Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mele Kalikimaka

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say,
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day,
That's the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway,
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright,
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night,
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way
To say "Merry Christmas to you."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wisdom from Lindsey

My angel was married on September 13, 2014 and I am a proud papa for certain. I will resist the temptation to gush here but I feel compelled to offer just one example of why I believe the world is a better place with her in it. Close friends, family and assorted planners, photographers and foodservice personnel may have noticed that the table settings featured some wisdom that I know my daughter selected for custom centerpieces. Without further editorial comment (they are presented here) from my notes:  
  • To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived is to have succeeded.
  • Life is what we make it -- always has been, always will be.
  • You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
  • No dream is too high for those with their eyes on the sky.
  • The True voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in finding new eyes.
  • Things don’t just happen. You make them happen.
  • Love is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
  • I wish for you the ability to see yourself as others see you. Then you would realize was a truly special person you are.
  • The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
  • We sat side by side in the morning light and looked out on our future together
Needless to say, I’m confident my little girl has her head on straight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What the Arts Teach...

Special Interest Oral Presentation
Base Group Assignment - EDU Foundations of Education

Emily Bone
Lola Groves
Ashley Kluge
Wesley Morgan
Stacy Wahl

Topic:  The Value of Arts in Education

Elliot Eisner’s 10 Lessons Arts Teach has become something of a declaration for those interested in championing the arts in education. Our presentation provides, in just 15 minutes, compelling evidence in support of the arts as an essential part of the overall educational experience. Emily Bone provides examples applied to early education. Lola Groves discusses the impact of participation in Band. Ashley Kluge offers findings from the Chorus Impact Study in further support of music.  Wesley Morgan summarizes research results on the value of field trips (in particular for visual arts). Stacy Wahl uses a report by the Center of Arts Education that examines the correlation between the arts and graduation rates in NYC.  

Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA. - See more at:

Samuelsson, I. P., Carlsson, M. A., Olsson, B., Pramling, N., & Wallerstedt, C. (2009). The art of teaching children the arts: music, dance and poetry with children aged 2-8 years old. International Journal Of Early Years Education,17(2), 119-135. doi:10.1080/09669760902982323.
Chorus America, Chorus Impact Study - How Children, Adults, and Communities Benefit from Choruses. (Chorus America 2009)

JAY P. GREENE, BRIAN KISIDA, and DANIEL H. BOWEN The Educational Value of the Field Trip - Education Next (Winter 2014)

Staying in School Arts Education and New York City High School Graduation Rates – A Report, The Center for Arts Education (October 2009) 

What the arts teach

1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.
Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it
is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution
and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives.
One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material.
All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source  and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young  what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA. - See more at:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Failure First LV

AEFFSF 10th Anniversary

“This is indeed an occasion worth noting. Just ten short years ago, our friend, The Coach, Robert Siena selflessly set in motion one of the most unique scholarship programs ever. From the start he wanted the fund to be unconditional and thorough.” Alan swallowed hard as he briefly let some emotion show. “Without him, the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund would not exist. He was the driver. Even though he left us far too soon, we are fortunate to have known him. Indeed we are honored to have his wife Irene as our chairwoman to help assure the mission lives on as intended.” He glanced at Irene Siena but turned as he had wiped moisture from his eyes with the back of his index finger.

Alan was genuinely and visibly moved. Unlike any of his so very public appearances, he had to take a couple of deep breaths before continuing his address at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis. A full room that included board members, guests, supporters, agency representatives from Abbeshire & Bluestone, Ambrosia (and global parent company Omnicom) along with seven AEFFSF scholar graduates, all of whom seemed to embrace the notion of helping the fund continue in the great tradition it was becoming. Alan mentioned each with brief but personal comments as he asked each to stand when mentioned.  

“Johnny Appleseed, our first scholar, started with a white hot spotlight on him at the U. Today he is a lawyer in St. Louis who leveraged his scholarship and finished with honors a law degree at Saint Louis University. He is actively involved in AEFFSF and community affairs in his (and coach Siena’s) hometown of Red Bud, IL.  He is poster boy and spokesman for our non-profit.” And even though there was a request to hold applause until the end there was a burst of appreciation for Johnny. Alan smiled and resumed,

“Andrew Valentine is supporting his child Mocha (born his Junior year at Oberlin College). At 6 years of age his boy showing some musicality himself and while this is not a traditional family arrangement we are not a traditional scholarship program. Andrew is still involved with the Oberlin College community while he is pursuing a music career. And with some success I might add. Oberlin was awarded the Valentine Art Collection to manage and Andrew serves as a trustee of that valuable art collection which was started by his beloved Nana.” Another smattering of applause was permitted before Alan continued.

“Alicia Apricot is a construction expert and a go to person with WalMart developments. She learned quickly at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Go Gorillas!” This time a whooping of female colleagues from PSU led the applause as Alan expected. 

“Gloria Beck is making movies. Just six years out of college, the name Gloria Beck has become something of a household name. She has single-handedly raised the profile of the AEFFSF with her viral video and social media celebrity. And we are honored to have her here with us today.” The crowd erupted again. And Alan himself joined the applause from the podium.

“Yes folks, our front four have already accomplished great things. And we have so much excitement coming down the pike. But perhaps it is unfair to put so much attention on our first four scholars, particularly since our next wave is showing signs of being every bit as impressive. We have more than a dozen schools clammering to be a part of the AEFFSF tradition with a matching gift program that allows us to extend our fund to reach its goal of extending its reach not only 100 years for scholars but in modest but meaningful ways for the families of our scholars. And while we essentially cut off our tuition assistance after a four year degree is completed we have, as we have in Johnny Appleseed’s case, found ways to mentor and inspire careers beyond the undergraduate degrees.   

“So stay tuned folks. I think it is highly probable that you will see updates on all of our scholars. The highlights of their accomplishments. But, allow me to pause for a moment to remind you that our scholars have become a family and everyone from our board chairman to our most recent entering freshman accepts a responsibility along with the honor.” Alan added with a burst of pride, “Rounding out our honor roll in order of their selections are…” Alan read names and schools from the program, verbatim while adding his own comments from notes to show he had a personal connection and knowledge about each.

Daniel Thomas, Miami University – the Miami in Ohio where he completed his degree in accounting. Daniel is currently working for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. 

Sharon D’Angelo, Purdue University – a boilermaker with a degree in engineering. Sharon is currently pursuing a masters degree, also at Purdue.  

Susan B. Henry, North Carolina State University – in Raleigh, North Carolina with a degree in history and works as an editor at a small publishing firm based in Research Triangle Park. 

Janet Bacardi Smith, Yale – Our first Ivy Leaguer is our most recent graduate and an accomplished sculptor and digital artist who completed her undergraduate degree un just three years and is now pursuing her master of fine arts (MFA).  

Shawn Alan Howard – University of Oklahoma where he is studying in the field of Education. 

Phyllis Flanagan, The University of Missouri - where she is pursuing a degree in Journalism.

“We are grateful that our front four Johnny, Andrew, Alicia and Gloria are here to help us celebrate along with AEFFSF scholars Daniel, Sharon, and Phyllis. To you newer members, welcome to the family. And to all of you, Thank You for your love and support.” With that the audience applaused.

Irene Siena made her way to the podium as Alan headed to his seat. She placed her eyeglasses on her nose and read from a single piece of paper that she unfolded. “It is with great pleasure that, on behalf of the board of trustees and all of us at the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund that I report that corporate and anonymous gifts and pledges have exceeded $255,000 this year. It is such giving that allows us to continue our work in managing the administration, marketing and our operations. We remain confident that our program will continue, as planned for more than 100 years. It is with a heavy heart and great joy that we wish you all a happy birthday with many many many more to come.”

As if by magic, Andrew Valentine’s voice emerged with a few lines written for the occasion. It was his beautiful A cappella voice that triggered the dimming of lights and a spotlight on Andrew, in his tuxedo. This was perfectly orchestrated as a mic was hidden in his lapel pin.  

We gather in pride as our lives unfold
Knowledge love and compassion to have and to hold      
Scholars yes but with ties that bind us;
We  look forward to the horizon as we celebrate what is behind us.

At that moment the kitchen doors opened and all attention was drawn to a large sheet cake with ten glittering lit sparklers rolled into the room. Cake and Ted Drewe frozen custard was served as the tune shifted to the familiar Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear fund. Happy Birthday tooooooooooo youuuuuu.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Failure Coach LIV

Retreat at Tan-Tar-A                         

Irene Siena was clear that she wanted the board and key stakeholders to regroup and plan for the future of AEFFSF.  So Abbeshire & Bluestone suggested a retreat to inspire, invigorate and get everyone on the same page. “Tan-Tar-A Resort is located directly on the Lake of the Ozarks just far enough away for everyone to focus on positive ways to marry business with pleasure.” Says Daniel Bluestone, in his most persuasive client pitch mode tone.“Beautiful views of the Lake of the Ozarks,” he paused, smiled and added “It doesn’t hurt that it is also a premium golf destination for those so inclined.” Daniel already knew he would likely be able to convince Bob Caster, Alan Edgewater and a player to be named later to fill a foursome on Thursday. That round was scheduled with the fourth golfer being Jimmy, an audio/visual/computer tech Abbeshire & Bluestone contracted to make sure all things involving technology were managed flawlessly. Jimmy was a soft spoken twenty-something with a smooth swing and a natural athletic ability. This team bonded on the golf course, all sharing a desire to facilitate a first rate retreat.


The early October weekend arrived and the foursome became the informal advance team. They were ready as the proceedings kicked off. An orientation and a full day on Friday spilled over into sessions on Saturday. There still would be time to relax that weekend, go for a boat ride on the lake, play golf, BBQ whatever. Extending through Sunday was also an option and it seemed like that was a popular idea for many participants. AEFFSF reserved a block of rooms at a group rate in advance.


Alan shuffled papers with notes as he facilitated brainstorming, breakout sessions and teambuilding exercises. 10 of the 12 board members were able to participate. Only two board members had unavoidable conflicts but submitted input in advance which was summarized by Abbeshire & Bluestone account managers. One-on-one and small group interviewing techniques to probe initiatives and generate innovative thinking applied. The discussion guide for interviews served as a sort of outline for Alan Edgewater as he challenged the group to think outside of the box. In all they occupied 22 rooms. Abbeshire & Bluestone staffers doubled up in three of those rooms. Jan Abbeshire and Daniel Bluestone shared a suite. Irene Siena, Alan Edgewater, Bob Caster, Lori Ripp and the remaining board members about half sans-spouse. In all, 32 guests enjoyed the amenities of Tan-Tar-A while sessions averaged 20-24 people with staffers quietly recording events and running around managing scheduled breaks.


The retreat was a blockbuster success. Board-members, agency and support people in and around the AEFFSF were fired up. Alan Edgewater was the perfect catalyst for distilling the accomplishments thus far and projecting a vision for the organization going forward. The team from Abbeshire & Bluestone were brilliant in capturing the essence of the proceedings while video segments punctuated accomplishments of the scholars. Edited with quality footage from the Newark public television production, the Philadelphia awards evening and highlights of Alan Edgewater and a moving tribute to Coach Robert Siena left not a dry eye in the house. This was not your average non-profit. This was big and was destined to become even bigger as board members enthusiastically supported the notion of adding value to assure continuing success of not only the scholars into perpetuity but also their families. In addition, it was clear that the schools liked the idea of fortifying the award with amenities and accommodations of their own. Being among the schools was becoming an honor on educational opportunity unlike any other. The University of Miami, Oberlin College, Pittsburg State University and New York University all received unprecedented social media activity followed by almost instant recognition of the AEFFSF scholars who became almost overnight celebrities. Johnny Appleseed, as the first recipient grew into the role as elder statesman with an eye on law school, Andrew Valentine was instantly recognized as a talented vocalist with viral videos with more than a million views, Alicia Apricot was surprised at how her interest in Construction Management vaulted her into a celebrated spokesperson for careers in construction through the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and Gloria Beck instantly capitalized on her existing franchise of followers featuring examples of her acting triumphs.       


The team at Abbeshire & Bluestone synthesized the notes and within three weeks generated what was to become a beautifully written and designed strategic platform with a dozen specific actionable steps, six of which were short term and six of which were long term objectives. Each supported by comments and reactions to the Tan-Tar-A weekend retreat.


Short Term

1.      Continue to champion the AEFFSF scholars

2.      Continue to offer the unconditional annual awards  (i.e. not based on academics, athletic or other ability).

3.      Leverage the success of the scholars with leadership grants through AEFFSF even as they graduate (i.e. assist scholars interested in post graduate training or career launch)

4.      Produce annual report and documentation with optimal transparency

5.      Selectively and conservatively support family and influencer network activity with incremental funding

6.      Continue to develop unprecedented model for scholarship

Long Term

1.      Assist in placement/role for scholars to assume leadership for future successes

2.      Train future leaders to propel sustainable AEFFSF for 100 years or more

3.      Manage fund for growth to keep the AEFFSF infrastructure relevant and healthy

4.      Develop an academic circle for participating universities/institutions willing to offer attractive benefits for AEFFSF scholars

5.      Develop incubator for entrepreneurship based on leadership direction suggested by scholars

6.      Make Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund (AEFFSF) the gold standard of non-profit enterprise

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Failure Coach LIII

Law Offices St. Louis

“It took some doing but they voted me in as a partner.” Bob Caster leaned back in his chair and glanced out the window. It was mostly standard cityscape but he took a little pride in the fact that he could see part of the Wainwright Building, a turn of the century building, a landmark both described as an influential prototype of the modern office building by the National Register of Historic Places. Sipping black coffee with Sweet N Low, Alan Edgewarter was comfortable visiting his friend in his office. While they both knew no particular business was being done in that meeting, the meeting would not be questioned: Alan because he was a celebrity and a client; Bob because it would be presumed, by almost anyone who noticed them together in the office, that Bob must be doing what could generally be considered business development. They, of course, could not help but talk about the AEFFSF of which Caster served as a board member. “It is truly astounding how that idea coach Siena had to fund an unconditional scholarship program managed to shape an agency (Abbeshire & Bluestone), attract local, national and international media attention and also be held up as a model for non profits because of its management, creativity and policies of open book transparency,” Bob mused.  They agreed that Irene Siena was an ideal chairman because of her soft spoken parental tone and plainspoken candor about the organization.

“Our boy Johnny Appleseed is considering St. Louis University. He came to see me the last time he was home on some holiday break from the U. I’ve seen his transcripts and I understand his LSAT scores are good enough. With a little influence from an alum like me, I would expect him to get in. The Admissions Committee considers several factors in determining a candidate's eligibility: academic achievement, strength of the undergraduate program, application information, LSAT results, personal statement, work experience, motivation, leadership, and service. They, of course, require a couple of letters of recommendation. Maybe you want to write one? I mean if they have forgiven you for dropping out to become a motivational guru, lecturer and author.” Caster liked to remind Alan that he didn’t stick with the study of law even though he knew it was the right decision for him in the end. In fact, he knew Alan was a failure first case study of a sort.

“I’m happy to write a letter for Johnny Appleseed, but I think it might help more if you get one of your good ole boy friends who grew up here and went to Chaminade or DeSmet or CBC instead of a marginal transient Junior Billiken from SLU High like me.” Alan added, “I don’t have to play that game anymore. I know that stuff still matters in this big small town named after Louis IX of France but it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Johnny is going to have to find $40,000 for tuition and fees. I want to help him get started but I ain’t no Robert Siena. You know Jan thinks admitting Johnny Appleseed will bring good publicity to SLU and the region in general, especially if he ends up practicing law in St. Louis or Southern Illinois.”
“I don’t know Bob-O, the law is so damned boring. I don’t know how you can even advocate law school at Saint Louis University or anyplace else.”     

 “I think this kid can do it. I’ve read some of his Sociology term papers. He can write. If he can get in and get through One L I think he could become a local hero. Johnny Appleeed , the first Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund award winner returns to the St. Louis region. Etcetera. Etcetera. And so on.”
Alan got up and tossed his Styrofoam cup into the trash can. Bob gestured with a file he pulled from his desk drawer, “Follow me, I want to show you something. You might be surprised to know about.” They moved to the conference room. Bob opened the file folder and showed Alan private investigator summary reports on Johnny Appleseed, Andrew Valentine, Alicia Apricot and Gloria Beck. “After Johnny’s little altercation in Miami the board approved an extra step in our selection process. Unconditional maybe. But we felt it was in the best interest of nurturing our transparent 501(c) to make sure we knew everything about those of whom we were investing.”

“There you go acting like a lawyer with the whereas and heretofore ipso facto Habeas Corpus…”
“This is serious Alan. We have been fortunate so far in awarding these scholars. This is a litigious society we live in. What happens if we are sued for discrimination based on religion, race, creed or whatever?  I don’t think anyone could make a case, but the more widely the AEFFSF is known, the more likely we become a target for frivolous lawsuits. This background check is just one example where we mitigate becoming vulnerable. But you just can’t anticipate everything that might happen.”

“As your attorney I advise you to seek professional help. You worry too much.”    

“I know you think I’m neurotic but the simple truth is your scholarship program was started by a high school football coach who won the lottery. Very little thought went into protecting the foundation, its founders and its caretakers from liability. Beyond the initial background check reports in this little folder here we aren’t tracking your golden ticket kids at all. And you and I both know the selection process is very loose. So far: We’ve got the coach’s personal pick who becomes a Hurricane, who if we are lucky, will study law. We’ve got an art heir who sings like an angel in studying in Ohio. We’ve got girl who looks good in a hard hat and steel toed boots. And we have an actress/film major/social media phenomenon. In a way, each of these kids have won the lottery. Now what are they gonna do to assure the ongoing sustainability of our little venture?”     

“As always Bob-O you have given me plenty to chew on. I trust your judgement and I know the foundation is in good hands with Irene at the helm and Jan managing all the details including the PR and marketing stuff."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Failure Coach LII


The Philadelphia scholarship presentation was a big hit. Jan had been reluctant to partner with Tony Blank and the Ambrosia team but once she got over the awkward relationships she discovered the worker bees allowed her to exponentially expand her reach with writers and editors. Ambrosia also purchased two tables of ten for the gala event for $1250 each with Abbeshire & Bluestone managed to fill 50 such tables, the revenue of which covered food and table décor. Alan Edgewater covered a number of incidental expenses and Irene Siena and the AEFFSF paid for travel stipends and allowances for scholars and 15-20 special guests.      

“Pittsburg State is not in Pennsylvania,” Alicia Apricot would have to have to say on more than one occasion. “And my Pittsburg doesn’t have an h on the end of it,” she advised Johnny Appleseed as the two renewed their acquaintance. Johnny enjoyed a certain amount of status as the elder statesman among the scholarship winners. Andrew Valentine was the first to offer a welcome to Gloria Beck once he realized who she was. Andrew and Johnny shared some comments about coach Siena with his widow Irene. “He was much more than a coach to me,” Johnny said. “I wish I had an opportunity to play for him. He was such a supportive and encouraging force. I really enjoyed getting to know him, if only for a relatively short time” Andrew added. Alan was good at working crowds but always recognized the value of establishing a rapport with the speaker line up. Irene Siena had a natural motherly instinct with Johnny of course, but also with the growing family of scholars and board members. On this night however she had the air of a corporate executive in a sharp business and pearl necklace. She was the first presenter and offered welcome and a few “housekeeping” remarks about parking validation and restrooms before a boilerplate description of the AEFFSF mission and goals before introducing Alan Edgewater. Alan with microphone in place was able to rise and begin talking as a spotlight followed him around the room. He finished at the podium. He talked about betting on the future and in particular about the “…the promise of the scholars being honored this evening.” A cue that seamlessly caused the lights to dim and the video to roll.

Alan, Irene, Johnny, Andrew, Alicia and Gloria were seated at the front of the room behind name-cards marking their places flanking the speakers’ podium. There were two large screens and a film crew orchestrating the combination of live action, PowerPoint presentation slides and the crowd pleasing seven-minute video.

As the video faded to black and the house lights came back up, Alan joined the applause and smiled as he introduced the scholars and asked them to stand. A spotlight moved from Johnny, to Andrew, to Alicia and finally to Gloria. Alan allowed enough time to applause and announced, “Dessert and coffee will be served. Enjoy your evening, ” as  the wait staff moved quickly into the room to serve dessert and coffee.
The entire show was edited into a 12 minute piece (including the 7-minute segment) in a Philadelphia studio and made available along with B-Roll for media use. Some media outlets found additional footage of Gloria Beck to add regional relevance to news stories about the thespian’s scholarship award. With that Gloria was the star of the show. The availability of actor head shot images helped make Gloria the star in print too. The kid from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania appeared in newspapers in Philadelphia, Allentown and in New Jersey’s Star Ledger almost overnight whereas more generic stories appeared via UPI and Business Wire on in national media across the country. A minority-owned production company located in Newark, New Jersey contacted Abbeshire & Bluestone the following Monday morning about producing a show for PBS with a grant they had received. Dan Bluestone was all over that one (with some guidance from Jan.) The fearless foursome introduced in the 7-minute video became a launch point for a bigger story on college, careers and the arts. With Dan’s help the production company was able to produce a show that showcased a cappella Andrew, a scene from Streetcar Named Desire in which Gloria played the intrepid Blanche DuBois, Alicia Apricot in a hard hat on a job site and Johnny Appleseed in a law library. The 30 minute production was a hopeful story the future of education and the arts with a dose of business reality in approaching college. The show would be part of a series exploring the nature of education. The AEFFSF would get a mention but the individual stories were compelling enough.

Daniel Bluestone loved it when a chain-reaction of events would spin into new production and spark creative energy. He loved the art of juggling production elements and building content even if it would end up further manipulated by an independent production company or for local broadcast news. This gala evening and the AEFFSF story was starting to look to him like a perennial flower for his agency. It was a beautiful mixture of documentary and commercial story telling. Dan could not help thinking, “This is really turning into an intriguing human interest story as these kids move into the real world as AEFFSF protégé. Small towns: Red Bud, Arlington, Galena and Lehigh Valley. Different ambitions: Lawyer, Musician, Construction Manager and Film Actress. All of middle income backgrounds. All given an unexpected jump on life with freedom to pursue a formal education. And so far, it looks like they all will achieve a measure of success.

As a side note: Dan enjoyed spending time with each of the scholars and was impressed how they seemed to naturally blended together as friends by virtue of a shared set of circumstances. It was Dan who hosted the group on a field trip, prior to the evening gala, to visit the new home of the Barnes Foundation which opened in 2012. The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” Andrew Valentine emerged as an impromptu docent tour/guide  at The Barnes. “This collection is one of the finest of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast.” He read from a brochure adding matter of factly, "...from about 1910, when he was in his late 30s, Barnes began to dedicate himself to the study and collecting of art. He commissioned one of his former high school classmates, the painter William Blackens who had been living in Paris, to buy several modern French paintings for him. In 1911, Barnes gave Glackens $20,000 to buy paintings for him in Paris. Glackens returned with the 20 paintings that formed the core of Barnes' collection."  
Later in the week, Jan noticed an increasing interest in AEFFSF among colleges and universities too. Somewhere along the line the Abbeshire & Bluestone PR contact information for inquiries started to become a referral for schools looking for innovative ways to promote their schools. It seems that AEFFSF scholars all generated great features about the schools. Jan and Dan knew this was true for Oberlin. “Small world.” Dan said to the Temple University Director of Admissions he met in the edit suite in Philadelphia. He just happened to be there to approve a student recruitment film at the same time Dan was directing the gala video and B-roll media packages.    

Failure Coach LI

Lehigh Valley Dramatist is named AEFFSF winner

Irene Siena was anxious to meet with the folks at Abbeshire & Bluestone for what otherwise was a  routine status meeting. She arrived early, around 11:00 a.m. for the meeting scheduled to begin at 12:15 in the conference room. Box Lunches were already waiting as staffers made sure the sidebar had ice, soda, tea and coffee. A stack of agendas were placed at the head of the table where Jan typically sat. Jan was a creature of habit while Dan always seemed determined to look at things from different angles. Depending on the level of ADHD he had on a given day, he would be fully engaged in the meeting or merely making a cameo. He did enjoy a free lunch however, so it was probable that he would at least spend some time with the team and AEFFSF Chairman. In addition to Jan and Dan there would be an administrative assistant, copy editor, and two account managers. It was unclear if AEFFSF board members would also be present this day as they were generally informed but not expected to appear at such meetings.

The agenda for the meeting was straightforward. Irene visited with Jan and Dan separately in their respective offices and chatted in a parental tone about the scholarship program. She wanted it to be clear that she had every intention of assuring the financial stability of not only the annual scholarship dispursements but the marketing and administrative costs as well. She was hopeful that additional corporate giving and donations would follow as the first scholars entered the world.

Another scholar had been selected and was to be notified. This time a talented would-be dramatic arts major from Lehigh, Pennsylvania with plans to attend NYU and study film. Born in 1994, Gloria Beck was a Millenial with a capital M. She was creative and spirited. Her life was documented in hundreds of social media posts. She was engaged in her community and several causes. She has thousands of followers as a consequence. She is tech savvy, smart and talented. She produced vignettes that were poignant and entertaining: Don’t text and drive; Bullying is hurtful; Learn CPR/save a life; school safety; Support this or that charity fun run and so on. Her productions were never preachy and always entertaining. At New York University, it seemed the school anticipated the arrival of Gloria Beck. The admissions office noticed her social media following, particularly her YouTube videos. In addition, she had already received a number of favorable reviews in equity theater productions in and around the Lehigh Valley, many of which she included in her application.        

At the University of Miami, Johnny Appleseed had become a passable student once he settled into his Sociology major. Along the way he convinced himself that he wanted to go to Law School. He stayed in touch with the coach’s wife as she felt he was almost one of the family and with the coach gone, she wanted to hold on to threats that triggered memories. Irene was already at work trying to make arrangements for funds Johnny to study law in Southern Illinois or the St. Louis Region. (Bob Caster pledged an undisclosed amount of money if Johnny was accepted and planned to go to Saint Louis University.)  

At Oberlin College, Andrew Valentine was becoming an accomplished vocalist and musician. His academic advisor convinced him to pursue coursework more aligned with music business vs. engineering. With this shift he was able also focus on fine arts and art history as well. He appreciated how much he had learned about art and artists from his Nana. 

At Pittsburg State University, Alicia Apricot was comfortable with Construction Management study and was still learning alongside her father Bubba Apricot who we still working the Via Christy building initiative. She was fun with an easy laughter that made others want to teach her things about the business. She was like a sponge when it came to comprehending the fine points of managing phasing, scheduling, sub contracts, job site safety and teamwork.

The award banquet for the AEFFSF would be held in Philadelphia at another downtown athletic club location reminiscent of the gilded age of Mellons, Morgans, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. In the first four years the AEFFSF brand was becoming well known among philanthropic organizations as a model for a unique and innovative trust. Due, in part to the Abbeshire & Bluestone public relations efforts, the scholarship fund attracted mentions in a long list of articles, some of which were critical of the unconditional “no strings attached” aspect of the award but most praised it for its innovation, transparency and promise.
Irene convinced the board that the winners should stay connected. Irene hoped that each would give back to the legacy of this honor and oppportunity. Abbeshire & Bluestone produced a stirring movie on video that, for the viewers in the room and those so inclined to learn about the mission of AEFFSS. It gave a status and update on each of the scholars in a documentary style that used still images intercut with images and interviews various teachers, advisors, family and the scholars themselves talking to the camera. It was tightly crafted 7 minutes, opening with an Alan Edgewater introduction that paid homage to Coach Siena’s vision, and set the stage for profile segments. Johnny Appleseed, Andrew Valentine, Alicia Apricot and finally Gloria Beck were introduced to the audience almost as celebrities. The piece concluded with Irene Siena behind a desk of what looked like the Oval Office of the President of the United States. “On behalf of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund, thank you for your support. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.’ In memory of Robert Siena, who cared so deeply about our mission of giving opportunity to further their education unconditionally and with gratitude to Alan Edgewater and the Siena Foundation and, of course, the scholars and their families.” At that point the video cuts to a AEFFSF logo treatment and fades to black. As the house lights come up the applause becomes louder. The production is a crowd pleaser. It was a tribute to Alan’s popularity, Jan’s publicity and Dan’s creativity. All of that added up to a powerful message and a feeling of being privileged to be a part of a very special evening.

Meanwhile Irene and the Board of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund were structuring procedures to keep their 503(c) exciting, alive, relevant and newsworthy. Abbeshire & Bluestone was thrilled to have such a client. Alan Edgewater was thrilled to have such a vehicle for public engagement. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Failure Coach L

Somewhere near Norman, Oklahoma

“I’ll tell you what…” Alan was in front of 300 people someplace in Oklahoma (Somewhere near Norman he thought). “I’ll tell you what…” he said again. “My friend Coach Robert Siena, God rest his soul, used to start a lot of his public comments with that phrase. It gave him time to respond to questions about his winning a lottery jackpot. That little phrase gave him time to think about his answer. It was something he learned as a High School Football Coach. I miss the coach. His legacy is alive and well though. The Coach convinced me to lend my name to a very unique and wonderful scholarship program that was not based solely on academics or athletics. It is unconditional award. He wanted it to be a gift with no strings attached. I thought he was nuts.” Alan paused for a smattering of laughter in the seats from the audience, most of whom were somewhat aware of the scholarship fund after a scan of conference materials. Alan Edgewater had come to respect the coach and love his memory. Alan had, from the start used Siena as a poster child for the philosophies of Failure First. Now, with his passing, the script allowed for a kind of spiritual reflection of life. Alan Edgewater went on to speak passionately of the impact the coach had on his players at Red Bud High School, the community, and the lives of the AEFFSF scholars and their respective families. AEFFSF was now on solid footing as a respected non-profit and a fiscally sound charitable trust. Alan was publically an enthusiastic supporter of the program.    

“God called Coach Siena Home. He is gone, but we will carry on. By his own admission, he was flawed. He made mistakes with his family, friends and his finances. His carelessness with the lottery winnings was legendary. I won’t get into the details, but he almost lost it all.” The audience, as always, was mesmerized. Another seminar of enthusiastic failure first fans. Tony Blank and the team at Ambrosia found the magic formula of leveraging a social media engagement and geographic buzz around Alan. It wasn’t about build it and they will come. Instead it was about building a franchise in middle markets. Tony Blank took a page from Las Vegas acts in appealing to Middle America. Ambrosia found venues like this on in Oklahoma around the country and Alan was obliged to keep the machine running. He was a media celebrity everywhere he went and a sure bet for anyone looking to book a sure draw. Alan had long since dismissed any reservations he had about the Ambrosia expenses. He understood now that they were indispensible, notably under the leadership of Tony Blank who had become a most trusted advisor. The Alan Edgewater franchise was a successful road show fortified with books, CDs, interactive neuroscience exercises on line, workbooks and merchandise that helped fuel the failure first fans.

Alan was not aware that Irene Siena was in the audience. She was invited to the University of Oklahoma as a breakout leader for a conference dedicated to education causes related to enhancing Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). She wanted to learn more about how grants were managed. Jan Abbeshire suggested Irene catch Alan Edgewater which she did without calling any attention to herself. The references to her husband in Alan’s opening remarks made her smile. “I’ll tell you what,” she thought. “We are going to make a difference.” The chairman of the AEFFSF 503(c) she has a plan. She made her way back to St. Louis a renewed sense of purpose.

Tony Blank and Alan Edgewater traveled together to Tulsa where Ambrosia had another enthusiastic sell-out seminar at the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown. The road trip gave the two time to talk. Tony complemented Alan on his skillful and moving stage presence and vignettes in memory of Coach Siena. Alan was always grateful for feedback on these presentations and Tony was good at reading audiences. Alan knew the feedback would be helpful as he thought about his next audience. After this engagement tomorrow, the two would catch a flight out of Tulsa and be in St. Louis the following evening.     

Monday, June 23, 2014

Failure Coach XLIX

The AMAM at Oberlin

“I am committed to being a single mom,” She would say from time to time as she went about her business at AMAM.  Six months into her Pregnancy, Brie was determined to carry herself as a professional on campus. She was clear to anyone who asked that the identity of the father would not be revealed. “He’s not in the picture.” She would simply state. Those who cared about such things, speculated that dad was one of the successful businessmen that Brie routinely courted for institutional development support. But even those closest to Brie, were puzzled because she was so discrete about her relationships and never flirty with the corporate leaders on her development prospect hit list. As a curator on a college campus she struck many as a sort of bookish academic with no life – a madam librarian. Now as a mature woman with child she seemed confident and poised.       

Andy Valentine was still a regular visitor to the museum and maintained an arm’s length rigidity with Brie. Andy indicated that he wanted to be involved with the offspring when the time came but he was focused on his music study. He stuck to his music and continued to cultivate his understanding of fine arts in general, modern and contemporary art specifically. He was for all intent a typical student in jeans and a tee-shirt on most days. A frequent visitor to the music rehearsal spaces and student common areas, Andy was active but not overly social in a traditional sense.

Jan Abbeshire and Daniel Bluestone made plans to visit the campus at least once a quarter but the routine business of press releases and campus art news was easy to handle from St. Louis with the staffers they had in place. Alan Edgewater joined them for a concert on campus once but he did not make an effort to connect with his curator friend or the AEFFSF scholar. He trusted Jan to look after the details of ongoing promotion of the scholarship program. He was happy too that Coach Siena’s wife was proving to be a capable manager without the loose-cannon proclivity that Jan used to fret about when Coach Siena engaged any stakeholders. Irene Siena was always happy to defer to Jan when it came to any public comment. Jan and Irene were sure to manage the ongoing business of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund (AEFFSF) in a way that assured its continuing operations. Dan would occasionally interject ideas for promoting the scholars or the program but those suggestions were more likely to fall into longer term strategies.

Jan loved the Oberlin environment and imagined one of her daughters might enjoy a school like this. That decision was still a way off yet even for her oldest. Maybe she would work up the nerve to place her daughter in the mix as a candidate for the AEFFSF. It was a passing thought. She knew the selection criteria and indeed the process itself would become more complex as the board for their 501(c) organization added board members and continued to value transparency. She was well aware that even the appearance of impropriety would eliminate her offspring from consideration.

On one campus visit Jan and Dan found themselves in a gallery space for a small exhibition devoted to Isamu Noguchi (November 17, 1904 – December 30, 1988) a prominent Japanese American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades. Noguchi was known for his sculpture and public works. This limited exhibition was on loan from the Noguchi Museum in Japan. It included just a few stone and bronze pieces displayed in clean open spaces. Jan and Dan felt privileged to view the works and were becoming interested in the art world through their limited engagements with AMAM and the Rachel Davis Fine Arts in Cleveland. They were also both keenly aware of the growing significance of many of the works assembled by AEFFSF scholar Andy Valentine’s Nana, a modest granite Noguchi sculpture among them.

Over the echo of footsteps in that wide open clean space around the Noguchi exhibition was the sound of Jan and Dan conversational musings. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Oberlin could host a showing of the Nana Valentine collection - selected works at least?” suggested Dan. “I don’t know, if I understand Brie correctly, the curatorial planning and execution of any kind of special exhibition can take years,” responded Jan adding, “The catalogue Rachel Davis has is impressive but it currently lacks a scholarly context. The Nana Valentine private collection is not managed for loan activity. In fact it is more in a kind of limbo until the estate issues get resolved. Keep it. Sell it. Show it. Loan it. Insure it. Whatever.”

Before leaving AMAM they could not help but note that the main building for the Allen Memorial Art Museum was designed by prominent architect Cass Gilbert who was also responsible for the Saint Louis Art Museum and Saint Louis Public Library (not to mention, state capitol buildings in Minnesota, Arkansas,West Virginia) as well as public architectural icons like the United States Supreme Court building. (His public buildings in the Beaux Arts style reflect the optimistic American sense that the nation was heir to Greek democracy, Roman law and Renaissance humanism. Gilbert's achievements were recognized in his lifetime; he served as president of the American Institute of Architects in 1908-09.)   

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Failure Coach XLVIII

Hamburgers to Healthcare

“Okay Alan I get that you didn’t want to set the agenda for the meeting with the Margulies’ curator or our client at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Were you able to get any feedback from these two contemporary art curators about their feelings about the Victoria Valentine Art Collection or, for that matter, Rachel Davis Fine Arts? Did you even ask them what publications and/or media they read, watch or visit online? I can’t blame you of course. It was my partner Mr. Bluestone who dropped the ball on this one. How was the Martin Z. Margulies Warehouse? I’ll bet that was a trip.”

Alan was always amused by Jan’s rapid fire questions and interrogation style. It was sort of like she was a reporter herself. She always seemed to be trying to fill in the boxes. Her approach helped her clients understand the likely flurry of questions that might come from the news media in a crisis situation. It was less effective, in fact, when she was digging for a strategy for pitching a story. As serious as curators are, they aren’t routinely stressed out by issues of life and death, consumer advocacy and health risks. She also felt less comfortable with the various audiences in the art world of collectors, curators, administrators and estates than those of hospital administrators, staff, nurses, doctors and healthcare in a community at large. She knew this was a missed opportunity and she knew Alan was not accustomed to being an account executive. She knew now that Abbeshire & Bluestone would have been better served if they sent an intern along for the ride. At least then, a creative brief and enough to paste together a little relevant background information would be a starting point as Abbeshire & Bluestone built strategic platforms for the Rachel Davis Fine Arts and Allen Memorial Art Museum game plans. It would fall to junior staffers to extrapolate formal platforms for both accounts. It would then be Jan and Dan who would, for different reasons, challenge the validity of those documents. Jan was always looking for hooks to appeal to editors. Dan was always looking for differentiation points to guide any creative endeavor from gallery signage to exhibition brochure and branding. The short term proof of the pudding for any strategy platform would be story placement (for Jan) and creative assignments (for Dan). It was these internal copy assignments which grew out of research that delivered the aha moments. The sweat of secondary research of all that was recently published, broadcast or uncovered via social media analytics, Jan and Dan agreed, was always best if validated with real players (primary research through dialogue). The real players according to Jan and Dan were those leaders engaged in the transactions between manufacture to end user (whether it was hamburgers or healthcare).

“Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on Alan Edgewater to write strategy for us. His exploration in Miami may have solidified the connection between AEFFSF and AMAM. It may have even made AE a little more skilled at talking the talk in artspeak (about negative space and conceptual art) but it makes him not in the least bit insightful when it comes to making a college art museum or auction house/appraiser better at reaching their intended audiences.” Jan was in a rare mood and it was this sort of ranting stream of consciousness that propelled her agency forward. Sometimes this sort of out loud dialogue helped Jan decide to resign accounts too. Dan was never willing to talk himself and the agency into walking away from an account once won. 

Dan was famous for telling client prospects to fish or cut bait when it came time to sell a campaign, however. He might also conclude early in the quest for a new account that this dawg won’t hunt when it was a question of dedicating resources to win an account. But when it is time to show a new account what he (his people and his agency) were capable of…it was go time. He did not entertain quitting as an option. The difference between Jan and Dan was as simple as linear logic versus working to make your breaks. So it was: dollars and cents versus swinging for the fences at Abbeshire & Bluestone with these personalities managing the left and right brain of the firm.

“It doesn’t matter if we are selling Hamburgers or Healthcare,” Dan liked to say in creative strategy briefings. “We follow steps that lead us to our unique brand of solution. It’s smart. It’s creative and it comes with flawless execution.”         

Failure Coach XLVII

A pause for reflection

“I’m pregnant.” Brie Baker made the statement so matter-of-factly if seemed to require no additional information. Since Alan and Katherine knew nothing of Brie Baker’s personal life it just seemed natural that an attractive woman over 35 would find herself with child. Brie wanted to explain in advance why she might need to excuse herself and why she would abstain from a glass of wine. Katherine served as docent at the 45,000 s.f. Martin Z. Margulies Warehouse contemporary art collection.     

Although initiated by Daniel Bluestone, it was Alan Edgewater who managed to get a meeting with Brie Baker and Katherine Hinds though the three of them had only met briefly. Brie and Alan met at the second of three Bluestone Cleveland gatherings at the Carlyle. He only caught part of the banter between the coach and the curator about the Ashcan school and artist George Bellows, the would-be baseball player turned painter from Ohio. Alan and Brie were both invited to private showings of the Victoria Valentine Art Collection at Rachel Davis Fine Arts. Coach Siena was guest of Bluestone using the second bedroom in the condominium for which Abbeshire & Bluestone would bill the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund (AEFFSF). Alan Edgewater stayed at a hotel near the airport that evening and caught a flight into St. Louis the next day. Upon his return to the Cleveland, however, later that month Alan was invited to occupy the second bedroom dubbed the Coach Robert Siena Suite at the Carlyle. That evening he met Katherine Hinds. It was at that third gathering at the Carlyle. Katherine appeared almost unexpectedly with her gallery owner girlfriend. She and her friend, earlier that day, had also perused the Victoria Valentine collection at Rachel Davis Fine Arts. They had seen Victoria Valentine pieces by Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol, Keith Herring and more. By the time they got to the party they were not at all interested in talking about art. Instead a glass of wine and a view of the moon lit Lake Erie was just what the doctor ordered.

Alan recalled his visits to Cleveland and the Carlyle in the Coach Robert Siena Suite with some sadness. The coach was a cliché in so many ways. But he was also so genuine even as he extolled the virtues of teamwork and dedication. The coach was an eternal optimist with faith in his players certainly but, more broadly, in human nature. He had been so full of life and now he was gone. Alan was filling in for the coach. The coach was hoping the AEFFSF would be able to leverage the art collection in some way. Alan was not entirely clear about the coach’s thought process but he already knew more about contemporary and modern art than Coach Siena could ever have hoped to know.      

Jan Abbeshire continued to explore how Abbeshire & Bluestone might make news in the world of contemporary art. Her research led to Art Basel and the reputation and the Martin Z Margulies collection. Jan thought the Victoria Valentine collection needed the kind of press Margulies attracted. Jan noted that no-one currently served as spokesperson for the Victoria Valentine Collection like owner Marty Margulies and curator of a dozen years Katherine Hinds for the Martine Z Margulies Foundation.

Jan encouraged Alan to see if the curators could help identify appropriate hooks for fine art collector magazines and media. Jan imagined the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College needed hooks to get media attention as well. Had Alan invited Jan to Miami for this meeting of the minds, she would have joined them in a heartbeat. Jan, with three daughters at home could not take such a trip at the drop of a hat however.  

Alan, Brie and Katherine were together in Miami and enjoying dinner at Chart House in Coconut Grove where, ironically, they could not sit outside. The weather was wet and windy. Alan kept it to himself that the evening at the Carlyle overlooking Lake Erie was actually more comfortable than the dinner in Miami indoors, under the breeze generated by the air conditioning through ceiling vents that seems aimed at him. The dinner was one that generated some lively conversation. Katherine had been an outstanding host and docent for the Warehouse tour of Margulies Foundation collection Brie and Alan. Alan was still a little fixated on the concept of negative space but also wondering how he let Bluestone convince him to take this meeting in the first place. He was not a collector. He was not a buyer. He was a neophyte at best in the art world. All that said, he loved the way the art world, even at its most bizarre moments, brought people together. Bluestone hatched the plan for a meeting but, as was his way, over scheduled himself and left Alan with the job of finessing these educated purveyors of art.

Brie excused herself from the table after just a few bites of her seafood pasta. She returned with apology.  “This is the first time I have been pregnant,” she declared. Here Alan skillfully asked about the father. “Is dad involved in this?” he asked. Katherine was supportive with a quick additional “ Relax, having babies is just something we do. Just take things in stride. ” Katherine continued with “Doctor Baker, I think we ought to plan an exhibition that will travel from Oberlin, Cincinnati, St. Louis and maybe a couple of other cities. As co-curators I think we can really orchestrate a win-win-win for Oberlin, Margulies and Contemporary Art.

So Alan lost control of the conversation early in the meeting. It wasn’t until deserts arrived that Brie confided, while enjoying her vanilla ice cream, that she had every intention of being a wonderful single mother. She declared openly that there was no urgency in involving the father in the responsibilities of being a parent. With that, the father’s identity remained a mystery to Alan and of no consequence to Katherine. In the morning, Brie and Alan would ride together in a hotel airport shuttle from the Mutiny Hotel in Coconut Grove, going their separate ways as they traveled to their respective gates and flights to Cleveland and St. Louis.