Conversations with Artists - Frank Meo

Conversations with Artists - Frank Meo

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What is the art of what you do?

I try to inspire photographers to be better than they are - to help them gain a sense of business and not get caught in a dead end.  I help them see their potential by pushing back the curtain a little bit and recognizing that there's a tremendous amount of opportunity right around the corner. 

How do you inspire? 

I try to find out what their passions are and what they really care about. I help them realize that wherever they want to go to in their careers or their lives, they can get there.  We come up with with a plan.  We talk about revamping the website, promotion and social media.  I hate to do vast generalizations, but photographers lack the discipline to focus on step one, step two.  They want to get to the end immediately.   Getting focus is about making logical steps.  Through logical steps you can get to your destination and then you’ll have created a machine that you can work with. You have to stop thinking of it as photography and think of it as a business.  You can still be creative, but you have to be functional. You have to open up an Excel sheet and create a plan that's going to get you from A to B. 

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So a large part of what you do is listening.

It’s listening, absorbing and then letting people see what's under their nose — all the opportunities that are right there if they would just get a little more organized.  It's getting into their heads, understanding how they think.  Having worked for an ad agency I know how an agency runs. Being able to convey that information to a photographer brings them clarity. Once they have clarity, everything else fits into its space about estimating, negotiating and promotion.  It's really not brain surgery but is an awareness.

Did you come from an art or a business background?

Being a rep was something that came to me naturally.  I feel that I’ve really never worked a day in my life - this is all just enjoyment.  I came from working at a terrific ad agency around great photographers. I got to see great work created, but most of all for me, it's always about the people. You have good people, bad people, shitheads and everybody in between.  This whole industry is really about people.  Shitheads are good, you need them for flavor.  They help you appreciate the nice ones. 

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It’s often said that artists make terrible business people.  What’s your take?

That’s a crutch, an excuse. If you're going to be successful in our business, you have to marry both sides, neither to the detriment of the other.  I know plenty of photographers who are better business people than they are shooters but they're successful because of their business skills. Just because you’re going to be functional doesn't mean it takes away from your photography.  Rather it gives you calmness and it’s going to make your creative spark flourish even more. You need to take care of the foundations of your business - pay your taxes and do the boring stuff because you can't rely on somebody else to do it.  The years where you could get a rep and sit back and wait — that’s over.  The sooner you realize that you have to promote yourself, you have to be on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn —  the sooner you’ll find success.  You don't have to be an expert but you have to be able to own it to a point where you garner a following.  That is the key to being successful.  No business nowadays is just luck.  It's hard work.  Especially in a city like NY or LA or Chicago.  If you're not running a business like a business you're done.  You're doomed.  You cannot do it.

So digging deeper, what is the real art of inspiring someone?

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For me, the sweet spot is when I'm sitting with a photographer and I can get into their head.  I can see from their work and from talking to them, what’s going to motivate or inspire them. I'll say, ‘I looked at your site’ and tell them what my takeaways were.  When they understand that I 'get it' they share more.  Photographers trust immensely that I get where they want to go.  It's about motivating people and so much of it is right under somebody's nose.  They just have to be told to look at it.  We're not doing brain surgery - what we're doing is motivating.  That's the piece that I love. Then to see the success - what could be more gratifying than that?

Why photography? You could motivate people to do anything.

I love photography.  I can think back to certain images and how I felt when I first saw them; the Kent State shooting or the napalm victims in Viet Nam, or the Johnny Cash shot.  Those iconic images that I didn't realize moved me but I was really living through them.  There’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning image of a family running towards a Vietnam vet who just got off the plane.  He had been in prison for four or five years. The girl that's running in front - his daughter — is off the ground.  She's almost flying to her father.  And you only see the back of the soldier.  It's such an incredible image.  That was the type of image that got me to love photography.  


Are iconic images still being made?

Absolutely.  Think about that little boy that washed up on the shore of Italy.  Or the Syrian kid in the ambulance.  They're being made all the time.  But now everyone has a camera so to break through the image has to be really phenomenal.

What opportunities are you seeing for photographers?

Too many people are going after the same small piece of the pie.  Everyone is going after that one job coming out of Ogilvy & Mather.  I tell people who are in Chattanooga or Cheyenne or Denver: ‘be the best photographer’ in those areas.  Nobody's going after that business other than local people.  If you can be the best local photographer out of Atlanta or Tampa, you can do a lot of good work.  Be the best and then you're going to get recognition nationwide.  Why be in NY where there's one still-life job or one fashion job.  I've been in agencies where 70 books get called for a single shot.  So what are your chances?  Whereas if you put a little pin on the map and look within a 70-mile radius of where you live, to the small businesses with 100 people — those companies need to advertise.  Nobody is going after that business because everyone's going after that one job from Ogilvy.  Go get 10 or 15 jobs from the smaller companies where you can really be a creative resource.  A restaurant owner is worried that the avocados are going to spoil. Go to him and say I can shoot this for you.  I can produce a brochure, a cookbook, a menu.  Then you can take that body of work and go across the street to the widget maker.  Tell them you can photograph all of their employees and make something to be proud of.  Do a little research.  Go online.  That's what I mean about being a businessman/woman as it relates to being a photographer.  You can’t just be someone who shoots nice images.  You've got to be able to sit across the table from somebody and see the opportunities, even if they don't see them.  Photographers have to see opportunities and not just think about sending the book up to McCann and hope and pray.

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You don't see the business of photography as going away?

Sure there's less work because of stock photography and because too many people have cameras and phones and there is far less printed material.  But every company has a website and they're going to need content on those sites.  There's a tremendous amount of work, but it takes a tremendous amount of work to get the work.  It's not easy, it’s a real commitment.  People in Chattanooga and wherever else, are sitting on a goldmine.  As long as they're not frustrated that they're not in New York. Unfortunately, they want to get to the promised land without any idea of what it’s really like.  You're a big deal in Chattanooga but you come to NYC and you're paying 5 grand a month to live with three other people in a tiny apartment.  The grass is always greener - we all suffer from that.  

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If you could go back in time to when you were 10 or 11, when you were a kid - and whisper in your own ear - what would you say?

The only thing I would say is:  be interested and be interesting.  That's what I want on my stone.  People want to be around you if you're interesting.  And you'll be so rewarded for being interested.  Whisper in any kid’s ear, ‘be interested, be interesting.’ I think it's such an intense sentence, but it couldn't be simpler.  What could be simpler than that?

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Frank Meo is  a speaker, portfolio reviewer and judge for various trade groups and learning institutions: PhotoShelter, Eddie Adams Workshop, PDN Plus, ICP, Syracuse University, DC Fotoworks, APA, Palm Springs Photo Festival and ASMP. I’ve judged for the Lucie Awards, Sienna Photo Awards, Webby Awards, Moscow Photo Awards and PDN Portraits among other competitions.

Frank has written for a variety of trade publications including: American Photography, Resource Magazine and Pro Photo Daily.

Frank's “Creative Separation" and "Creative Estimating and Negotiation" workshop has been attended by over 1000 photographers nationwide.

Learn more about Frank here.


Conversations with Artists - Winzday Love

Conversations with Artists - Winzday Love

"Authenticity can open the hearts of people who are sleeping - letting them know there are love and human connections that can still be made outside of the everyday surface-level life that they are living.  Music can be an awakener.   It's not only what you say as an artist, but also how you present the music and how you present yourself as an artist.  I think that can also help open people's hearts up."

Conversations with Artists - Jeff Rob

Conversations with Artists - Jeff Rob

"I want to be like Matisse - cutting up paper when he was blind.  He wasn't telling someone else to do it.  You read about artists with such bad arthritis that they tape the brush to their hand so they can still paint.  It's the act of it that's very important.  It's ephemeral, what drives me.  It's something that defies words.  It just is.

Conversations with Artists - Joe Che

Conversations with Artists - Joe Che

I think that as humans we’re meant to be in strong tribe-like groups.  Technology has led us towards isolation.  I think in most people there is a desire and a need to be around people that accept us for who we are.  I want to help build a community who creates together, dreams together and is able to make positive changes together. 

Conversations with Artists - Chef Tony Kang

Conversations with Artists - Chef Tony Kang

"Becoming a chef is like being in the military.  There are levels that you have to go through.  You have to move up through the ranks.  You actually have to work your ass off and grind it out, put in time, get burned, get cut, get yelled at, get beaten up."

Conversations with Artists - Michael Blatter

Conversations with Artists - Michael Blatter

"I want people to not take experience for granted.  And realize it's a thing!  People don't realize Experience is a thing!  When you get up every day, ask what experience are you delivering, and to whom?  Every day I deliver an experience to my employees, to my wife, to my children.  I ask: 'what can I do this weekend?'  Or 'what's the experience I'm planning for somebody' because that's my contribution to their lives.  We all need to provide better experiences for each other, whatever it may be."

Conversations with Artists - Nancy Melchert

Conversations with Artists - Nancy Melchert

"I believe the spark that gets the artist moving is the same spark that gets the scientist moving.  I want to discover.  I want to know more.  In improv, it's listening to the last thing that was just said.  You step out onto an empty stage and you know nothing.  You don't know how it's going to go.  You get a suggestion from the audience and you make it up as you go, blindly.  I feel like there's a lot of similarity with how scientists go about things:  'alright, I don't know, we're going to see what this is, I'm going to listen to the last thing that was said and we'll look at the last piece of data and I'm going to build on that to see what comes next.'   In an improv scene - somebody makes a move and maybe it works, maybe it doesn't.  If it works, great, we build on it.  If it doesn't, we go sideways and make something else and build on it.  They are kindred spirits.  I'm fascinated by finding areas that science and comedy intersect."

Conversations with Artists - Rebecca Nathanson

Conversations with Artists - Rebecca Nathanson

"Act 1 for me was churning through some introspective and creative stuff with the opera singing.  Act 2 for me has to be figuring out how to take my skill set and make it meaningful... Now I need to reflect the world.  I need to figure out how to take my ability to find other people's art and heart.  And figure out a way to turn that into something relevant.  I'm not sure how to do that yet.  But what would I really like to do?  What are my hopes and dreams?  Well, I'd like to change the world.  It's important to start with the why of what you do and then you figure out the how."

Conversations with Artists - Daniel Stokes

Conversations with Artists - Daniel Stokes


What is the art of what you do?

Transforming a space that people see almost every day and turning it into something completely different, something they've never seen before - something that gives them a whole different feeling than the last time they were there.   We do everything internally so there are built-in limitations and we have to use the same spaces all the time which makes it the exciting and challenging part.  Transforming the space and giving people a completely different vibe and feeling every time they come into any of our events - that's the art.

So how do you do that?

Through lighting.  Decor.  Music.  Different types of food,  Creating a mood in their stomachs in their ears, in their eyes.  All those different elements.


When you're visualizing an event how do you approach it?

I always start with the decor,  the furniture.  It really can literally make such a difference.  If you have a boring couch in a space and replace it with something crisp and modern it changes the entire room.  I always go to decor first.  And then the lighting.  They say lighting is everything and it's so true.  Even though we don't have the best lighting system I try to do what I can in that regard.


What makes your approach unique?

I always put a lot of joy and excitement in everything that I do, whether it's at work or just hanging out with my friends.  It's always me enjoying me-time.  People say that I'm always 'on' and it's true -- I'm all in - 110 percent, bringing joy and happiness to everything I do.  Also,  I like to push the envelope and bring change.  Some people want to do the same old same old and I like to mix it up. I have crazy ideas and I never hold back. Some of them work, some of them don't.  I bring Daniel's bag to the picture and throw everything at it.   There's no hurt in trying.  

How deep is Daniel's bag?   

You think Mary Poppins' bag is deep?  Mine is endless.  I'm full of tricks!


What role does art play in your life?

Music is my go-to.  I'm always listening to music.  It can heighten my mood, it can make me sad if I'm in a low place.  It can make me happy if I need to come out of that sad mood.  I don't really listen to the lyrics -- I analyze the beats and the background vocals and riffs.  People ask me what words are to specific songs and I have no idea.  I just listen to the melody.  I like it loud.  The louder the better.

What inspires you other than music?

It sounds cheesy, but life itself.  The first thing I say to myself every day is, "I woke up today.  Someone else didn't."   I woke up so I have to really take advantage of the next 24 hours because I don't know when I'm going to get another chance.  Yes, sometimes there's stress, but if you take a moment and look around you, everything is inspiring.  Whether it's a friend walking down the street, or a plant in a window.  Thre are so many different elements around you every day.   The first thought of your day should be "I'm thankful."


When you first came to NYC what was your goal?  What did you want?

My dream was to find an apartment.

The bigger dream.

To be able to say that I made it.  Growing up in a small town in Ohio, everyone had lofty goals "I'm going to get out, I'm going to do this and that."  I always said I was going to move to NY and be an actor.  But after I got here I realized I don't like acting.  I'd rather play myself which is more exciting than playing a character.  So "making it" was my dream.  I bought a one-way ticket three days after graduation and told my parents 'after graduation I'm not coming home.' They were shocked!  They said 'but you don't have a job, you don't have money!'  and I said 'I'm going to do it.'   I've been here 5 years now and I think I'm doing it.  I've made it.  I may not be a millionaire but the fact that I can walk the streets and push tourists out of the way -- I'm a New Yorker.  That's making it for me.


How much money did you come here with?

700 dollars.  No job. No apartment.  

Did you know people?

Yes.  I slept in my old roommate's living room for a month.  I'd go on job interviews - and first go to H&M, buy a suit, tuck the tags, go on the interview and as soon as the interview was over I would return the suit.  I had no money.  One time I actually spilled coffee on the jacket and I freaked out.  So I returned it and I was like 'yeah, dont look at that stain.'  It's stories like that, thinking of that realizing what I came from and where I am now -- it's awesome.

How did you step in to what you're doing now?

Honestly, I really love planning things.  Even in my everyday life.  I have parties all the time in my apartment.  I love having game night and cooking for my friends.   So it felt natural.  I wanted to go into PR, but I hate writing so why would I want to do that?  Someone said you love throwing parties, go into event planning.  I thought event planning was just planning someone's wedding or bar mitzvah and I really don't want to go in that direction.   But I realize that it's not just that.   I want to make people have fun and see the joy in life.  That's why I do what I do. 


If you could go back to a 10-year-old Daniel and give him advice, what advice would you whisper in his ear?  

LIfe's going to get a lot cooler.  It's going to be a lot more exciting.  And you're going to be happy.  So don't stress out.

Were you always on board with who you are?  Because you stand out.

No.   Daniel was ok being Daniel finally when I was around 21, 22.  I'm 27 now.  So I spent a lot of time being not ok. When I finally accepted myself I found out that I love life 110 percent.  There are so many times I'll have conversations and people say 'wow you really are so sure of yourself and you're so young.'  But I needed to find my happiness and it came through not caving into what society tells me I'm supposed to do and be.  If you can learn to march to the beat of your own drum, it's the best feeling ever!  You can be totally happy.  

There's a big difference between being sure of yourself and simply being comfortable with who you are.  People say you're so sure of yourself, which kind of requires a stance of 'yes I'm sure.' But being comfortable with yourself  -- you just are you.  You're not "trying."  That's the difference.


Where do you find your strength?

My family.  We are awkwardly close.  I tell my parents everything.  My friends are always amazed.  They say: 'you told them that?'  And I'm always like, 'yeah, why not!?'  Growing up, when I came out, it wasn't the greatest experience, and when it was at it's worst I decided they were either going to accept me or not.  So I shoved the gay in their face and my parents were like 'why are you telling us this stuff?!'  Now when they come visit me in the city we go to drag shows.   It's awesome.

Is your Dad ok with it?

I am my father, my father is me. When I graduated college they took all my friends out to a drag show.  And when they visited me last November they took us out to another drag show and my dad got hit on.  He loved it.  My friends and I were like, 'why is my 57-year-old father getting hit on and we are sitting here all single?!'  That's why I love my family.  We are all so open and honest.  Sometimes inappropriately so.  And that's how family should be.

You're lucky.

I am.  More than anything it's love that shapes things.  They made me who I am, and I'm happy because of that.  


Daniel is an Event Coordinator at Viacom in NYC.  Follow Daniel on Instagram @Rupert_Baxter







Conversations with Artists - Waël Mechri-Yver

Conversations with Artists - Waël Mechri-Yver

"Everyone has their own view on what art is.  For me, art is the concept of re-creation.  The universe is the ultimate creation.  We as humans have been gifted the power of creativity which is the power to re-create ourselves, to become creators.  This is what I call art - to recreate the world through your work."

Conversations with Artists - Rick Snyder

Conversations with Artists - Rick Snyder

I believe that we all have a deeper muse inside of us; a deeper resource.  When we get out of our normal mind frame and consciousness and relax we literally come from a different reference point.  It's then that this other stream of data comes through, this other author, this co-author comes through.  To me the co-author is a deeper part of ourselves that we don't access on a day-to-day basis necessarily, unless we're receptive to that.  My sense is that we have our normal every day thinking in the way that we see the world, but there are moments when that pauses or relaxes and allows for a deeper intelligence to come through.

Conversations.... with Andrea Tamburello

Conversations.... with Andrea Tamburello

"I create art because I want to.  I don't want to have a show.  I don't see myself being the center of attention.   I create art so I can let go.   My canvas is my project  - Makú, in Colombia.  That's my art.  That's what I have to put my intention and belief in.  And that's what I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life doing. I picture myself helping others and helping myself to grow and be a better person."

Conversations with Artists - Jonathan Miller

Conversations with Artists - Jonathan Miller

"There’s no end to one’s evolution, and that’s the first lesson.  There’s no end, so don’t look for it.  Just enjoy the journey, because it’s just a journey."

Conversations with Artists - Jody Levy

What is the art in what you do?

"I believe that in everything that I do, whether it’s a painting or an installation, an experience in a space or creating a brand and a business -- it’s all an expression of energy.  It’s all an articulation of energetic frequencies and creating opportunities for people to connect with themselves, connect with others, connect with things beyond ourselves.  Whether it’s cosmic truths, information or stories - in all of the expressions that I work on, the intent is to invite people to feel good and to feel inspired and thrive."

Do you feel that it’s the same part of you that has the business head?

"Being an artist is no different than being an entrepreneur; it’s a constant state of identifying stories, ideas and problems to express ourselves.  The creative process that goes into making a painting, making an installation, creating an immersive environment, or creating or being in a state of continuing creation with a company or brand, is really all the same.  That creative process uses similar parts of the brain and the body.  There is one big difference; one is very much alone and the other is very much with other people."  

There’s a broad understanding that artists make terrible business people.  Do you agree with that?

"I think artists and designers make the best business people, but it really depends on the type of artists and the type of designer.  I believe women are amazing in business and I believe men are amazing in business.  I don’t believe there’s a delineation between the two.  For me, we’re all different types of humans.  There are some humans that excel in being the conduit where they’re pulling all the pieces together to figure out the whole and there are others that are better as a piece of the puzzle.  I think there are some artists and designers and creative thinkers that are very strategic and therefore make amazing business people and I think there are some other people in the world that aren’t inclined to be in certain roles in business."

What are you passionate about?

"I’m passionate about anything that I get involved in.  The things that I tend to get involved in are typically opportunities that have never been done before - to bring love and magic to the forefront and to help spread joy and inspiration through business, through art, through designed environments and experiences to as many people as possible.   In all of my different roles, I function as a nucleus and I couldn’t do any of it without the people who are with me and around me.  I’m just the conduit that can bring it together."

You bring energy to everything.  Where does it come from?  

"It’s always been there.  I know when I’m on the right path because I wake up every morning with ideas dripping from my fingertips waiting to be expressed in a sketch or a thought or a note."

Do you sketch your ideas out?

Yes, I sketch everything out.  Sometimes that’s me with giant pieces of paper and ink and pens and pencils, sometimes its my notes and pulled images and drawings all coming together to express a concept.  I have lots of dreams and concepts for experiences and companies.  They all come from a place of art and they’re all ways to inspire and empower people to be the best version of themselves.  One by one these dreams are coming to fruition as the people that are meant to help bring them out into the world with me reveal themselves.  I believe in the perfection of timing - as long as I stay in the flow, everybody comes to it.  Many of my dreams I’ve been working on and thinking about and perfecting and tweaking for years and I work on them each day, bit by bit.  Then somebody shows up and they’re aligned and the timing is right and I go get the money and put the team together and then the dream becomes reality in the world.  

I also source energy from the earth.  I use my daily rituals and meditation techniques to connect to the earth and to connect to the fields of vibration that exist around us to stay balanced and to create an infinite loop so that I can keep charging up and giving to others and giving to myself."

Some might call that magic.  Would you?

"Yes, I think that there’s some magic there.  I call it Juju. Energy. It’s all the same."

If you could name one, what’s been your most amazing moment as an artist.

"There have been so many.  When I was 8 years old I was asked to copy a painting by Georgia O’Keefe.  It was this ugly purple flower.   I was working with gouache - egg paint, and I remember sitting in a room with fluorescent lights,  copying that painting.  It was the first time I lost time and space, the first time I reached flow state. It was at that moment that my spirit was bigger than my physical body and I knew I was on the path to be an artist.  What I didn’t know is that it was going to lead me on a wild adventure of being a creative thinker, designer and problem solver that comes from the creative path.  It was that moment that set my entire trajectory for life."

How did the copy come out?

"Just as ugly as the original - but I love Georgia O’Keefe — she’s such an inspiration to my life.  I was recently in Santa Fe and I went to the museum and there was one of the purple flower paintings.  It’s something about those colors that I just don’t connect with - but my heart just exploded when I saw it."

If you could go back and say something to the 8 year old you,  what advice would you give to yourself?

"Love yourself.  I've followed every dream, I've followed every lead.  I've nurtured everything that has come to me, but I wish I knew to love myself all the way through." 

Do you love yourself now?


How did that happen?

"A combination of things.  One - was just pursuing and following everything that came to me, and seeing how much joy I bring others.  I've also had to deal with health issues my whole life and really learn about healing and how to take care of myself and how important it is to understand the connection to thoughts and what exists in the world.

Thought equals reality."

Life is composed of magic.  A lot of people miss that.

"I know, but we don’t.   I like to find ways to touch people and shift perspective and inspire so they feel it, even if they don’t know how to define it." 

You have the capability of laughter.  You can laugh at yourself.  That’s important in this existence.

"With everything that I put on myself, which arguably is a lot, if I didn’t laugh through all of it, it would not be as much fun.  I know the minute I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing because I’m not having fun.  And if anybody around me is not having fun, then its time for them to not be doing what they’re doing."

Do you ever feel as if you’ve bitten off too much?  How am I going to do this? Do you ever have that moment?

"Unfortunately, not.  That moment would probably help me sometimes - it would definitely help my social life   I know one thing about myself:  I thrive when I’m free.  And so if I know that I thrive when I’m free, I set everything up so that I can have the most freedom possible.   When I start a new company or start a new project that will ultimately lead to a new company - I put the right people in the right position so that I can stay free.  Early-stage startups is my sweet spot - it’s what I love, it’s where the art is, but it’s overwhelming.   For me, it's all about staying cool.  Everyone else can get overwhelmed, but I know it is important for me to keep it fun and light and to stay really strategic with a view of the macro.  Sure I get stressed; real stuff happens.  No project or company ever has enough money.  There are a lot of lives at stake with anything when it comes to business and the humans you employ.  That stuff affects me.  But because I believe in magic and the flow and synchronicity of the universe, I tend to believe that everything’s going to provide - and that eases things.

Sometimes when it’s dark it’s hard to see that the universe is going to provide, but I still hold onto that concept and believe." 

Jody Levy is CoFounder & CEO of World Waters, a company committed to redefining how and what we drink to nourish our bodies and sustain our ecosystem.  World Waters aims to develop promising new and efficient models of food production that eliminate waste and take the stress off our environment.  As an environmentally sustainable and socially-conscious beverage company, World Waters aims to grow water while using healthy practices that benefit consumers and the earth.

The mission of World Waters and WTRMLN WTR is to educate people about why clean healthy eating is so important for the health and sustainability of our communities.

Jody Levy is also the founder of Stitch Experience Design + Assembly. Stitch is an experience design firm with a focus on multi-disciplinary storytelling. Since 2001, Jody has been creating unique events, interactive environments, brands, products, and multi-sensory installations that connect people in engaging ways. Her professional focus is all about the integration of art and technology. Jody is the creative director and executive producer at Stitch and her work includes the design and production of live theatrical events, touring stages, hospitality environments, interactive installations, immersive brand activations, and non-traditional marketing and social campaigns. Jody has experience working with clients that include American Idol, Chrysler, The Coachella Music Festival, Ford Motor Company, Heineken, Hewlett Packard, Lexus, MAC Cosmetics, Mos Def, Museum Of Modern Art, The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Palm, Paramount Pictures, Project Runway, San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, Scion, Shades Optical, Toyota, W Hotels and many other international brands.

Jody is an entrepreneur, artist, designer, director, producer, educator and writer from the Detroit area who lives in New York City. 

Conversations with Artists - Bob Pittman

Conversations with Artists - Bob Pittman

"I think some of the best artists in the world are people who do not have the control button - the button that keeps us all as functioning members of society saying 'I shouldn’t do that.’  As a result many of them are self-destructive because they don’t have that button, but I think things free-flow out of them onto canvas, songs, fashion - but they are sometimes messes as people.  Moving from the rational to the instinctual and this free-flow is often what makes a great artist.  Some of the greatest performers and artists I know are pretty self-destructive, I wouldn’t want to be them.  But I sure like the output of what they do."

Conversations with Artists - Dr. Rob Lancer

Conversations with Artists - Dr. Rob Lancer

"I create a way for people to take their fear and visualize it in their own way so they can defeat it.   The mind can be the greatest creator of positivity but also can create negative representations as well. The ultimate goal is for people to turn their negativity into positivity.”

Conversations with Artists - Doug Ashford

Conversations with Artists - Doug Ashford

" Life is certainly changed by art, changed by music, it's changed by the depictions and the context of self-representation that we allow to happen.  But at the same time we are normalized by the world, we are normalized by language, by family.  Art is the interruption of the context of that normalization.  So I don't really know what it would be like if everyone was an artist.  I don't really know what art is for.  I just know that the way it works, now, in my own experience and in the experience of my students with whom I share my doubts, is that it changes the world.”

Conversations with Artists - Denize Maaløe

Conversations with Artists - Denize Maaløe

"I get very worked up and eager to do something when I hear horrifying things on the news.  I want to do something, I want to help.  I want to bring attention to that subject, and to also give solutions.  It's really important in my opinion - to not just highlight the horror but to present ideas of what we can do about it."

Conversations with Artists - Kristen McRedmond

Conversations with Artists - Kristen McRedmond

What is the art of living?

"I think the art of living is trying to remain graceful no matter what your circumstances.  It's really easy to get pulled into the darkness. I try to start every day by being appreciative."

How did you become aware that you had cancer?

"I went for a colonoscopy on a Monday and I was supposed to be leaving for a big surf trip on Saturday.  All week I just had this feeling.  I had been looking stuff up and I just had a feeling.  On Friday I left school and the doctor called and said 'please come to the office.'  I stopped at home and saw my bag packed for my trip to the Seychelles and I knew I wasn't going.  I walked to the doctor's office and he told me I had colon cancer."

What moves you forward?

"I think a huge piece of what's moving me forward has been helping other people.  Sometimes I get exhausted and I think I'm on this roller coaster.  It's been almost four years.  They didn't think I'd live past three months - and that was a generous offer.  I've heard this phrase - 'you're a survivor the day you're diagnosed because you've survived the diagnosis.'  There's a lot of truth to that.

What does it mean to live gracefully?

"Being graceful is not allowing yourself to be angry.  Trying not to be bitter.  I try to remind myself that any day I'm alive is a gift - even if it's a hard day.   It's hard to stay graceful.  It's hard to stay in the light - especially when you're in pain.  Lately it's been a very hard patch."

How do you do it?

"By the strength of my family and trying to take it one day at a time.  Not looking too far in the future. My aunt always tells me - 'don't future trip.'  So I try to stay in the moment.  This is a great moment.   It's all about balance."

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Describe Balance.

"I stay balanced by any time I have a negative thought I try to counter it with a good one.  If I feel myself slipping to the negative I try to fill my mind with thoughts that bring me back to the light.  It's naive to think that I can always be on the bright side of things, but I try to ride that line.  I wish I didn't always have to be on that edge.  But I realize that even before cancer I have always lived my life on the edge of balance - moving and traveling and throwing myself into things. With a disease it's a lot harder, but it's also more rewarding."

Do you remember the first time you found balance on a bicycle?

"I do.  I was with my dad.  He was so proud. And when he let go I went right off the road, right into a bush."

What moves you?

"Love moves me.  Family, Traveling.  Those things move me.  Finding great people in the world. Being on a paddle board when it's super calm, and it just drifts and is so peaceful.  Watching my nephew sleep.  I'm always in awe of kids.  Seeing my niece's face at a concert -- just pure joy and laughing.  I'm in awe of people's strength and how people can overcome things.  I'm in awe of life and how complicated and beautiful and tragic it is all at the same time."

What have you learned along the way?

"Don't take joy for granted.  Because there are going to be some really crappy things in life.  But there's also going to be a lot of joy.  Don't ever take it for granted.

My biggest fear - if I do die from cancer - is that people are going to say 'she lost her battle' - that the cancer won.  I don't think that.  I don't believe if you die from cancer you lost your battle.  I think it's the way you live with cancer.  The way you accept your diagnosis and try your best to rise above it.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  That's the way you survive cancer.  And I am a survivor.  I'll never lose my battle - I've been winning."


Kristen McRedmond is a pre-kindergarten teacher and colon cancer survivor.   To learn more about Kristen's battle with cancer visit her blog here.

Kristen participated in our film highlighting the stories of colorectal cancer survivors, caregivers and the support organization, Michael's Mission. 


Conversations with Artists    -     Monica Marcella Guerra

Conversations with Artists - Monica Marcella Guerra

 I'm a maker that's trying to make a difference. My medium isn't important.  My message is cohesive.  It's all about communication of human issues.  I try to make my work shiny or beautiful - some element  of beauty so that the observer walks in and stays with it for one extra second.  It's about that extra beat that they're with it and all of a sudden I've snagged you.  I'm infiltrating a little bit.