The Artistic Power of Self-Awareness

Dr. Stephen William Hawking was an amazing human being for many reasons. His recent death made me think that the realm of possibilities in life are practically endless. He was proof positive that we should diss “dis-” in disability. We all have abilities in one form or another. I recently attended a gallery opening for CATA [Community Access to the Arts].  Through an innovation known as Art Realization Technologies [see image below], people with physical disabilities get to express their artistic abilities.

So then, here on canvas, each one attributed to a person, is their artistic awareness of their individual sentience. Expressive. Personal and self-aware. Fragile. Powerful. Confident, each canvas like the artist, one of a kind.

Artist David Gardner with Red Bird, acrylic on canvas.
Artist Julie Raymond with Untitled 2011, acrylic on canvas.
Artist Carol Neuhaus with Outside the Box 2016, acrylic on canvas.
Artist Myles Tosk with Untitled 2008, acrylic on canvas.

CATA founder Sandra Newman [L] with Carol Neuhaus and Carol’s art trainer.
Yes, every piece is for sale and the artists along with CATA benefit from the sales.




Totalitarian Sentiments


Creating confluence, understanding & compromise 101. Photo: C. Centeno

We have met the enemy and they are us.  Circa 1960s: Walt Kelly from his comic strip, Pogo, in reference to the US involvement in Vietnam. The phrase is a variation from Naval Commander Oliver Hazard Perry whom, in the late 1790s said, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

Our sociological positions on culture, tolerance, honest communication, integrity, decorum and humility have fallen to new lows. Some of us—in particular those with the loudest and most obstinate of postures and voices—have created as well as promoted an intractable reality that has altered our ability and willingness to freely express our thoughts and feelings across many subjects.

Fueled by emotion, group think, individual perceptions and more, it’s become de rigueur to put someone down [shouting, shaming, name calling, e.g.] just to make a point. What concerns me is while someone can possibly make a point, the counterpoint is summarily dismissed. Its dismissal is total, a product of a scorched earth mentality that leaves no room for perspective, for critical thinking and even a chance, however small, to understand the meaning of the counterpoint let alone the person or persons expressing the counterpoint.

We not only agree to disagree, but we do so in disagreeable fashion. We create diatribe instead of discussion, insults in lieu of perspectives, bombast as proper elocution.

I leave you to ponder on William Faulkner:

“I believe that humankind will not merely endure: we will prevail. We are immortal, not because we alone among creatures have an inexhaustible voice, but because we possess a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

In the First Person

Hancock Shaker Village recently held the first of 4 dinners involving noted thinkers and authors.  The Food for Thought program involves a monthly dinner May thru August, and invites folks to “feed your mind, body and soul…with an illuminating author.” The first dinner quickly sold out as 76 signed on to chat and dine with former Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick. Within an ambiance shaped by the Shakers [who established this Village in the 1700s] the evening proved intimate, friendly, and grounded. In light of our current political climate, I suppose anything could’ve happened regarding a discussion of Mr. Patrick’s life politique; politics has been a lightning rod of recent times, as we all know, attracting more negativity to the point of consternation and frustration.

That wasn’t the case here. Instead, I was reminded of the importance, indeed the significance, of seeing things in person and to hear experiences in the first person.  We are so immersed, so much more involved with our digital devices that I think we’ve lost touch on how to converse with verve, clarity, honesty, expression, sensitivity, empathy, integrity, patience, consideration, reciprocity and more.  It’s a sad state of affairs and while this is a gross generalization, therein lies a truism in my previous sentence: many of us spend too much precious time eyeball-to-eyeball, hand-to-hand with a keyboard, a touch screen and/or ear buds.

In this setting, we conversed with Mr. Patrick and listened to what he had to say. He was genuine and unpretentious in his greetings with old friends and in acknowledging the company of new faces. In a space that consisted of movers and shakers and critical thinkers from the Berkshires and beyond, it would’ve been all too easy to spot someone posturing. No, we all possessed a quality common to each in that room regardless of social or professional standing. We were–and still are–sentient beings, vessels filled with doubts about freedom of speech, decorum, political bipartisanship, populism, nationalism, etcetera ad nauseum.

Yes, having access to commentary and perspective through YouTube, Vimeo, Aeon, TED Talks and others is timely, convenient and important, but I, personally, feel that being there, of  being part of the gathering, is a different experience from those encountered online. When you’re surrounded by the event, you are indeed, part of the event. Many things become visceral and palpable, vulnerable and accessible, sensuous and profound. And while many communications can be paused or saved or added-to-my-view list, I’m reminded that with such gatherings, Life has no pause or rewind buttons. You are in the moment, beguiling a terrific gathering albeit brief.



Demographic Segmentation & Marketing

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I learned early on in my career that market segmentation is but one level of segmentation. I think of the process as one of differentiation. Demographic segmentation requires specificity in a cultural subset. In other words, you don’t place spanish-speaking people as solely spaniards any more than those speaking french as frenchmen.

The subset is of material importance. Spanish-speaking people come from many places other than Spain, ergo the same for french-speaking people living elsewhere than France. Think Puerto Rico, Mexico, Columbia, Dominican Republic for the former and Quebec, Monaco, Ivory Coast and Belgium for the latter.

There has been a tremendous amount of buzz regarding LGBT civil rights. Ireland is the first country that recognizes same-sex marriage after its citizens voted it so just this past May. Caitlyn Jenner is a household name and we’re likely to hear a lot more about the former Bruce Jenner’s transgender journey.

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So, what does this have to do with marketing? For me, plenty.

First and foremost, we’re dealing with a community of people. Many countries treat LGBT people like criminals. In no uncertain terms, being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender puts you on death row in several countries. So, tell me where’s the real crime taking place?

I recently attended a screening at the 28th Annual Outfilm CT Film Festival held on the beautiful campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. From May 9th to June 6th, controversy, art, education, tolerance, intolerance, inclusion, love, forgiveness, the banal and the beautiful were expressed across a variety of films, short and of feature length. The films I watched provided a temporal take on LGBT concerns as well as the eternal qualities of love, acceptance and foregiveness.

There’s also the economic take that cannot be ignored. LGBT folks are contributors and consumers. Some hold high-level positions in business [Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, e.g.] Yes, the human costs are invaluable, however the economic costs can be calculated. If you need more information, this recent article from The Atlantic can shed more light on the value of the LGBT economy.

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How important is the LGBT community? Here’s the short list of corporate sponsors of the Outfilm CT Film Festival: Pratty & Whitney; CIGNA; The Hartford; AARP; Aetna; Baccardi; Barefoot Wines, among others…like the firm I work with.

In addition to other key designations and credentials, Michael Matty, the President of St. Germain Investment Management, holds the following: Accredited Domestic Partner Advisor [ADPA]. While segmentation is important in marketing analysis, inclusion holds its own relevance as well.

Music Matters

In my line of work, you host, sponsor and get invited to a variety of events from various non-profit agencies and causes. Most everyone can understand donation requests in the form of food, clothing, footwear and safe housing. The need for basic items will not abate and is likely not to.

15 Htfd Symph Gala-1005056This past weekend, my wife and I were invited by 2 wonderful friends to attend the annual Hartford Symphony BRAVO! gala to support the HSO and its various programs. This may sound like a declaration for music appreciation, perhaps it is because other than imagery, music is a vehicle that connects you to some of your most profund emotions: fear, joy, nostalgia, regret, anticipation, optimism, self-worth among others.

15 Htfd Symph Gala-1005060Many galas are over the top [in a good way!], but if you get past the themes, decorative accoutrements, wine, main course, dessert and coffee/tea, there’s no wondering about the main purpose of these functions: to procure money and moral support.

15 Htfd Symph Gala-1005047Ticket sales alone cannot support a symphony; that’s too much to expect in this day and age.  I believe such was the case many years ago. Financial and moral support need not be mutually exclusive. Think in terms of helping children and young people. Like other major symphony orchestras, the HSO creates programs that encourages kids to become more involved with music. At the very least, to increase our involvement through time, talent, financial contributions or combinations thereof.

15 Htfd Symph Gala-1005026We see many things connected to the arts falling away due to budget cuts. Materials, instruments, field trips, special visits/talks from artist themselves and so forth disappear. Like any other solid corporation, the HSO gives back to the community. In the case of the HSO, it’s more about teaching kids about the power of music. Neophytes are not the exclusive target audience; experienced student musicians also beneifit from music-focused programs and activities.

It’s not a stretch to think—and feel—that music matters.

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Technical: All images taken with a Leica M, Elmarit 28mm f/2.8 lens: ISO ranges from 400 to 3200.