Ep 1 - Business Life, Art Life

ArtistCEO Business Life, Art Life

"I don't feel very creative when I'm in my CEO mood. I don't feel very intelligent when I'm being an artist." So begins our true story of Shannon DeJong, the CEO of a branding and naming agency as well as a performance artist/actress. She's always kept her creative life and her business life separate...until now.


Shannon: I don't feel very creative when I'm in my CEO mood. I don't feel very intelligent, when I'm being an artist. ArtistCEO, June 13, 2016. I'm just doing my first check in report, don't know how this is really gonna work, but here we go…

Kerri: Hi, I'm Kerri - the host of this podcast and also content strategist for Who. Officially, House of Who, Inc. The woman you just heard is our CEO, Shannon. Shannon isn't your typical CEO. She's also an artist. A performance artist who used to go by the name, Gray.

Shannon: I thought, okay, it's not just about being brilliant. I have work to do, I have a purpose. I am an artist and I have a whole world to save. And maybe it's only one individual by one individual and I'll die and most of the world will never even know who I am. But that’s my job as an artist. To do profound things and say profound thoughts. And to move people and to maybe entertain them a little bit and to...change the world, right?

Kerri: She’s making some fun of herself there, but underneath the satire is obviously some truth. Deep down, artists do want to change the world. I should know. I'm an artist myself, if a confused one. But I’m also in business as a freelancer. Maybe that’s why I’m so interested in Shannon’s journey. It makes me think about my own future. What I want.

Everyone in the company is an artist of some kind. We’ve got a designer/screenprinter, namer/novelist, CFO/kintsugi artist. But Shannon is CEO. She’s the CEO of a multidisciplinary brand arthouse and agency. One that has big clients, like Stanford University, Onduo, SDL, the Big G — and others that I’m not even allowed to share. Being a CEO is hard and being a CEO and a working artist, well some would say it’s impossible. So until now, Shannon’s mostly been living a double life.

Shannon: For a long time I divided myself into two halves. I had my art self and my work self. I operated under the name Gray and I came up with this as a stage name so that when I would perform, it would be under a different name...because I thought that nobody would want to see the artistic self in the business world.

Kerri: But times have changed right? That's the whole entrepreneurship, start up, work revolution. That we can be ourselves in business and still succeed. I kept telling Shannon that I wanted to hear more from her unique Artist/CEO perspective. To be a thought leader. And she thought "thought leader" was a stupid term.

Shannon: It's really nice to have thoughts...I mean, good for you and good for me. I have all kinds of thoughts. I have all these artist friends who say "I have this amazing idea..." I'm like...that's so great. Can you put it into action? Can you actually create something physical out of it? Can you change the world with it? Can you move hearts and minds with it? Can you change your life with it? Can you change others' lives with it? There are so many good ideas out there and even the idea of how to incorporate it into your life is just another idea. It always comes down to me just f-ing doing it. Just doing something. Taking action on that idea.

Kerri: Enter, this Podcast. I asked Shannon to start an audio diary, not just about ideas...but capturing, in real time, what it's  like to be an ArtistCEO.

Shannon: So...So here I go. I guess. I think this is me taking action. Instead of just having these thoughts that run through my mind, I’m taking a moment to take action, which is to articulate my thoughts into this handy voice recorder…and who knows.

Kerri: So that’s what Shannon is going to do. Find out what it means to be a true ArtistCEO by living it. And by recording her journey as she goes along.

The failures, the celebrations, the clients, the deadlines, the stage fright, the existential crises, the questionable living situations….you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

And the driving question. Can business and art live in harmony?

Subscribe now for more of ArtistCEO season 1. In our next podcast episode we’ll get meta as we listen to Shannon & Kerri podcasting about podcasts. Just kidding. We’re actually on the verge of disrupting disruption in business - we call it art. The struggle is real.

This podcast is brought to you by Arthouse of Who, a division of House of Who, Inc. You can find out more at HouseofWho.com. Music by CF Watkins at cfwatkins.com. Sign up for behind-the-scenes content at www.helloartistceo.com.

Kerri Lowe