Homer-grown artist returns to passion after corporate detour

Artists heading out into the world often face a crossroads. On the one hand they dream of careers as Broadway actors, musicians with a major label or artists at a big city gallery. But then dreams falter and they have to make a living.

That’s the path Jim W. Anderson faced. But now that he’s done the making the living part, he has hung on to his dream of acting and plans to bring it home, combing his experience in the corporate world with his artistic passion.

Born and raised in Homer to North Fork homesteaders Elton and Edna Anderson, Anderson, 56, visits Homer this week and next to connect with family and friends. Next Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. he offers a workshop at the Homer Council on the Arts, “Landing Your Next Big Role: How to Take Control of the Success and Joy in Your Life.” The $20 fee class is followed at 7:15 p.m. by a free presentation and discussion, “Creating Influence.”

In the workshop, Anderson will create a mock audition, where students role play trying out for a musical. They’ll get a script and some songs, learn some dance numbers, and try to break into the big time. The goal is to help people create and develop their personal brand, learn how to work collaboratively with others, and develop skill sets that will help them identify, approach and land new opportunities in the arts, life or work.

“It’s learning life skills that fire your brain in a way that’s never been fired before,” Anderson said.

HCOA Executive Director Peggy Paver said in her own career as a dancer she’s seen how that can work.

“When you are required to stand up in front of people and either physically or verbally share, you learn an awful lot about how you move through the world and what tools you need to have that confidence,” she said.

Anderson grew up in a large homesteading family. At age 4 he started piano lessons with Mary Epperson, one of his arts mentors. In high school he decided he didn’t want to be a classicial pianist and took up acting, working with Lance and Barb Peterson at Pier One Theatre.

After graduating from Homer High School in 1981, Anderson went off to acting school in New York. He returned to Homer in 1988 to live and reconnect with the arts community. He appeared in productions like “Home Grown,” receiving rave reviews.

“It was so much fun to get involved in Pier One and the Homer arts council,” he said.

In Homer he got reacquainted with a girl he had known growing up, Jodi Cristy, and they got married in 1990. After a short time in Arizona, they moved to Anchorage, where Anderson started a career with UPS. That led to 21 years in the shipping industry with UPS, including a transfer to South Carolina. Anderson now lives in Aiken, South Carolina, and works with JAS Worldwide, an Italian company. Anderson’s speciality is international regulatory compliance, helping clients navigate the complexities of tariffs and other shipping challenges.

Though his corporate career might have sidetracked his art, Anderson said it has worked out to his advantage, giving him an understanding of business and how creativity can have its place in that world.

“It’s kind of exciting to see where your life takes a different path than you expected, but many times it turns out better than you imagined,” he said.

With their only daughter grown and starting a family, Anderson is at a point where he can explore art more. He’s in the process of developing an enterprise, the Global Arts and Leadership Alliance Project. He wants to encourage corporations to value and develop creativity. He wants to change how artistic endeavors get represented and produced.

“I want to create a company that represents talent and material in a much different way,” he said. “…I have a background in arts and corporate America. I’m merging those two skill sets together.”

Anderson said he thinks corporate America is ready for that.

“It’s time for a change. Even the creative corporations have some bottlenecks at the top,” he said.

Another plan Anderson would like to pursue is buying existing property or building his own complex that would be a summer training ground for corporate executives and artists. In the short term, he’d like to run more workshops in Homer, possibly in the winter. His ultimate goal is to return to Homer.

“I figured, you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained,” he said. “If you risk nothing, you get nothing.”

That idea of having corporate training with the arts has been around since the 1990s, Paver said. She mentioned one of her dance teachers, Liz Lerman, who combined corporate training with dance and movement.

“This is not a new concept, but he’s (Anderson) bringing it here through his own personal experience, being in the art world, being in the corporate world,” Paver said.

Could that even lead to a new kind of tourist industry, art camps for corporations? Paver was asked.

“I don’t know if that has been on the docket so much before now, but we are in the critical tipping point where we have to be creative and think outside the box,” she said. “That certainly is a possibility.”

For Anderson, his latest idea has brought him back to his artistic roots.

“You’re never too old to follow your passion,” he said. “All you have to do is focus on it. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your focus there.”

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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