- Tim Byrne
#MakerSeries: Andrea Koehler Talks About The Launch of Coloring Broadway, How Hamilton Inspired Her,
In this new feature called #MakerSeries, RyeTheNewsGuy.com will give you a first-hand look at some of the up and coming makers of tomorrow by showcasing some of their products that are making a splash in the industry. These makers are all apart of Broadway Makers' Alliance, which is a collection of creatives who’ve taken their passion for Broadway and created high-quality products and services for the Broadway and theatre community. RyeTheNewsGuy.com is a proud member of Broadway Makers' Alliance.
Andrea Koehler who is the CEO/Founder of the popular Broadway coloring company Coloring Broadway is the third iinterview in our #MakerSeries. She talks with RyeTheNewsGuy.com about the launch/creation of Coloring Broadway, how she got started, and how finding your passion is one of the most important things to make one suceed. Check out this eye-opening and MUST read interview, below!
Andrea Koehler of Coloring Broadway
So where did the idea for Coloring Broadway come from and how did it get started? Before Coloring Broadway, there was The Coloring Project. And before that I had a career in leadership development, professional development, and professional coaching. Around April of 2015 I discovered coloring and I sat down and for like three weeks straight and I colored. I “arted” as an adult and I was so overwhelmed by how much fun it was to create art in a way — something I had not let myself do since I was a kid and I was super excited. Then my instructional design brain went crazy and my professional development brain went crazy and said, this is fun, but it's also access to creativity. It's access to brain science that actually creates focusing time for you. It's access to relaxation in a way that we don't have in our digitally driven world.
I started creating the mindfulness and meditative thing that is The Coloring Project and put together a book called “The Power of Positive Coloring” that I published in 2017. It was a series of motivational phrases surrounded by illustration and wrote a mindfulness activity to go with each of the illustrations. I worked with 11 different artists from six different countries and in the midst of launching and doing all of the things with The Coloring Project, I heard Hamilton. I loved the inspirational motivational messages that just kind of spoke to you at different moments in your life.
A lot of people were really touched by that show. Is that what made you focus on Broadway? Yes! I sat down with Justine Fisher, who I was already working with on The Coloring Project, and I made her listen to it because she also liked musical theater and you know, a while after we were like, hey, “why don't we put a couple of Hamilton quotes on a card and see what happens?”
That was in November of 2016 and in 2017, it was April 4th of 2017 we launched our first collection of Coloring Broadway cards. When we did this, I decided, although The Coloring Project had a large following and a large audience, that Coloring Broadway needed to be its own thing because not all people who color like Broadway stuff.
So, how do you connect the two?
My super big purpose behind all of this is that self-awareness is the only way that we grow as a humanity. And in our busy world of meetings and notifications on our phones and everything that we pack into a day, there is not a lot of time for downtime activities, let alone intentional self-reflection. It's not about coloring per se, it's about finding those activities — whether it's knitting, your boxing class, whatever it may be, having those moments that actually allow you to be present in yourself and through self-awareness we get to intentionally choose where we go next. And theater, in and of itself, is a similar thing. We go into a theater and we spend two hours in this dark environment with a whole community of other people experiencing this story. We don't have digital distractions. We don't have people asking for our time. Hopefully we have turned our phones off at our watches and we don't have somebody talking and taking this out of the experience. Theater has this transformational power of you go in, you have this experience that you would not have had anywhere else, and you come out the other side and you now have another experience to integrate into yourself. Another perspective from which to see life.
When you sit down and you color a lyric from a Broadway musical that you love, that you've sung over and over again, you can't help but sing it in your head. Maybe you put on the cast album on while you're coloring and what happens? You get transported right back to who you were and how you were taking it in. Maybe you discover something new about the song and its relevance and its meaning to you while you're coloring this. It gives you that opportunity to revisit what you were feeling, or what it did for you.
Justine, Andrea, and Jenn Colella (Come From Away) on Broadwaycon 2019
That’s a great way to look at recreating the experience. How do you decide what themes to explore when creating new pages? I hate to link it back to Hamilton, but in experiencing it through just the cast album because I hadn't had the opportunity to see it yet, I was relating to all of the characters. Like I have that crazy drive that Hamilton did to just keep going. And, so as I was listening to it over and over again and working on The Coloring Project, and the same sort of motivational phrases that I was using that kept showing up in the lyrics of Hamilton, that made me you feel like this is not just a moment — it's a movement.
When Justine and I did the first collection of Hamilton cards, and when I would talk to people about it, all I had to do was say, was we created a company called Coloring Broadway, and with just those two words, people would tell me about this show and that show and I’d go and check them out What are some of your most popular pieces? Hamilton is obviously a bestseller. Wicked is also a best seller. RENT also and ends up at the top of the list. We've had a huge run of Mamma Mia lately. So, I think it's just finding the right audience with a large fan base but there are other shows in the mix too.
What are some of your personal favorites? My favorite pieces have to be the ones for Dear Evan Hansen. I like those designs. I also like the Mama Mia designs. I think those are kind of my favorite. Waitress is there for me too because it's such an important show My favorite though, illustration overall will always be The Room Where It Happens which is in the first Hamilton because it just captures Justine’s brilliance in an illustration.
How has the response been from the shows and the Broadway community itself? Mandy Gonzalez (Hamilton, In the Heights, Wicked) has been great and we've sent her a couple of things and she shared them on her Instagram, and it was awesome. Because I live in Seattle, with each show that comes here on tour I deliver a coloring care package by hand. People have been super receptive, and I usually get to meet that cast and go backstage.
What’s next for Coloring Broadway? Are there any plans to partner with shows and sell pieces at the merchandise table in the lobbies? Obviously, I would love one day to have a coloring something that's part of official merch. That would be ideal. But, if that doesn't happen, I am content with continuing to build Coloring Broadway as a brand and as a tool for self-discovery. So what's next for coloring Broadway is expanding out into some additional merchandise so it's not just coloring. For our second birthday we launched some stickers and prints.
We also just launched a digital access pass, which is a monthly subscription where people get 4 illustrations per month. One is an exclusive illustration that only digital access pass members will have access to because it will never be a part of a collection, two are from upcoming collections that have not yet been released, and then one is one of my favorites that are one of the more popular ones and we just share it out.
We have a number of wonderful people who love Coloring Broadway, who don't live in the states and it's super expensive to ship things to Canada and to the UK and into Australia. So, this was a way to give them access to Coloring Broadway and expand our community.
What is your best advice for the Future Makers of Tomorrow and also to entrepreneurs who have something they’re passionate about who want to start their own business, but don’t know where to start? My first kind of advice is self-awareness. You have to do the work to know who you are and how you're showing up to this world in order to make intentional choices. Now, that also doesn't mean you shouldn't start immediately and do the things that you're wanting to do. But it just means take moments, be aware of who, be aware of your responses and of the feelings that come up. Just anything you can do to work on your own self-awareness will come back tenfold.
The other piece of advice is patience. This is a long game. Entrepreneurs make mistakes. You've got time. You learn from mistakes. Failure is not a four-letter word.Failure is the way that we learn how to do other things.