this art world now and for the time that you've been in it, like, how is Baltimore serving you in that regard?

Scott Burkholder: I think you can do whatever you want in Baltimore. And I love that. And I mean you can do whatever you want in Baltimore. I think it's why, you know, that Corky and that There's been different branding efforts around it in a variety of terms and languages, but like if John Waters is an icon of Baltimore, there's a reason for that. Like you can be John Waters and succeed here and frankly be normal or, you know, normal doesn't exist. But, um, I think that's one of the most incredible things about Baltimore. And on top of that, and this is, I don't know that this is going to be true forever. I'm looking out my, my front window and there's, a building going up that has commercial on the first floor and 19 units above it, there's a lot of serious development and investment coming into Baltimore. Right now, Baltimore is incredibly accessible and affordable. Again, I want to recognize that that doesn't necessarily mean doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy, but I do think it's way less expensive than a lot of other municipalities that you could be at and producing your cultural artifacts and making art. Like, it's a really affordable city to do that in and have access and proximity to so many other resources by train and up 95 and down 95. So I think Baltimore is just this place that's inspired me to believe that you can do whatever you want, you know, you can figure it out. And along with that, I think there's an incredible opportunity in Baltimore to do that because it is affordable still. And I want to say, just packaging, I think one of the questions that you had planted in our email correspondence was just like, what are the challenges and the easy ones? I'd say it's both of those things. You can do whatever you want here and it's affordable. But I would say one of the challenges of Baltimore is you've got a ton of people doing whatever they want and not always recognizing that I don't need to go create a new arts organization. I don't need to create yet another convener of all of the artists in Baltimore. Those things are happening. I understand we're individuals and we have our unique needs and identities, but if we can start working together a little bit more in some of the sectors, I think we'd be amazed at the resources that already exist within this network, as well as the gravity that that network has to attract more resources. And so, you know, to say I think Baltimore has energized me because I've seen so many people doing just cool, funky, fun stuff that frankly is only possible here because of the cost. I have friends who have started restaurants and stores, boutiques, as well as other creative endeavors. There's no way in hell they could have done that in D.C. or Philly or New York, but they can do it here. Along with that, there's just this element of there's a lot of people doing whatever the hell they want without connecting to what's already happening.

Rob Lee: That's a really great point and we'll close on that. I just want to just comment on that real quick because I agree with it. You know, I have this this notion of like, oh, so there you know, this is kind of how this is. We have an organization here that's fighting for the same thing that this organization is doing. And just I don't know, it just it's done weirdly. And it is this notion of. almost not identifying sort of the resources that are there. Like the place that I share that I'm at during the day job is always described as being decentralized. And that's what it feels like at times. And, you know, you could see it when it came down to some of the stuff, maybe with Artscape or what have you. I remember one of those really, really early discussions. And it's like, oh, let's have that in this arts district. Or what about this district? It's like, maybe it's just we all, you're identifying a need, we all need to have a smaller version of it. And we all get a portion of that and divide that between those districts so that everyone is being served, if that is the sort of challenge. But sort of, no, we want it for us. That is a weird competitive thing that I don't think really fits all the time. That's sort of my two cents on it.

Scott Burkholder: Well, yeah, and I, you know, There's a place for competition, but there's also a place for recognition of like, uh, you know, the way I would describe it is, uh, businesses, whether that's a, an organization that is convening people or traditional businesses are built off of relationships. And really when we break down a business model, what we're doing is we're looking at different relationships and it's fun to imagine how, how. if we moved a party individual organization from one aspect of our business model to a different box, a different type of relationship, the business could be completely different. And to put this in perspective, like Google, Google is a search engine. Probably the most important part of the search engine is search, yet that's given away for free because actually Google's business model is an advertising business model. It's not a search engine. We're not paying for the service of search. We're paying for the service of search with our data, but that's not how we fit in Google's business model. That's not the relationship they have with us. We're not customers when we're typing in our query of where we want to go on the Internet. Whereas there are models for search engines where you pay for the search engine and they don't sell your data. Anyway, I think what can be fun in this is just re-imagining like instead of looking at somebody as competition for those same resources, what happens if we look at them as partners? What happens if we look at them as as part of our audience, part of our customers or whatever it might be, so.

Rob Lee: It's great. It's a great way to look at it. And now we can shift into sort of the final portion of the podcast here. The part that I know that you, like everyone that comes on this podcast, is super excited for. It's the rapid fire portion. So I have four fire ones is one of you kind of already answered, and I was like, I can just remove that not to be redundant. So this this one. OK. Is there a. a book and remember rapid fire you don't want to don't want to overthink it all of that stuff brevity is key. Is there a book or resource that you would recommend for someone who's really interested in sort of their you know adding more of the business into their art being more strategic with how they present and how they work within their sort of art practice?

Scott Burkholder: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is the first book that comes to mind and He followed that up with a couple of other ones, including one called Turning Pro. But there's a concept in there about resistance, and much of it has to do with the creative practice and just getting into the studio and that consistency of showing up. But it's also the mindset that I want artists to feel in business. It's like, you've got to get in. to your marketing regularly. You've got to get into your sales. You've got to get into your bookkeeping and your finance. I like using that book because it definitely is talking about art, but I think it's super valuable stuff for business and for the creative sect. That's probably the book that I hand to clients usually when I start working with them.

Rob Lee: Yeah, I'm definitely going to check that book. I actually have it in my Google search. You just sold them your data. So this is the next one. I'm always curious about like what people eat and especially when it's like when you have like a connection to maybe a different place. So culinarily speaking, what is something you miss from Minnesota?

Scott Burkholder: I was in casserole, a good casserole. I grew up, I grew up again in rural Minnesota, Alexandria, to be more precise. And, you know, cream of mushroom soup and brown hamburger meat and some frozen vegetable with tater tots on top. I can't get that here.

Rob Lee: I mean, that's not towards the top, but the way that I've been eating over the last couple of months, that is a meal I would make. I'm not going to hold you. That is a meal that I would make. It sounds delicious. Because I like mushrooms. I've been eating bit more beef than normal because it's like the only thing actually can tolerate that doesn't feel weird like shaved ribeye and things like that but definitely something that sticks to your ribs especially as the temperatures are dropping. Casserole sounds like it might be pretty pretty good.

Scott Burkholder: Yeah that one's tater tot casserole and if you're You're keen on Garrison Keillor and many of the tropes and stereotypes of Minnesota or the Midwest. Hot dish and casserole are a big part of it.

Rob Lee: What is your preferred communication style of these collaborative, formal, visual, or other? I've been, this question comes from this research I've been doing. I've been playing with sort of how different demographics prefer to communicate. So like based on like their sort of age ranking and what have you. So I'm trying to see if it rings true. What is your preferred communication style?

Scott Burkholder: It's really a toss-up between the collaborative and the formal. And I say that probably because of the population that I'm working with, where most of the artists are going to, I would say, operate collaboratively. But when I am when I'm the business side of that I need to put some structure into what's happening and it becomes there's parts that have to be formal and I think this is part of my The secret sauce to who I am is I'm very comfortable in both of those and can roll with just constant back and forth that is more collaborative versus here's a structured email with bullet points and the work that needs to be done by this date. Either of those work for me and are frankly important for me.

Rob Lee: That tracks. Based on the research that I've been doing, that tracks very well because I would imagine we're you're either a Gen X or a Millennial. So in that, that's literally the communication styles as like Gen X is like, whatever it is, Millennials collaborative only. Then you get to the Boomers, they're purely formal. Send me a form letter at this time that is this many in Arial, please. No time for that.

Scott Burkholder: No, exactly. I'm right at the the Gen X and Millennial line. So I was born in 79. So not really, I'm an outcast for both basically.

Rob Lee: Uh, I literally this was most of my last Saturday that I was going through this. You know, you you have when you're like hunting a movie and they're hunting like the serial killer and they have the strings going from here to there. That's what I'm doing with like demographic data. It's like, well, if you look at this tick tock, right. And just breaking it down. And it's it's rang true is undefeated as a question. So this is the last one I got for you. So, Charlie, right. creative muse, stress reliever. Which lane does Charlie the English Bulldog hang out in?

Scott Burkholder: Oh, definitely stress relief. I mean, um, just the, the, we're definitely dog parents right now, you know, and the thing about a dog that is distinctive from a human is, um, They definitely love you regardless. I'm not as worried about whether or not I'm influencing her in the right way. It really is just joy. It's pure joy. If there's a medium that I feel most competent in, it is definitely words and writing. And there's no sonnets or poetry or essays or deep analysis that's been done on Charlie. And I think I prefer it that way. I just, you know, enjoy having her around. I dig it.

Rob Lee: And that is actually sort of the end of my podcast here, this odyssey we've been on. And one, I want to do two things. One, I want to thank you for making the time and being like a great guest on this pod and dropping some gems and all of that good stuff. It's been great. And two, I want to invite and encourage you to share where folks can check you out, can check out the agency website, social media, all of that good stuff. The floor is yours.

Scott Burkholder: The best way to find out more about the agency is through our website, which is We are voyeuristically present on Instagram at berkholder underscore agency. You certainly can look me up on LinkedIn as well under Scott Burkholder. I'll say the voyeuristically is about to change. Most of that is just to keep an eye on the work that I'm asking clients to do. We're going to start initiating, I think, a lot more just educational information, as well as cultivating taste in Baltimore and sharing some of the cool events that we're experiencing and taking part in, as well as aware of what's happening in the city. So we're at direct people. There you go.

Rob Lee: And there you have it, folks. I want to again thank Scott Burkholder from the Burkholder Agency for coming on to the podcast. And I'm Rob Lee saying that there's art, culture and community in and around your neck of the woods. You've just got to look for it.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Scott Burkholder
Scott Burkholder
I promote Art in Baltimore MD. Art has the potential to show the world as it is, and more importantly the world as it can be.