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The Thriving Artist

The THRIVING ARTIST PODCAST is a feature of the Clark Hulings Fund for visual artists, which exists to provide training, professional introductions, and funding for working artists, to turn working artists into THRIVING artists. Tune in for insights from other artists, art industry experts, art collectors, and business specialists. Don't be a starving artist, be a thriving artist!

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Build a Brand That Gets a Response

Building a brand means creating an expectation and giving your audience a chance to anticipate and desire what you’re making. We cover a lot of ground in this episode with Dr. Jenny Darroch, dean of the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. Jenny gives us a 30,000-foot-view of the art world, as well as the issues facing those who aim to bridge art and business. Host Daniel DiGriz and Jenny discuss the brand development challenges that visual artists face, tackling the question: “Do I define my brand, or do I let my brand evolve?”, as well as the principles of marketing, project management, keeping up with a changing market, and connecting with an audience. Check out the highlights below, and then download or stream the full hour-long episode.On Strategic Audience Development:"If there’s an expectation of what modern art should look like, do you become one of the many who can produce art of that kind, or do you make a bold statement and actually redefine how we look at contemporary art today?""No matter what the creative form is, we always play that game: by evolving, we can pick up new customers, but we can also alienate the old.""You’ve got this conundrum of audience development that can alienate the core audience...we need to be tuned into the market, but we need to pay attention to what’s new, and what’s possible."The Core of Art Business Education:"We demystify the art world---education provides empowerment and puts people in a far stronger position.""The humanistic approach that we [in management] take does resonate with those in the arts community.""We see management as a liberal art, and that management revolves around the human condition."On Fostering Leadership in the Arts:"Artists tackle issues that relate to society at large---the dysfunction that we see around us, the lack of purpose people have---and these values are really aligned with Peter Drucker’s values.""The thing that trips students up the most is embracing that a commercial approach to art is OK."The big picture issue "that faces both museums and visual artists is about audience development and engagement.""Learning is lifelong, and we can dip in and out of education at any point in our life."On Brand Management:"When you’re trying to create your own brand, if you want to be commercially successful, you do need to hustle to be known in different art circles.""When you embark upon a program of audience development, you can end up confusing the brand...how does the brand maneuver and evolve as the audience expands?""Look across all forms of creative expression---there’s an abundance of product on the market and so many different ways to distribute the product to end users, so to be 'good enough' is not enough."


12 May 2018

Rank #1

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Get to Emerging Artist Status and Beyond

Bonnie Clearwater is the director and chief curator at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Originally from Rockland County, New York; she has also been the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami; Executive Director of the Lannan Foundation Art Programs in Los Angeles, and Director of the Lannan Museum in Lake Worth, Florida. Bonnie is known for her scholarship on contemporary and modern art—particularly Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, and Tracey Emin. She is recognized for her curatorial vision, museum education and outreach programs, and developing the careers of emerging artists.Finding Recognition as an Artist—Emerging and Under-Recognized Categories“The art world is always looking for artists who are under-represented, and in my career, not only do I look for up-and-coming new talent, but also the artists who are overlooked for some reason or another— it wasn’t the right time or the right place.”“[Mark] Rothko was particularly concerned as to why he became well-known, whereas a number of the other artists he started out with or got to know later in his career—he felt that they were great talent as well and yet had not achieved recognition.”“Not any one person can ‘make’ an artist…it’s a mysterious process…who the influencers are changes.”“It’s hard to say to an artist that this is how they can identify how [the process of being recognized as an emerging artist] is done… the best thing they can do is make their art, have the contacts and be ready and open to possibilities.”“I think right now what I am seeing in the art world is that it has returned to the artist- driven art world.”Visibility for Artists and their Work“There are so many platforms now for an artist living in obscure or out-of-the way places to get their work out and be seen.”“Network. Make sure that if there is a museum or an art center or dealers…that the artist attends their events…that’s a number one thing an artist needs to do to in order to get their art out in front and known—it’s really hard to just send work out cold to a gallery or curator.”“If there are grants…[artists] should definitely apply for those. In most cases those grants are reviewed by a peer panel, or of professionals who are either curators or critics; therefore it’s getting in front of exactly the people you want.”“Travel. Make sure that you know what’s happening in the rest of the United States, or your region, and around the world.”“Find other artists to be able to talk to. When artists are in art school, they have a support base that will critique them. But what happens after graduation, is that artists are in their studio all alone, there’s no one to talk to, no one to get that critical feedback from. So it’s important to also build up a network of artists one respects and have that kind of critical dialogue.”Curatorial Decisions“I can tell you almost exclusively, any artist whose work I’ve been interested in, it’s the work that’s attracted me first…I could see in the work that there is something about it that is true, that’s compelling, that is bringing a new way to think about things and is making me want to think about it.”“After I meet with the artist, I do want to have a sense that there is enough in them to carry a career. That what they’re trying to do is so expansive and multi-faceted that they won’t get stuck in one idea that they’ll be repeating for the rest of their career.”Artist-Collector Connections“It is interesting to hear why collectors collect, why they’re passionate, what they’ve learned… it’s important for artists to hear how their work is perceived beyond their own studio.”“There’s all kinds of collectors. There’s those that in one aspect that they like the story. They like to know what the background of the artist and how that plays out in their work…”Beyond Insta-Influencers“The influencers in technology are still shaping the perception of who is worth looking at. I came to this realization with some collectors I’m friends with who got on Instagram early…I realized [influencing with technology is] the same that it’s always been. Here is this person and influencer with a circle of collectors and critics and dealers and curators—observing. Who are they looking at? Who are they buying? Who are they passionate about?”“One of the things we need more of is this greater focus and deeper engagement with the [art] work and the ideas around it.”Art in South Florida & Broward County“My greatest joy is working with the general public and seeing their response to the work and grasping the ideas behind it and light bulbs going on over their heads and having excitement.”“We’ve been working with the Broward Libraries doing programs at the library reaching into all different parts of Broward, as well as doing exhibitions and talks at the museum that brings in the community—these are things that are natural for the museum to be doing.”“It’s been exciting to see how Fort Lauderdale and our museum have become the center for the South Florida Art Coast.”


12 Jan 2019

Rank #2

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Lockdown: Artists Double Down on Building Robust Businesses and Self-Help Networks

It’s a timely moment to be interviewing the team from CERF+, a leading nonprofit focused on safeguarding artists’ livelihoods nationwide. Founded in 1985—by and for materials-based artists and craftspeople—their core services are education programs, advocacy, network- building, and emergency relief. Key players in the recovery of creative industries after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, CERF+ also responded to artists impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, assisted after the California wildfires, and are actively engaged in a Covid-19 response. Their advocacy for artists is ongoing—both in times where planning and prevention are the emphasis—and in providing support in recovery from a crisis. Cornelia Carey is CERF+’s Executive Director and the founder of the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness & Emergency Response. Carrie Cleveland is their Education and Outreach Manager.Thanks to Jerry’s Artarama for their support of CHF and The Thriving Artist™ podcast.About CERF+“CERF was originally called ‘Craft Emergency Relief Fund.’ But after Hurricane Katrina, CERF committed to doing a lot more work in the preparedness and mitigation realm. We realized that no amount of money that we could ever raise was going to right somebody’s life when it had been reduced to a slab, a studio, or a home. We needed to invest in helping artists be more prepared and build more resilient careers. So that’s how we became CERF+. The ‘plus’ being all of that preparedness.”“We are actively aggregating, creating, combining, curating resources and information that help artists look at this current crisis. At last count there were 130 emergency relief funds that have been created for artists around the country and in the territories; there have been 3 federal aid packages that artists can access—so we want to make sure our artists are aware of these opportunities and how to navigate them.”Advocacy for Artists“We’ve been working with cultural advocacy groups and Americans For The Arts, and making sure that the needs of artists and other self-employed workers are embedded in federal relief packages. Traditionally, self-employed workers, gig workers, and artists have not been a part of federal relief packages.”“Advocacy is educating decision-makers about the issues and the needs of a very important population in this country that might not be represented—in disaster response, for example.”“The arts serve everyone in this country. Not just left-leaning or right-leaning.”“Artists, like many other self-employed workers, don’t have access to a safety net of benefits that often comes with employment, such as health insurance, paid time off, and other supports and security.”“We’ve been making the case that artists’ careers are small businesses, and like any other small business, they employ people, they purchase equipment and supplies and materials, they buy real estate, they rent real estate. They are definitely part of economies.”“We did research in 2013 about the status of artists in the craft field. We found that 75% of them have 3 months of savings or less. So if you look at this current crisis with things shutting down in March—you know by May, it’s a pretty desperate situation. So we’re in there with the other advocates for small business.”“Maybe people think artists live in a separate bucket than the economy. There’s hard data that says just how wrong that is. Just last month the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the Arts & Culture workforce contributed 877.8 billion dollars, or 4.5% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2017.”Helping Artists Through Disasters—Coronavirus And Beyond“With Covid-19, we’re focused on the health emergency care needs of artists who have gotten the virus, as well as still responding to the other disasters, including the recent tornados in and around the Nashville area and also artists who suffered significant losses in the earthquakes last January in Puerto Rico.”“We are working on a program about artists in the recovery phase of this crisis. There are funds that exist right now that will likely run their course in the next month or so. What often happens is there’s no access to those kinds of funding programs in the recovery phase of a disaster. We’re really focused on longer-term recovery. And I can’t say yet what that’s going to look like.”How Covid-19 Is Affecting Artists“We conducted a Nationwide survey of artists during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re hearing that people are anticipating experiencing loss of revenue from show cancellations, loss of gallery sales, loss of direct sale revenue. People are looking at—just initially from the start of this—financial loss of an average of close to $7,000, and then projecting out 3 months, an average loss of over $18,000, so the impacts of this are pretty immediate and pretty clear.”“We’ve been asking people about their current needs for support. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the resounding answer was ‘cash.’ People cited real concerns around being able to pay their rent or their mortgage.”“The other common thread was that people needed support in getting set up for— or increasing—their online sales to cover the income that they’re losing through show cancellations and loss of direct sales.”“Even if people already have good online systems in place and have access to their studios, their day-to-day life is completely changed—maybe from having children at home, and so now that day time that they normally would have spent in their studio, they’re adjusting to this new landscape where they’re homeschooling their children.”“People have been open and sharing what they’re thinking about: How long is this going to last? Are more shows going to be cancelled? What about tourism-based economies this summer, what’s that going to look like? Even if things go back to ‘normal,’ will people want to travel?”Artists Can Help With Disaster Recovery“CERF+ is looking at how we can create opportunities that might not yet exist. We know our nation needs a whole infrastructure rebuilt. Just think about how artists could be involved in making our communities much more robust and beautiful and well-designed. Honestly, I get excited about the possibilities of engaging artists more in our communities and in recovery.”“I have a reflection from an artist named Deanna Davila, a sculptor, ceramicist and jewelry-designer in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria she spent 110 days without electricity and 45 days without water. Something she said when reflecting back on this experience was really powerful: ‘I re-learned that life changes in a split second, that changes may bring you growth and opportunities if you let them. I learned ways to better protect myself in the future, and that protection is not only physical, but economic, emotional, and spiritual. I needed to reexamine the way I work and produce and manage the sales of my craft in order to be prepared for next time. We’re not alone. We’re part of a larger community no matter where we are.’ ”“Artists should be part of the national emergency management community and deployed like others are deployed in disasters. They’re showing up in shelters, providing arts education to the kids that are not able to go to school; they’re offering the concerts that make people feel better. Artists are very important to recovery. Unfortunately they’re very vulnerable in disasters as well, so that’s why we’ve been so committed to building programs that help them be more resilient, so they can play that role in recovery in their communities.”“I think that in the next couple of months we are going to see a pivot. We already are, in some instances, where people are just going about their work differently, or looking at their skill sets as artists and looking at what income possibilities are out there that can use those skill sets. It’s just about moving past that shock, and understanding that this is really going to be a long-term problem, so we can’t expect things to go back to the way things were before.”Spirit of Generosity“CERF+ was founded on the gesture of mutual aid, of artists helping artists through emergencies. At all these craft shows, inevitably there was somebody who had an emergency and they literally would pass the hat to help that person go home with some money to pay bills or to rebuild. That spirit is so strong today. You’re seeing it locally in communities, you’re seeing it online, with people sharing work and ideas.”“Carrie and I just participated in webinars that were organized by The American Craft Council, with Springboard for the Arts, and SNAG [Society of North American Goldsmiths], and CERF was co-sponsoring with them. It was artists helping artists with ideas on how they manage their social media presence, how they sell work, how they’re thinking about this time. Many people have a little bit more time to really take in these lessons and to share how they work and think.”“BUY ART! I don’t even think it has to be collectors. I think anybody with a regular paycheck right now should be buying art, should be donating to their food bank, should be really trying to help out. We are extremely lucky to have our work continue. On the outside artists may look like they have beautiful jewelry, and incredible clothes—in the craft field, especially—but they are one setback away from real financial turmoil. So people are in trouble right now, and I think all of us need to be supportive in any ways that we can.”For Covid-19 relief resources and help navigating the CARES act, see CERF+ Responds to Covid-19 and CARES Act and Steps You Can Take.See also Reframing Our Creative Livelihood, by Alex McAdams


1 May 2020

Rank #3

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Create A Thriving Art Business

Alan Bamberger is an art consultant, advisor, author and appraiser who specializes in research, business management, the marketing of original art, and art-related documents, but he is best known for his regular post to ArtBusiness.com, which he also manages. With nearly 40 years of experience in the art world, Alan works with artists, collectors, other art professionals and galleries to solve difficult art situations. Topics Include:Price Consultations with Artists:Problem solving using available images, background info, and the piece of artRecommends price structure for individual pieces and overall collectionsExplains how they can defend their prices to interested partiesOlder Art vs. Contemporary:Older art has a secondary market in place with a finite quantity of pieces availableOn older art: “I price based on the moment, based on available information, and based on primary market information.”“When an artist is still active, it’s not clear what the future trajectory of that artist will be, where their prices will go, or what they’re going to do” all of which can change the value of their art.Artists as Sole Proprietors:Step into the role that you want to fulfill“I’ve met so many artists who know so little about business, and business was not something that was taught in art school or even discussed.”“You can’t survive as an artist if you’re not selling enough art to pay for food and rent.”“Artists have become far more aware that it is not simply a situation where you sit in your studio and paint or create or sculpt…”“I focus on what happens when the art is done, when it’s ready to go out into the public, now what?”“Artists have never had more opportunities to advocate on their own behalves, to get their work out there, to talk about what’s behind it, to talk about themselves as artists.”“If you can’t sell your art, you’re not going to survive as an artist.”Common Mistakes of Resumes & Portfolios:The artist website as the portfolioImportance of having an identifiable brand“The artist has to present themselves in ways that pretty much anyone can understand and connect with and appreciate.”“Having confusing online profiles or presentations would be, I think, the most common mistake”Don’t leave it to your audience “to figure out the brand of this artist, what’s their unique voice, where are they coming from, what’s the story that this artist and the art, what’s the narrative, what are they trying to tell us?”Increase the Value of Your Artwork:The characteristics that make famous artists famous“Document everything that you’re doing.”“Narrative makes a piece more buyable.”“Take a photograph of it, take some notes, write down a couple of sentences, keep decent records, because if it turns out you’re a long running success, at some point, institutions or collectors or whomever will want to explore and learn the whole story.”“You can’t take long sabbaticals between individual works or series or bodies of work.”Getting Your Collection Appraised:Things to consider when purchasing a piece of artwork.“Contact your insurance company and ask them what they need in terms of an appraisal in order to insure your art.”“At the beginning, you can, for a while, just use the cost of goods as the approach.”“Monitor market activities for the artists you collect just in case there is a substantial price fluctuation, you may just want to have those pieces revalued for insurance purposes.”


2 Oct 2016

Rank #4

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How to Grow Your Customer Base and Increase Sales

Steve Pruneau serves as the Chairman of CHF's Board and is the founder of Free Agent Source Inc., a management consulting company that applies sharing-economy principles to client engagements. In this episode, he and host Daniel DiGriz discuss how to use the 'best practices' employed by successful entrepreneurs. If you’re struggling to identify the next step in your business, or find direct-to-audience selling a challenge, you’ll find this episode illuminating. Read on for highlights, and download the hour-long episode now to enjoy this conversation in full. Sales Myths and Realities:"Selling is finding a solution for someone---a solution that they welcome into their lives.""Most people come to organizations like CHF because they get it: they need to grow an audience, and they want to know how.""The bottom line is, sales get done on that emotional sense of confidence we inspire with our audience.""My emotional hang-up was this myth that people are natural salespeople, which put a dependency in my life. In modern life, survival skills include selling.""The last step of the journey is acknowledging 'ok, now I get how to employ these techniques and grow my audience'---that’s when the thriving starts to happen."Direct-to-audience selling “gives you a way to influence and control how you’re presenting yourself to the world."Engage to Develop Your Customer Base:"There’s always an opportunity to engage…questions will start to illustrate patterns with the people who are buying your art and with those who aren’t buying your art.""In the art world, we’re looking for our people, who feel something from the art and find the work meaningful.""I don’t believe there are stories out there of somebody just going viral---there's a backstory of someone doing the work, developing the story, asking the questions, finding a pattern, and using that work to grow the audience or customer base."Identify Milestones to Move Past Uncertainty:"Shift out of the concept of ‘I’m working on this’ to ‘this is really done’.""If you don’t know the solution, break the problem down into the things that you do know, and point out the steps that you don’t know.""Follow your instincts and pay attention to programs like CHF, which are going to put you in a mindset to stand your ground, look after yourself, and understand clearly what you want to accomplish.""For an artist, we’re looking for a verifiable, completed task, as well as a focus that drives momentum.""Preparing an IGP clarifies the mind so now you’re starting to focus on what’s consistent with your goals.""It doesn’t matter what your art is, if your intention is to earn a living from it and thrive in your art, that proposal will help you figure out how you’re going to get there.”


20 Feb 2018

Rank #5

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Make Your Art Career Sustainable

How can an artist ensure that their art career is a sustainable enterprise long into the future? Carla Crawford is a figurative painter and Business Accelerator Program participant. She works in the classical tradition and focuses her latest works on displaced migrants.In this nearly hour long show, Carla addresses the importance of making your art career sustainable, how to address lags in sales, and the cross-pollination of traditional and contemporary. This is such an incredible talk that the topics are best expressed as quotations from Carla herself:Establishing a Sustainable Art Practice:“We all want to spend all our time in the studio, but how are you going to sustain that over your lifetime? It’s such an important thing to be able to master.”Mastering the business side of art is “a completely different scale from what you’re doing in the studio, but it’s essential.”On starting over after completing a solo show or big project: “I think it comes back to that idea for me of having a sustainable practice. Obviously, I want to be working as an artist for my whole life.”On formulating a business strategy: “how I run my business has been based on advice from other artists, which is, of course, priceless. People who have gone before you and tell you how they’ve made it work.”“You have to figure out how you’re going to tailor your business to make it work for you.”“Business training is essential to making your practice sustainable.”Sales:“When you create, you try and create with that authentic spirit, where you really are just engaging with what intrigues you, but then, of course, you do have to switch mindsets and think in that business mode, again, if you want it to be sustainable, if you want to be able to do work that can sustain itself.“Sometimes things sell like hotcakes and sometimes they don’t.”“It’s all about just finding a new audience and finding the right audience for a painting to move.”Cross-pollination between Traditional & Contemporary:“I don’t think that I really came up with a branding strategy when I started out as an artist. I think that’s not exactly what draws you to being an artist.”“Studying realistic painting, studying these traditional methods is this counter-cultural choice, but there’s so much in the art world at large to learn from and grow from.”“There’s 2 different brands, 2 different modes of thinking, where one is the studio brain, where you’re thinking, you’re in the creative mindset, and the other one is the business mindset.”Honing Skills with the Business Accelerator Program:“I really appreciate that there’s this training with Clark Hulings of the business side of your art career. ““I was trained in layering paint, in anatomy, in underpainting and traditional drawing methods. Running a business and learning how to make your art business sustainable, that’s a whole other skill.”On Business Accelerator Program workshops: “I’ve loved just being able to participate in the community, taking part in the classes, the business support. It’s so helpful and I do think it’s something that I need that training as I’m moving forward.”Ateliers, Residencies, & Arts Education:To determine your desired art career path: “You have to go out and figure out where you’re going to get the skills you want to have.”“I decided not to do a traditional MFA program simply because I wouldn’t be getting those figurative skills that I wanted to have.”“I wanted to spend 8 hours a day in front of the figure doing intensive anatomy, study of the physics of light, studies of traditional drawing methods. I couldn’t necessarily get that in a more traditional program or a normal program.”“As a painter, your studies are never done. There’s so much to engage with, to study with. It’s such a rich tradition. There’s so many methods, so many techniques.”“When you work in the private studio of a master artist like that, it gives you insight into the whole artistic process.”“Residencies are wonderful because they just give you the time and connections.”Teaching:“I find that teaching, it just naturally leads into my work into the studio.”“It’s a way for me to verbalize techniques; it’s a way for me verbally work through methods that we use in the studio. It also gives me this social element.”“I find my students’ work inspiring… they’re so excited. They still come up with approaches to work that I haven’t thought of.”“I can bring my students’ excitement back to the studio and feel invigorated coming back to my work in the studio, when I’m ready to get back to my own painting.”Advice to students: “There’s no set path in the arts. You always have to find your own way… that’s why support is so important and why organizations like the Clark Hulings Fund are so important.”


11 Sep 2016

Rank #6

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Translate Social Media to Sales

Gregg Chadwick is a Santa Monica–based artist who has been painting for three decades, and his work has been exhibited in national and international galleries, art fairs, and museums. He’s given many lectures on the arts, including speaking engagements at UCLA and Categorically Not—a forum that examines the intersection of art and science. Gregg is also a Fellow in The Clark Hulings Fund’s 2017 Business Accelerator Program.Art and social justice:“All art has a political stance whether it’s on the surface or boiling underneath.”“Every day something new happens in the world and art is really primed to look at those global changes and shifts.”“The history of oil paintings is so deep that it allows artists to address issues with a very subtle touch.”Developing a virtual network:“If you’re in your studio by yourself, people aren’t going to come looking for you. If you’re on social media, you’re communicating globally, and there are things that can only happen in that forum.”“I’ve had a number of people contact me over the years looking for particular paintings that I’ve shown online, even if they were previous works on older platforms like Flickr.”Social media translates to sales:“Art dealers are on Twitter, and I like to create subject matter that, when it’s Googled, my name comes up.”“Social media allows you to sow the seeds of your work and who you are. People want to get to know you a little bit, who the artist is—it’s not just a product.”“The collectors who want to be connected to the artists are able to do that. That community and camaraderie is there. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something significant, and it drives me to keep going, to keep my audience happy.”CHF’s Accelerator and artist forums:“The difficult thing is putting thoughts into numbers, having an organized system that you’re continually using to propel your business from one level to another.”“The encouragement and enthusiasm from the [Accelerator] program and other Fellows has led us to have bigger dreams and bigger ideas that we now know can come to fruition.”“This is a group of like-minded individuals in which we can talk about our work and challenges together.”


8 Jun 2017

Rank #7

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Tighten Your Sales Strategy, Then Refuse to Compromise

Donna is a painter based in Beaufort, North Carolina; she’s a graduate Fellow of CHF’s Art-Business Accelerator Program, and an Emeritus Advisor for the 2019 group of Fellows. Her work is representational, and explores the nautical and coastal themes of her home. Her sales strategy involves partnering with cause-based organizations to amplify their messages through the use of fine art. Recent projects include a resident artist position with Friends of the NC Maritime Museum and a collaboration with The Kit Jones Project.CHF’s Accelerator Program Results“Being able to define what I want and where I want to go with my career has helped me immensely in so many different ways.”“When you decide what you want to do, you become more intentional about what you choose to do.”“People who get residencies, get more residencies. I went to [North Carolina Maritime Museum] and I said: ‘hey, I would really like a residency.’ This is what that would entail. Here’s what I want from you. Here’s what you’ll get from me. And with that intention, after defining myself and redefining what I want, I can actually move with a little more skill and a little more focus in order to get where I want to go.”Blueprinting Your Career—Work Ethic, Brand Narrative & Sales Strategies“I made the decision that I was going to be a professional artist, and took away all the safety nets that I had….That ‘I’m inspired today, or I’m not’— that’s not me. I get up [and say] here’s what I have to do today. This is my list. So to me, it’s that blue-collar work ethic that is applied to fine art.”“You’re better off making a sale as you.”“It’s kind of a throwback to back in the day when you had patrons, and artists worked almost as craftspeople. And they had their guilds and they were actually working for people. It’s a very similar type of relationship. So in that respect, being a blue-collar or a working artist is more valuable because they say: ‘Oh a working artist. That means you’re actually finishing and doing a job.’ And they’re very happy with that and it does help.”“Are you an artist because you call yourself one, or should you wait until someone calls you an artist? So rather than saying whether I’m an artist or not I just go, ‘I paint!’ And I leave it at that. ‘I’m a painter. I paint pictures.’ ”“I’m in a niche market of maritime art right now. And I also live in a very tourist community. [So I’m constantly asked]: ‘Can you donate this? Can you donate that?’ and I’m like, ‘No. I cannot.’ So I figured, how am I going to leverage what’s coming my way which is ‘Can you donate this?’ with: what of mine needs to be marketed?”“…I don’t donate anything. They pay me. They pay for my materials. They pay for the framing. They pay for the advertising. And so I have it set up where I may be donating my time, but I’m not out any money.”“So if you’re serious about buying a piece from me, if you have bought a piece, or you’ve come up to one of my events, you get a special newsletter that is exclusive. And I tell them it’s exclusive. I give them options and opportunities, that once I put the stuff in a gallery or online, those opportunities are gone. So it gives them a time frame in which they actually have to do something. My open rate is between 80 and 100% for those special newsletters.”The Work“I love hearing what other people have to say about my work. I really do. It’s very interesting. And I like that it’s adventurous…I’m trying to catch more of an emotion or an atmosphere more so than a representation of: ‘Here is the scene, enjoy it’.”“I’m going to do what I want to do, because I like doing it. And if I make a change, like I did in June— I made a change with how I actually put the paint on the board… and if my style changes a little bit because of that, then great, because I’m learning and personally growing in how I want to paint.”“You can’t add emotion into something if you’re not truly interested in it. You just can’t do it. You certainly can’t do it for a long period of time.”“You’ve got to have your role models, even if you don’t paint like them.”Establishing Relationships“I do my best to get to the shows, because you can actually meet people there, and you can see who’s interested in your work. Then if they’re interested you can talk to them. Just by creating that relationship, it’s a bond of some sort. I know my people. I know what they like, and I know what they’ll buy. I may say: I have this piece—it’s a little bigger than what you usually buy, but you might like this. And they love that. They like the personal attention.”“People nowadays really like events and experiences. You can spend a lot of money on a show: renting a venue, getting a caterer, all this stuff. So I have a lot of collectors in this area, and I paired up with a restaurant. And when I do an ‘Art for Dinner’ event it costs me nothing. I pair with them during their slow season, get a price per plate, and I add onto that, maybe $10, and I hang up my work; but it’s not just an art show…”Working with Galleries: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly“One thing that [my galleries] all have in common is that I’m very comfortable with them. I’m very comfortable talking to them. I think we have a shared vision of presentation, of sales, a shared vision of what we can do, and we trust each other.”“It’s more about hand-in-hand [collaboration]. [My gallerist] thinks like I do and is willing to capitalize on any small thing in order to get the art out there and to make a sale and meet people. And I like that.”“[One gallerist] gave me a show and I worked my butt off for this show. And then it did not end up the way I wanted it to be, or even close to what I thought should be proper. So I just said: ‘You know what, I think this is time. I think we’re not a good fit.’”“You have to honestly know what kind of work you do. And honestly know where you want to go and be prepared. And once you’re prepared and really have some good pieces that you are ready to show; you’re ready to go. You have to know who you are and what is your strength. If your strength is writing really good proposals, then write a proposal to that gallery and show them the images. If you are really good in person then go in person, but pick wisely when you go.”“Find the spot that sells your art, and that you as a person present yourself the way that is good for you.”“You learn the next level by putting yourself up there even if you’re not ready for it, so that you can learn. I’m going to network with [other artists], and see how they approach things. And aside from the artists I’m also going to network with the different shows that I’m going to. And also network with the people who are coming to see the art. So it’s kind of like a two-pronged approach.”

1hr 1min

12 Mar 2019

Rank #8

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Creating the Middle Class Artist

Special Edition: 3rd Annual CHF Grant to Visual ArtistsElizabeth Hulings is daughter of Clark Hulings and Director of the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists. In this episode of the Thriving Artist podcast, Elizabeth explains how to change the culture by funding, training, connecting, and equipping working artists. Topics include:Creating the Middle Class Artist (vs. stars and starvers)A “Kickstarter” for art and cultureWhy artists need capitalCharity vs. business development for artistsPatronage, not parentage – cutting out the middle manA big tent for artists – style agnosticismExchanging the expertise of artists and art industry professionalsWhy spread the word: Artists wanted!Elizabeth lets us see into the world of the working artist in this 22-minute episode, and explains what is needed to make thriving artists the norm. Grab the mp3 to listen on the train or the drive home.If you’re a working artist, feel free to visit our Grants page. If you’re an arts industry professional, collector, or business specialist, or a working artist who would like to be interviewed, visit our Teach and Learn page. As always, even a modest donation is meaningful; and that page is here.


6 Aug 2015

Rank #9

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Growing an Economy with Artist Entrepreneurs

Shannon Linker is VP of the Arts Council of Indianapolis and is liaison on arts issues with organizations throughout Indianapolis. She also directs the Arts Council’s contemporary fine art Gallery – Gallery 924. In this episode of The Thriving Artist podcast, Shannon helps us understand how art communities are built and economies grow by funding and training the working artist. Topics include:How are arts councils faring with slimmer budgets and fewer galleriesThe crucial distinction between an art market and an art communityHow funding individual artists (not just arts organizations) impacts a communityHow working artists begin to thriveCritical blind spots and needed business skills that challenge working artistsThe artist as small business owner (accounting, copyright, legal issues, contracts)The stigma behind art as a businessHow arts councils facilitate collaboration between artists and art industry professionals (as well as the organization itself)For the artist: ingredients of effective art exhibitions & the importance of a cohesive body of workHelping artists create a market for their work and achieving community buy-inSupporting the arts as an ECONOMIC force – how art revitalizes neighborhoods and local economiesBeing assertive, not passive in marketing yourself as an artist and putting your work out thereThe needs of the ‘barrista artist’ (the emerging artist with a part-time job)One industry leader’s personal vision and inspiration (plus Heavy Metal!)Shannon Linker is an incredibly articulate thinker, and it comes across in this substantive and inspiring 41-minute episode. If you’ve ever wondered how it actually works – beyond the rhetoric – how arts tangibly grow an economy and foster entrepreneurship, you’ve GOT to listen to this episode. Do so now, or download and take it with you on your phone or mobile device.If you’re a working artist, feel free to visit our Grants page. If you’re an arts industry professional, collector, or business specialist, or a working artist who would like to be interviewed, visit our Teach and Learn page. As always, even a modest donation is meaningful; and that page is here.


31 Jul 2015

Rank #10

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Find the Best Representation for Your Art

Stephanie Birdsall is a painter who has exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London and the National Arts Club in New York. She has received over 60 awards in national and international juried exhibitions, including Best in Show at the Bridgeport Museum of Arts and Science, and her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of the Everglades. When she isn’t traveling to paint en plein air, she teaches painting workshops and is the producer of two DVDs on painting.On Belonging to a Painting Group“When you’re around master painters, you can’t help but learn from them, but it’s really about putting in the miles, getting the work done.”“When Richard invited me to join the Putney Painters, that was a massive confidence boost because it meant that what I was doing was real.”“When you have support and people believe in what you’re doing—and that can come from a painting group—that makes a difference.”Finding the Right Representation“One thing I say to people who are just getting started: it’s really important to find the right gallery because galleries play to different collectors.”“People think galleries are becoming obsolete, but I love them because they’re an opportunity to see work in person that you don’t see online.”“I love my galleries and I love social media too, so I try to make them support each other.”“You need to be aware that galleries may not be selling you, so it’s important to find a gallery that your work looks like it belongs in.”Recognizing Business OpportunitiesTo make painting a viable business “you have to plan in advance: what shows you’ll be in, where you’ll submit, and you need to feed your galleries. I really look at it like a job.”“Someone approached me to teach a painting workshop and since then, I find that I’m becoming a better artist and teaching has made me a better painter.”“I was doing a demo for a vendor, another vendor asked me to teach at a convention and then people wanted to learn how to do what I do. I started to get invited to teach.”“As a true artist, one always wants to be open to learning, so if I can learn from someone else’s workshop, I’ll take it in a second.”On Success“In a perfect world all I would do is paint, but our society isn’t like that anymore. Things move so fast with social media, you have to keep on top of your business to stay in front of people.”“I see a lack of confidence standing in people’s way, they don’t trust what they’re thinking, they don’t trust what they’re painting, and as soon as they get a little confident I see a huge change.”


11 Aug 2017

Rank #11

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Professionalize Your Studio Practice with Business Training

Increasingly, artists are being asked to professionalize their art business, but as Cristina DiChiera so aptly recognizes, “In some instances, combining arts and business can be putting a square peg in a round hole,” but it doesn’t have to be with the right resources and training.In this hour-long interview, Cristina talks about her career creating and implementing business workshops for artists with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and Mass MOCA, and her recent shift to Visual Arts Development Manager at Brown University. She underscores the importance of tapping resources at the local level through arts councils, professionalizing business practices, and incorporating them into studio time. With the advent of technology and the internet, it has never been easier or more imperative that artists take full advantage of the resources available to them and craft an art business that is sustainable through their artworks sold. She also gave us insights into using crowdfunding as a marketing and fundraising tool and how to choose between grants, competitions, and residencies.Advice for our Business Accelerator Program on how to run a good business workshop for artists:Glean topics from artists themselvesUnderstand the artist’s’ goalsGive good overview of the topic/overwhelming overview (make it brief)Tease out each person strength – suggest areas where they can start to run their own affairsRespect the time of participants – want to see artists succeedService providers are responsible to provide value in our workshopsArts organizations as a tool for artists to up their business gameLearn more about CHF’s Business Accelerator Program and how you can participate.Artists and organizations are increasing their awareness for business training:Increased ease of usability for social platformsArtists have an increased capability to be their own marketing engineEvolution in business to incorporate a more creative approachArts have started to change the way we perceive and understand businessArtist’s approach problems in a different way that others might not consider – this is a benefitMuseums vs. Arts CouncilsTechnology as a catalyst in this shift toward business:More flexibility to manage their own affairsArtist as marketer and business personRelationships shift between artist and collectorRelationships shift between artist and galleryUniqueness of the art professional:Their business and products are a deep reflection of themselvesCustomers are intrigued by the artist, their background, and the details of their processThe actual work is about connection with an audience and building their marketMaking crowdfunding productive:Set attainable financial goalsTo succeed, the artist must dedicate a specific period of time to promote the projectAn artist should think of it as a challenge to connect with people, tell their story, and get an audience excited about the project.Crowdfunding as a step toward becoming marketing savvyGrants, competitions, and residencies – how to choose?Applying for competitions, grants, and fellowships should be a part of an artist’s professional practice.Residencies are about “getting out of your current environment to dedicate your time to your artwork”Buyer beware: “Some online entries could ask you for proprietary, they might ask you for ownership, that when you win their little award, they have full access and rights to your images…”


21 Aug 2016

Rank #12

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Do Art Fairs Pay Off?

Do working artists need art fairs, even after securing representation? An artist himself, Ray Beldner explains the decision-making processes of developing stARTup Art Fair, as well as the important considerations for artists participating in any fair. In addition to running an impromptu cost-benefit analysis of art fair attendance, Ray and Podcast Host Daniel DiGriz discuss how to take the reigns and control your own career, the complexities of online selling, and the importance of a multi-pronged sales approach. Check out the show's highlights below, and then listen to the full 45-minute episode.How Do Artists Benefit From Fairs?“Having one-on-one face time with an artist is what the viewer wants, it’s a good way to sell art and look at art.”“Fairs are a great place to test ideas, to test your market, to learn how to make sales.”"You learn how to gauge interest, how to read buyers, close a sale, and how other artists pitch themselves and present their work---it can be an incredible learning experience, and profitable.""If you want to reach the most amount of people with your work---curators, dealers, buyers---a fair is one of the best way to do it."On Understanding and Controlling Your Own Business“Artists are business people---what happens in the artist/gallery relationship is that artists cede their control and, in so doing, become infantilized and dependent on the dealer.”“If you want to continuously grow your business, you have to grow your network of partners.”“Dealers are partners, and you can have many partners in different regions.”"It’s important that artists stop thinking of themselves by the old model---that only the dealer takes care of the artist.""Galleries come and go, but in the end, if you don’t think of yourself as a business then you won’t understand the critical concept of making a career as an artist."On Sales Strategy"You need a multi-pronged approach to create a vibrant business, and one prong doesn’t hurt the other; they can actually support each other well."“The move is away from brick-and-mortar galleries and toward something that’s event-driven and supported by an online component.”“A lot of traditional venues for artists have been failing or falling away. The internet has made everything more transparent and given artists tools to promote themselves online as well as off.”“You have to control setting the sales goals and building your team---that concept is empowering to artists.”


26 Mar 2018

Rank #13

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Make Your Art Economically Viable

Elizabeth Corkery is a large-scale installation artist and the founder of Print Club Ltd., a limited edition print making company. Her most recent and ambitious project to date is a spatially transformative sculptural exhibition called Ruin Sequence at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, opening October 8th. The project is funded by the Clark Hulings Fund Business Accelerator Program. Topics Include:Preparations for Ruin Sequence:“I started conceiving how I might make a body of work that was sculpturally-based and that could be presented alongside the plants.”“Probably about a dozen of the pieces were made at a residency in London. Then I would say another dozen have been made since coming home.”“This is my first foray into a new series of work that was sculpturally based rather than starting from print as the medium.”“Navigating the materiality of the pieces and how I wanted to construct them was probably the most challenging part.”“It’s not a conventional art world or gallery site, so it is going to expand awareness and hopefully appreciation of my work to a group of people that would otherwise not necessarily have encountered it.”Clark Hulings Business Accelerator Program:CHF funded the “fabrication of modular pedestal supports and also the transport of those and some of the marketing materials that are being produced in tandem with the show.”The Business Accelerator Program allowed me to “discover how applicable a lot of those strategies would be for promoting my personal work as well. That’s definitely a take away that I’ll be putting some of those strategies into place when I’m promoting this show and sharing imagery of this new work.”Print Club Ltd.:The salability of my art is what “prompted my decision to start Print Club because I really enjoy the act of screen printing and making prints on a regular basis…”“Print Club has become more of the commercial aspect of my work more so than my bigger installation practice.”“I was inspired by how easy it’s become to set up a nice looking online store and market yourself online.”“The next phase for Print Club is that I’m actually moving into inviting specific artists to do collaborative editions with me. It will be their designs, and we will work together to realize them as screen prints.”Protecting the Integrity of a Work:Importance of inventorying and tracking large pieces of work“When you sell a work, you can’t always have that control, if it’s heading off to a place that you can’t accompany it to.”“This work that’s going into the greenhouse, as I said there’s going to be a big of unpredictability about how it’s going to survive the next six months. I plan to make it available for sale, and I also am confident that it will survive the winter in the greenhouse.”Cross-over between Commercial Art and Fine Art:“The two can feed each other. I’ve learnt about marketing and about communicating the work online can be used to help promote my personal work as well.“They require some specific strategies for each of them. I’m still figuring out, as I said, how some of those marketing strategies could actually live for my own work as well. That’s a work in progress.”“I think having a business that’s run by an artist that has a career in their own right beyond the work that they’re making for that business only stands to raise the profile of the more commercial prints.”


27 Sep 2016

Rank #14

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Impact of Financial Literacy on Artistic Purity

Elaine Grogan Luttrull is a CPA and founder of Minerva Financial Arts, a company that increases business and financial literacy for artists and arts organizations. She also runs the Business & Entrepreneurship department at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. In this episode of the Thriving Artist Podcast, Elaine provides insights on the types of financial decisions that directly impact the purity of one's art!Topics include:The big financial questions (budgeting, pricing, taxes...)Tax issues artists faceHow do artists choose an entity type?Impacts of entity types (for taxes, health care types, creditworthiness)Overcoming the emotional barrier of art vs. business concernsThe “Starving Artist” stereotypeHow financial literacy impacts artistic purityWhat financial decisions say about an artistPricing of art: intrinsic value vs. commodityFinancial literacy as a path to more moneyListen now, or download and take this episode with you on your phone or mobile device. Also, read Elaine's recent post on pricing art. Minerva Financial Arts is at minervafinancialarts.comIf you’re a working artist, feel free to visit our Grants page. If you’re an arts industry professional, collector, or business specialist, or a working artist who would like to be interviewed, visit our Teach and Learn page. As always, even a modest donation is meaningful; and that page is here.


29 Sep 2015

Rank #15

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Why Are You Working for Free? Examining Arts Labor

Alexis Clements is a Brooklyn-based artist, journalist and documentary filmmaker. Her writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, Bitch Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, The Guardian, Nature, and she is a regular contributor to Hyperallergic. She has led workshops and moderated panels exploring labor issues within the arts. In this episode, Alexis and podcast host Daniel DiGriz discuss the economic realities of arts labor. Alexis provides a careful and nuanced examination of the forces impacting payment for visual artists, organizing efforts in the US and beyond, and philanthropy in the arts.The myths about how artists make money:“There’s an enormous amount of shame around money, particularly when people aren’t earning a lot of it, and there’s shame around excess money—in the art world, you have both groups meeting up against each other: at the top you have people spending huge sums of money to purchase artwork, and at the bottom, people are ashamed to talk about money because they think they’re the only ones not making any.”“The art market is intensely unstable and variable for an individual artist—the stats about ‘the good years’ in terms of making money over the course of a career puts it at 2.2 out of 16 years. That’s how it works—you don’t get career retrospectives at MoMA every year, you get one.”“The artist’s income is incredibly variable, so you have to have something that builds stability, even if you’re the 1% artist–even for those artists, there’s instability.”“I just gave a talk where I mentioned the two primary myths of success in the arts. One: ‘In order to be successful I must make all of my money off of my creative output alone’, and two: ‘I should spend all my time on my creative output.’ Those are complete myths.”“Artists are trying to access the data and find out what the earnings are for artists—‘how much income is derived from creative work?’ is a particularly thorny question.”“There is a shame around making money off of swag or reproductions or something else that isn’t art—but that is making money off of art.”The realities of funding in the arts:“Art is unpredictable, the kind of content that we really crave and want in art is often very provocative, and funders in the nonprofit space are excruciatingly risk-averse…this makes it very difficult for artists to access money to generate genuinely provocative work.”“Some great models I’ve seen in terms of philanthropy are people pooling resources together rather than individual funders, because the nonprofit system in the US—like the visual arts marketplace—encourages nonprofits and funders to think of each other as competition and that they need to put their personal mark on things.”“People have been trying to get rid of the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] for a really long time….I hope everyone listening to this knows that when there are right-leaning people in power, the discussion becomes ‘let’s defund the NEA’—it’s an annual tradition.”“People respond to art because it’s insightful or mixes things up in exciting ways and most humans understand that it’s a form of innovation and it’s part of what makes art so important to our culture—what has happened is the proliferation of the ‘creative economy’ has cheapened the understanding of what creativity really is.”On organizing for visual artists:“Artists are a constituency; by collaborating and communicating and by participating in professional organizations for your field, you are becoming an important body politic that can influence change.”“By aligning with other workers, you have a better sense of how you can actually affect change that will benefit you.”“What we’re talking about is solidarity—it’s very unlikely that artists will change legislation this month that will impact the payment structure of artists. But there are a lot of efforts that will help contingent workers—health care, for example–that would dramatically improve the conditions for all workers, including artists.”“The models are out there, they exist, and there’s potential for them to be implemented; the larger question is: what’s preventing those things? What’s standing in the way?”Setting benchmarks in the visual arts market:“There are lots of different fields within the arts that do actually have effective benchmarking, to give artists and clients an idea of what to put in their budget—it’s the visual arts that has the least amount of benchmarking.”“A lot of people have been talking about artists’ income, but not always necessarily thinking of artists as workers, in that particular way.”“In order to have leverage as an employee, you need to have demand for your labor that is consistent and strong and the reality is that that has never really existed for the visual arts, unless you go back to Painter’s Guilds a long time ago—they did exist, they set prices, they had benchmarks, they were a closed shop; if you wanted to have a portrait painted, you had to go to that Guild and get your portrait. But that’s because the demand for that product was stable and clear and strong.”“I don’t think there’s a chance that we’ll change the marketplace of the visual arts in a way that gives visual artists a strong sense of leverage in that way—we can’t create a closed shop the way unions can, where everybody in the shop has to be in the union. But what’s really important is the work of groups like W.A.G.E. [Working Artists and the Greater Economy], and what CHF is trying to do, which is to collaborate with each other, to be transparent, to share information.”On the lack of candor and transparency in the visual arts:“The way artists make money and spend money doesn’t fit easily into tax forms, and ultimately it’s those tax forms that are telling us what we know about people’s earnings.”“It has to do with the particulars of the economy that visual artists work within—the ways in which visual artists get paid, and the ways in which the work is in demand is very different from a lot of other artists and it goes back to that highly variable, highly unstable marketplace for the work of individual artists.”“It’s staggering what artists aren’t learning in a professional track; they aren’t having conversations about how to price their work, they have no idea that galleries discount work, they have no idea who’s marketing their shows, or what the expectations are around promoting their work is when they’re doing an exhibition.”“There is value in learning about arts, learning craft and technique, spending time with people interested in learning about an art form, but the problem is – people are pretending that everyone in that program will go on to be an artist, and we all know it’s not true.”“If we had richer conversations around what the value is of educating ourselves and what the framework should be for paying that, that would be more productive than saying that we should treat every artist in an arts program as if they were going to become a professional artist—because that’s selling people a bill of goods.”“The biggest problem is that higher ed. treats arts education as a vocational program, and that creates the expectation that graduates will go off and get a job, and it’ll be a good job, and that job will be an artist. It creates an expectation that ‘I should go out, earn a middle class income and benefits.’”On success and failure:“We think that the only way to be successful as an artist is to make our living from art, when all indications are that virtually none of the artists around today and in the last 100 years have ever been able to sustain a bill-paying income from their art-making alone.”“If we all buy into the idea that ‘reception of my work equals monetary payment’, a lot of people are going to feel like failures. This comes back to that sense of shame in not getting paid, when in fact it’s a systemic failure.”“It’s really tricky when you tie your self-worth to your monetary earnings.”“The product an artist is making is not in demand in the same way that food is, or computers are. I don’t need your art to fulfill that need; I can make my own art. The reality is that, while arts are corollary to other industries, the product is tied to the person. The reason I talk about success is that artists’ work is tied to self-worth. Failing to sell is very different from personal failure.”Sourcesalexisclements.comAll We’ve GotThe Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sales AgreementIndicting Higher Education in the Arts and BeyondLamenting the Demise of the Culture Class, AgainThe Secret Recipe for Success In the ArtsWhat Are the Chances? Success in the Arts in the 21st CenturyWorking Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.)

1hr 38mins

9 Nov 2017

Rank #16

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Engage New Sales Avenues to Increase Art Income

Aaron Laux is an artist who makes 100% of his income from his art—a rarity in the profession. In this episode, Aaron and podcast host Daniel DiGriz discuss Aaron’s business model and the Business Accelerator Program. A recent graduate of the fellowship’s first year, Aaron explains how he expanded his business to explore and utilize more avenues of sale. Listen to the 45-minute episode for Aaron’s ideas on the new and emerging art world models that favor working artists.On Accelerator and Business Development“Being able to wear two different hats and switch back and forth between different ways of thinking—it’s something that I wasn’t doing when I was young; I was more focused on the art and the adventure.”“What’s been great about this whole process is creating a momentum which involves all of the Fellows, and the ongoing evolution of business concepts.”“My goals have evolved. I was at a transition point, and Accelerator pointed me in the direction of other avenues of sale and different approaches; from working with galleries, to commissions, to e-commerce.”“I realized I can revisit this project I was working on six years ago—to build a solar photovoltaic sculpture that’s functional, but also aesthetically beautiful—I have the skills I need to create this project and make an Investment-Grade Proposal to find commission or investors for it.”“The Accelerator program has broadened my mind to how my art is relevant and how I can make money from it.”New Models in the Arts“There are ways to give clients more choices, to commission art that they want.”“Collectors aren’t buying the same way that they used to; they’re not buying at shows, but we’re seeing new art fairs and a status quo in terms of how fairs are run. If organizers employed a shared-risk approach, I think we’d see much more creativity in how these shows are put together.”“I do like the concept of Community Supported Art Projects generally, in that putting up initial funds could help create a steady cash flow for artists.”“Being able to talk directly with your potential clients is huge; I’ve learned a lot by starting out with art fairs, but fairs that share the risk more evenly offer a model that’s more artist-friendly.”On Keeping Perspective as a Working Artist“Surviving as an artist is a big deal. I’ve definitely felt like I’ve had to quit at moments, but with tenacity and support of loved ones, something always comes up.”“The world of corporate and public art commissions is very competitive—before, I wasn’t even playing the game—now I’m in the game.”“It’s been an evolution to be a professional artist, and it’s taken me a long time to get here….I’m coming around to really seeing this as not only what I do, but my lifestyle and my income.”


5 Feb 2018

Rank #17

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Economics of the Art Market

How does an artist bridge the divide between the art and business worlds? Neil Ramsay, founder and director of ArtsUp!, hopes to address this divergence by utilizing the 5,800 square-foot ArtsUp! facility as both an events space and a gallery, with massive installations that are located 12 feet off the floor. In this space, the artist becomes the CEO of their own project and must work in a cross-functional team to accomplish their vision.In this nearly hour long show, Neil describes how he became an artist advocate and why he designed and teaches the Visual Arts Marketing Course at Florida International University. This is such an incredible talk that the topics are best expressed as quotations from Neil himself:ArtsUp!:“It’s a platform for artists and creators to experiment with their particular craft.”“It is an artist-centric organization and it also endures as a private events space.”Came from “the idea of implementing a gallery that is literally available twelve feet above the ground where you’re standing up to the ceiling is how I developed that.”“Each project is almost like a start-up experience of its own.”“What I do is I really try to facilitate and remove many of the bureaucratic hindrances and things of that nature that make it repetitive.”Creating an Experiential Learning Opportunity:“The team forms a flat hierarchy so they [the artists] are absolutely in charge of their vision.”“As opposed to delivering a lecture or giving a series of instructions or something of that nature, it’s creating the environment for the individual that they can actually immerse themselves in.”An individual artist or creator runs the facility “by their willingness to actually join in with the facilitation of their idea.”“We share tools and equipment to help facilitate whatever the artist’s idea is for that particular space, and whatever site-responsive or site-specific project they want to realize.”“Each project each artist, like Vanessa Diaz, is treated individually.”“The level of involvement and responsibility in-and-of-itself is more than some artists are willing to endure, or that they feel that they’re above or below the contribution. We understand that. It’s just not for everyone.”Economics of the Art World:“The art market, I can tell you, is one of the last unregulated markets.”“The art fair and the gallery, all of these things, are intermediary. That is their job. That’s what that business is constructed to do. It is supposed to market, it is supposed to match the artist with collectors.”“Galleries start to form their own brand and their own interest and they might have their own niche and things like that. That’s entrepreneurial.”“If they believe that an art gallery is the only way, that artist needs further education. That’s what our purpose is. To say ‘you know what? There are other ways’.”“I think the point is that the artist has choices and it’s up to them to figure out what are all the options available, and every year a new option becomes available. We’re just in a very entrepreneurial and capitalist society.”Professionalism vs. Professionalizing:“Business has a hard time understanding the arts, so… I’m advocating for the professionalizing, that within the organization, the artist is seen just as professional as the accountant, just as professional as the director and the other typical roles…”“Artists went to art-school, not business-school. It’s not so much trying to make them an MBA overnight, it’s not about that.”“There’s a business language, there’s the language of arts, and what they will find in the experience is there is a lot of business vernacular and there is a lot of a business experience in the process. Even though it is an artist-centric organization and you can’t get around that…”Artist Advocacy:Artist advocate vs. arts advocate“I think that one of the responsibilities of having a voice in a particular area, you should speak for the people who don’t have a voice in that area, but especially when they are stakeholders in what’s being discussed or the decisions that are being made.”“I was using my voice in places where the artist traditionally isn’t sitting, in order to advocate for the artist.”“The business community can stand to learn a little about arts and creativity.”Visual Arts Marketing Course:“I wanted to share what I understand about economics and finance and the markets and how it structurally operates with the artists themselves.”“Explaining the structure and what their business is? They’re all businesses. So if you’re coming from an education that doesn’t teach you anything about business, you’re going to have a real hard time understanding the business practices.”“Hopefully, they can transpose their skills and increase their value to other people and communicate that to people who are not artists and who’ll have institutes or problems that are not art-related but they can be solved by an artist.”

1hr 3mins

13 Nov 2016

Rank #18

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Data Science in the Arts: Report on the Working Artist

Two years in the making, CHF’s Report on the Working Artist (ROWA) is a truly groundbreaking piece of research: the first of its kind demonstrating artists’ pivotal role in our changing economy. In this engaging conversation, CHF’s data analysis team Daniel DiGriz and Lily Dulberg sit down to discuss the methodology and significance of the Report, the documented demand for entrepreneurial training for artists, the gaps in existing research and traditional art education—and how we now have solid and replicable data that supports artists’ ability to make measurable contributions to our economy and the culture at large.Finding a Pattern: The Bottom Line for Working Artists“We’ve got a lot of information out there from many different sources, many reputable organizations, nonprofits, and our business education programs. But there’s so little information on what artists need to drive success, and what actually changes the landscape of their art business.”“Most of the data out there does not measure bottom-line outcomes, which it’s kind of funny, right? Because you need to know those things in order to develop new programs and create best practices and to support artists.”“Many organizations had information on their websites about the different types of programs they ran, and testimonials and quotes from artists on what they need. But there was no real evidence of what these programs were able to do for the artists. There were no business results, no income results.”“With all the data that we’ve collated, and more specifically, with the data that we have done in-house at the Clark Hulings Fund through our Business Accelerator Program and our events, we really came up with a pattern that we can follow for any type of research in the future. And that is, that attitudes change behavior. Behavior produces business results. And business results lead to increased income or revenue.”“One of the main things that I think that we should take away from this, that business education moves the needle for artists. It helps them make more income, it helps them develop a more robust network which allows them to increase their sales.”The Gap: Business Education for Artists“The ecosystem of gallerists, artists, and peer networks contribute so heavily to business results—and the success that artists see in their lives and in their businesses. There really aren’t enough art business events out there and there really aren’t enough groups for artists that foster communication around what it’s like to be in an art business.”“There’s a gap, and in that gap is business education. And it’s so mind-boggling to think that only 5% of an average sampling of fine arts curriculum involves any sort of entrepreneurial or business education.”“We had to establish that there was a gap, that it exists indeed, in order to say, ‘Okay, this is how we can fill the gap, this is how we can create change and this is how artists are already creating change.’ ”“…it was really amazing to be able to shed light on how that’s already happening and the research that shows that it’s replicable. Other organizations can do it, and the secret sauce is business training.”How We Collect and Analyze Data“So at the Clark Hulings Fund, we’ve been collecting data from our fellows, from [Art-Business Conference] participants, from artists who are involved with our work in many different ways. We have a whole process behind how we do that: we make sure that everything is categorized so that we can actually analyze the themes, and there are codes for the different themes that come up in what the artists are talking about.”“When have our conferences, we have artists coming up to us, giving us testimonials, talking about the experience—and none of that is lost in translation. We’re using everything that we received from the artists because that’s really where it starts, with the people. As you said, this is a human-driven thing. The data doesn’t come first. It’s the people. So, you know, we have the artists, and we’re doing the data to further shed light upon what’s possible when the community supports artists.”“We’ve put together something that people can get behind, because we have the data to prove that the artists who participate in our learning conferences and in the Art Business Accelerator program are seeing changes.”“And if you talk to anyone, any of the fellows, you’ll hear the same things that are reflected in the report. It’s like, ‘I’m making five times more income than I was before the program with just a couple of changes in my mindset and my business practices’. So it all ties together so beautifully, and I think that having the data to back it up is step one.”Working Artists Contribute to the Economy and More“What we found, was that there wasn’t much research or much literature out there on working artists’ contributions to the economy, but what WAS out there, points to huge influences on the micro, macro, and mezzo levels.“I think that’s really huge. To know that working artists, backed by the data science, make an impact. Not just in their local communities and the economy of the local community, but on a larger scale for the entirety of the United States.”“We found that, through some of the collated research out there, that crime rates go down when people have access to the Arts. There’s a very clear correlation between cultural engagement and community well-being.”“Aside from an economic standpoint, we also have the cultural aspect that you brought up, which is that artists inject their work into the world, and they, with their contributions to the cultural capital of the world, they’re really changing communities; on not just in micro-level, but also on the larger scale.”“This is really just the tip of the iceberg in research on working artists—being that we’re one of the first organizations and data science teams to really dive deeper and find out what moves the needle, what artists need to develop sustainable businesses.”“We’re really shedding light on the fact that something that we should be investing in, is art. Contributing to thriving artists and their work really changes the economy; it changes the culture of a city, of a country.”Read the Report on the Working Artist (ROWA) here. You may know individuals or organizations who will find that ROWA supports the case they want to make for artists or the cultural economy; please share it with them.


21 Nov 2019

Rank #19

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Create Your Own Success

Dean Mitchell is a nationally recognized painter of figures, landscapes, and still lifes, and his work often depicts themes from his southern upbringing. He’s won top honors from the National Watercolor Society and American Watercolor Society. Among the museums that house his work are the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and the St. Louis Art Museum. Dean is also a member of CHF’s advisory board.Building A Reputation:“I had to figure out a platform in which I could get known. The competitions started early on and that’s how I started nationally and internationally.”“Shows were the best way I knew to level the playing field. I did try to get grants, but that didn’t work out for me. Competitions worked out for me.”“Galleries have other artists they’re representing. And so I’d look around and think ‘how am I going to separate myself from the pack?’ So I’ve always looked at ways to market myself.”“Galleries are interested in selling the work. I was interested in getting known and [wanted] to be part of a conversation nationally.”“I’ve been in small towns and people think ‘there’s no art market there,’ but some of those people who live in those small towns are friends with people who are in the museum world.”“Galleries are a piece of the puzzle, but they are not the complete puzzle.”“When I did my first book, galleries told me ‘don’t do that, it’s a bad deal.’ And after my book, one of the galleries that said that, it’s sales tripled. That told me right there marketing was a huge part of it.”On Entering Competitions:“I don’t think I could ever get too well known that I wouldn’t want to do them. Why should I quit the very thing that gave me the platform for the voice I have?”“Shows were the best way I knew to get my name out there because they also did catalogues, and those catalogues became a marketing tool for my work.”“I thought the best way to build my platform was put my work in front of my peers, particularly in shows where they were giving out prize money. Sometimes when a painting wins a prize, a collector will suddenly be interested in it.”“You have to be your own critic. Sometimes the painting that’s edgy, collectors don’t necessarily want; but curators and museum directors who are judging shows like [it]. That’s something I think artists have to recognize.”“In order to get attention, I have to merit attention. I can’t just say ‘oh, I’m a great artist.’”Branding:“I’ve had galleries say to me ‘oh, we can’t sell that’. But the paintings they said they couldn’t sell, ended up selling for $40,000 each. So I will not have someone tell me what to paint.”“I’m controlling this narrative; no one else can control it. How someone wants to perceive it? That’s up to them. I have nothing to do with that.”“The brand isn’t consciously created. I’ve always, as an artist, explored my own emotions.”“I’m no Salvador Dalí, but I have built enough of a market that now I can start to work on leaving a legacy.”Genre and Style Pressure:“I looked at watercolors and thought ‘people are not willing to pay as much for these. This could possibly be another competition entry that’s a little less expensive.’”“I recognized there were a lot of watercolor competitions. And these built my platform. They built my reputation. But when people come to my show, they see how many mediums I work in.”“People think ‘I can’t afford that oil, but I can afford this watercolor.’ And people started to snap them up.”“There are people who are championing different things. Their sensibility might be different from yours. I do think realism has taken a hit, but I do think artists can be creative with it.”

1hr 4mins

4 May 2017

Rank #20