It’s Wednesday, the day Enrique Javier Chi sets aside to write.
“What I realized,” he says, “is that you can get caught up in the business of being an artist, and end up not having the time to BE an artist.”
I had to
it’s the same skill sets, the same time management
That balance, and how to create it for himself, is some of what Chi learned during his time at Artist INC. “I walked into Artist INC with the baggage of this myth that somehow, being an artist, the same structures didn’t apply, as of being a successful businessman. But actually, it’s the same skill sets, the same time management.”
Born in Panama, Chi moved to Kansas City with his family at age six and started playing music young. Making Movies, the band he formed and fronts, has been featured in Rolling Stone and NPR’s Tiny Desk, and collaborated with the likes of Rubén Blades, Lou Reed, and David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. This year, Making Movies is performing in forty cities in Peru, Mexico, Panama, and most of the United States.
That’s an enviable success story...
for any artist
So what motivated the stint
at Artist INC?
making a living for our band — was a problem I had to solve
“I have to admit I had a bit of an ego about it,” Chi says. “Because I felt like: what am I going to learn here? But several folks had recommended it to me, including [Artist INC Kansas City Facilitators] Beau Bledsoe and Erin McGrane. And I felt I had hit a wall. We had signed a record deal and they didn’t want to release our next album and we had to find $20,000 to buy back from them. I felt burned out. I felt like I had to find a better strategy. I had to find how to spend my energy.”
“Someone who writes their own music and performs it to people who want to hear that music and that’s their core business and that’s how they make their living? That’s still not something you can do in this town. We draw audiences but that piece—making a living for our band—was a problem I had to solve. What it takes for an artist like me to sustain… I had to learn that.”
“Artist INC forced me to do things I didn’t normally like to do, like budgets and resumes. You feel somehow that it’s taking away from your artistic talent to do that business stuff but it’s not true. What I wanted at that time was forced discipline to reflect. It helped me sort through what I had done and what had worked and hadn’t worked.”
You feel somehow that it’s taking away from your artistic talent to do that business stuff but it’s not true.
Does Making Movies ever use an artist statement?
No. But writing one helped me think of where we were going.
"Not all of it applied to me. But I still learned. Does Making Movies ever use an artist statement? No. But writing one helped me think of where we were going. And the bigger concepts of time management and organizing structure for your own artistic life, understanding the moving pieces and resources, those concepts applied. There were efficiencies I realized could work in my band too, like how our calls could be more effective if we were functioning off a real agenda that set the intention far enough in advance so people could catch it and hit the ground running.”
At Artist INC Chi also worked on turning the community project he and his band started in 2011, a music education camp for teens at Mattie Rhodes Center, into a nonprofit called Art as Mentorship. “I was doing these youth workshops and Beau said the work you’re doing sounds like a nonprofit. Have you thought of turning it into one? But I resisted. I thought it didn’t sound like who I am.” Chi laughs: “I didn’t want to become one of them.”
“That’s why in Art as Mentorship, we are teaching these things to kids who may feel that same resistance, who don’t have someone in their lives in the entrepreneur or corporate world. We take them to Barkley to teach them how to market their own song. It may seem weird for a music program but if I can get them to understand that marketing is important and break down that barrier now, maybe they can do it for themselves when they’re in the business as working musicians.”
If I can get them to understand that marketing is important and break down that barrier now, maybe they can do it for themselves.