6 November 2018

The First Virtual Artist in Residence at Naomi Korn Associates

By Rebecca Imaizumi

Rebecca Imaizumi.pngRebecca Imaizumi performing ©Ezzidin Alwan

Being appointed the first Virtual Artist in Residence means a great deal to someone like me, who has been working as a freelance artists her entire career and just starting out her own start-up here in the UK, while still navigating through life in London and encountering something new everyday.

My start-up is an Experiential Design Agency called The Unified Wolves, specialising in Experiential Marketing, Events and also dance classes for residents living in senior homes. What we essentially do is design physical spaces where our clients can have their customers experience their brand. Our clients range from small businesses to established retailers who want to increase brand awareness or have been experiencing decline in sales and want to fortify their relationship with their customers by offering something different and exciting. This is where we step in. We create spontaneous performances by artists of all expertise: dancers, singers, actors, musicians, graffiti artists… and offer experiences that is made possible by our artists’ fearless creativity.

I started dancing at age 14. I met Hip-Hop 4 years later and have been dancing Hip-Hop since then. I love performing, yet while I spent 13 years in New York, it was hard to find gigs that paid well. Like many of my fellow dance friends, I worked multiple jobs to pay rent, transportation, food, etc. Dancers are often offered such low pay that it would be considered an insult in any other field. “There’s no pay for this gig because you’ll get to dance on National TV and that’s huge exposure for you.”…….”Wait a minute, what? Shouldn’t you be paying me BECAUSE I’m dancing on National TV!?” Imagine an analyst from a financial institution being invited as a guest commentator on CNN or BBC, and they tell her, “we’re not paying you BECAUSE you’re getting a chance to talk and be seen on TV.” That’s madness!

So I started setting rates for my performance fees, and if they offered less than that, I declined. However, just because I set a standard and stuck to it, didn’t mean I got more gigs. After all, the number of gigs available out there are out of my control!

But are they?? What if I could create opportunities to perform on a regular basis? But how do I do that?

I needed to know how to run a business. This is what prompted me to do something different. So I moved to the UK to get a degree in business so that I can dedicate my time into something I’m passionate about and start building something of my own.

Fast forward a year, I submitted my dissertation I worked on for 6 months investigating if my business idea is credible or not, and I graduate in January 2019 with MA Managing in the Creative Economy. I just started my start-up a few weeks ago and was appointed Virtual Artist in Residence at Naomi Korn Associates. Why does this mean so much to me? One of the reasons is because I get one-to-one advice from Naomi who has been successfully running her business in the UK for over 15 years. But that’s not all: I’m getting advice from a female entrepreneur who runs a company that champions the arts sector and works closely with the arts community and understands the struggles of running an arts organisation and the value the art community has to offer.

One of the first pieces of advice I received from Naomi was during our first phone call when I felt like the service I offered didn’t feel like it was enough, that there was some elements lacking to my business structure. That’s when she advised me to think about all of my strengths and expertise that I can bring in. It seems obvious and simple in retrospect, yet until she told me that, I didn’t even think of it! It’s truly amazing what can be accomplished through collaboration and a bit of guidance. I decided to offer not only experiential marketing in the form of spontaneous performances, but also events, consultancy and dance classes.

I am truly grateful for the wonderful opportunity to be the first Virtual Artist in Residence at Naomi Korn Associates and in the years to come, hope to help the next generation of artists to become successful through their love of art!

© Naomi Korn Associates, 2018. Some Rights Reserved. The information here is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence (CC BY SA)

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