Coilean Arts Incorporated is a family company, and it began with a passion for performing arts, and a desire to make better opportunities for students.
I was born and raised in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, and I knew that I wanted to be a professional performer by the time I was five years old. My parents nurtured my passion - I received my first collected works of Shakespeare at the age of eight - and by the time I was in high school I had decided that I was going to perform on Shakespeare's Globe. Nothing was going to stop me, and I accomplished that goal when I was 21.
Because of this passion, I wanted to be involved in performing arts in a highly technical way. I wanted to receive training that included enough individual attention that I really felt the benefit from my learning. I wanted, at all costs, to avoid being cast as 'Guard Number Three' in my local community theatre, because I wanted to get the most out of studying the technique of performance. This isn't to say that I didn't seize opportunities. I auditioned for my first film when I was four, I was in my first community theatre production when I was five, and I took advantage of dance, drama and musical theatre at my secondary school, while training in dance and voice at local studios.
It would be more accurate to say that my passion simply meant that I wanted MORE. More knowledge, more technique, more performance opportunities. I didn't know at the time that this was what I was hungry for...I experienced this as restlessness. Constantly tap-dancing in my mom's kitchen, practicing songs in the garage, memorizing lines in the bath-tub. Creating these courses has allowed me to help those passionate performing arts students gain access to more training, more technical knowledge, more insight, and more credit for all their hard work.
The other half of this company, beyond what it offers to students, is what it offers to professional performers like me. As a college student, and then as a professional dancer, I discovered how difficult it can be to forge a living in our profession, regardless of whether your focus is performing or teaching. I had a friend, a dancer, who continually came up against directors and choreographers that told her that she should be grateful just for performance opportunities that they give her. That the exposure, the attention and the opportunity to be seen at a public venue should be payment enough. It became a running joke for performers in Toronto to say that we were 'dying of exposure.'
I felt that there must be an opportunity, one that could both provide technical performance and athletic instruction where there may be none, as well as one that would supplement the incomes of professional performers and athletes.
My solution began to crystallize shortly after my mother explored her family's roots by visiting Ireland. She returned with a word, the root of her last name, 'Coilean'. It was the root of her maiden name, and it also meant 'young dog', 'whelp', or 'pup'. Historically, I learned, this was a term that people could use to judge each other, to determine who was and was not 'worthy' of the greater things in life.
This image, this word, especially tied as it was to my family's history, finalized my dream:
'Coilean Arts' is about providing quality instruction and quality performance opportunities to everybody -- whether you live in uptown Vancouver, or a three-room cabin in the middle of the forest with internet access. Art, like any other subject, is something that everyone is entitled to learn.
And in terms of the starving artists 'dying of exposure', who better to help us work with the school system to provide real feedback, from a professional point-of-view? In 'Coilean Arts', we are building a community of professional mentors from the industry, supporting pre-professional learners and artists of all backgrounds.
Join us in this unique venture!
Will Cullen, CEO