In response our blog post about the power of community and merge, Brooke Forsythe Embry sent me this heart felt response which made the idea of community all that more powerful and genuine.
By Brooke Forsythe Embry
I must have sounded horribly arrogant recently when someone asked me what I do for a living and my reply was “well very few people do what I do, so, it’s hard to explain.”
But that’s true, and I don’t know what kind of lonely beasts Kathryn Schiff and I would have been if it weren’t for Marianne Campbell & Quincey Payne, Norman Maslov and Heather Elder when we started TidePool in 2001. Nationally there really WEREN’T agents that spoke with each other and supported each other in a way that felt like community. Kathryn and I were extremely lucky that we started in San Francisco and that we had these very savvy and KIND giving fellow agents who were there for us, and let us know it immediately. I realize now how young they were back then! And how amazing, grounded and successful they were so early in their careers. Which says a lot about who they are now, flourishing in the ever changing climate that is agenting for artists in advertising.
My arrogant comment about what I do is in part because there aren’t courses or books t o learn how to do what we do. We each fell into it, happened upon it – ask an artist’s agent their story, it’s pretty interesting to hear how they each came to be doing what they are doing. Diversely hard to explain, and we don’t talk to each other as much as we could or should, which for me made merge a game changer.
merge is a collective of 6 Los Angeles artist’s agents that have banded together to throw annual parties for art producers and creatives around the country with the goal of forming community and showcasing the artists that we represent in a way that they don’t usually get to show themselves. A big incentive for all of us doing this has been that we raise money in each city to benefit a local charity that supports access to art for youth, and our artists each donate framed art to auction every time we host an event. I keep wondering when they are going to get sick of us asking for donations, but our artists keep giving so they too can contribute to community building and the very important part of supporting disadvantaged youth gain access to developing art.
A big unexpected for me in the merge collective, and probably for our artists too, is the immediate community it created. There is instant gratitude for not being alone charting industry waters, to have someone to turn to (figuratively and literally) to ask – “what’s your take on this, how would you handle it – charge for it – create peace around it – form a relationship that is mutually beneficial – make great art and great advertising out of it?”
It all came full circle for me when we hosted our first merge San Francisco event last month with Heather Elder as our guest agent. All 7 agents traveled SF together promoting the event, each showing our agency books via print or digital demonstration. We jumped in Ubers, we grabbed beer for meetings from Trader Joes en route with everyone in tow, wandering a bit but then falling completely in groove with each other once we each set up our individual agency demonstration side by side. Or greeted a face at an agency one of us recognized only to realize that the fellow merge agent standing next to us knew that contact even better than ourselves and possibly had worked with them even more – but the outreach was a greeting and introduction every single time rather than competition, and in each instance all of us became a stronger community.
They say it’s a dog eat dog world and I believe that is often true. But I refuse to live it. I am very grateful for the collective that is merge, and equally grateful for the community that has greeted us in each city.
Cheers to Chicago, we are hosting you April 27th! And Los Angeles, I can’t WAIT for the merge summer party. It’s going to be even better and more beautiful, but more than that I can’t wait to see faces for the 2nd year in a row that are there to support and develop community