Students at the country’s top art schools may take classes in painting, printmaking or sculpture. They can study drawing one semester and digital photography or documentary filmmaking the next. By the time they graduate, they no doubt will have honed their talent and mastered the skills needed to be a professional artist.
But they probably won’t know the first thing about running a business.
These days, knowing how to market and sell art can be just as important for an artist as knowing how to create it. “The way we describe it, it’s another color on the palette,” says Jim Shermer, who heads up the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute offered by the Broward Cultural Division. “It’s something you have to learn how to use just as skillfully as the other techniques.”
Carolyn Edlund, director of sales and events at the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists (CHF), a nonprofit organization working to equip visual artists with the knowledge needed to be successful entrepreneurs, agrees. “The market is really changing,” she says. “Technology has turned everything completely upside down.”
In February, CHF will partner with the Broward Cultural Division and ArtServe to present the Fort Lauderdale Art-Business Conference: Conquer the Changing Marketplace. The two-day interactive training will cover a broad spectrum of topics ranging from planning to execution – including branding, portfolio development, revenue streams and online sales strategies.
Do it yourself
The days when all you had to do was find a gallery to represent you are over, Edlund says. “Artists need to understand how to be responsible for their own businesses, rather than depending on somebody else to market and sell for them.”
If you’re an artist, don’t worry – that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. You may want to hire someone to design your website, create a media kit for you or do your taxes. “Outsourcing makes sense,” Edlund says. “When it really comes to what you want, where you fit in the art world and where you’re going – I think that’s where artists need to have clarity.”
Edlund, who runs the popular art business blog Artsy Shark and is a big believer in detailed planning, will be one of the presenters at the Fort Lauderdale Art-Business Conference in February. In addition to her work for CHF, she has experience working with artists as a private consultant and has written seven e-courses on the business of art as well as scores of papers on the subject of the ever-evolving art market.
Elizabeth Hulings, CHF founder and daughter of noted artist Clark Hulings, will also be presenting. She specializes in the kind of practical business skills and strategic tools that are the building blocks of a successful entrepreneurial ventures. Corporate storyteller Daniel DiGriz, who writes a Forbes column and hosts podcasts like The Thriving Artist™ and ClientPipe™, will be on hand to help artists develop their brand narrative as part of an effective marketing campaign. A panel of local experts will also be convened.
Success should not be a dirty word. We refuse to accept the romanticized and ultimately destructive idea of the ‘starving artist’ as the standard to which artists should be held. They have the right to be fairly compensated for creating something that bears currency in the world.
Elizabeth Hulings, CHF’s director and co-founder.
“We’re going to be talking about doing a career blueprint. Then there are topics like pricing, selling art online and also understanding the different markets that artists have,” Edlund says. “There will be breakouts and a lot of audience interaction. [Attendees] will be doing self-evaluations and really looking at where they stand and what’s next for them.
Agents of change
The Broward Cultural Division has been at the forefront of the movement to provide essential business training to artists. “If you look at some of the traditional business training programs, they will teach you how to start a more conventional line of business, or service, but we noticed that there wasn’t really any arts-focused type of training,” Shermer, the Division’s grants administrator, says.
Since 2007, more than 770 artists have attended the Division’s Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute, a four-weekend program open to artists in all creative fields featuring lectures, panels and interactive workshops led by top-ranking arts practitioners and industry professionals in South Florida. Shermer was contemplating the possibility of offering another level of training when he was contacted by CHF about a potential partnership that would do just that.
The art business training offered by CHF is a great complement to the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute, Shermer says. “They offer a greater depth of services to artists. There are art-business accelerator services, mentoring programs, a host of learning services beyond what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Those who register for the Fort Lauderdale Art-Business Conference in February will have an opportunity to explore some of those offerings. “Every student who signs up for the event gains access to our online learning portal which is a robust center of all kinds of training and videos and arts business topics as well as a community where they have discussions and groups, a place to go for answers and networking and so forth,” Edlund says. “That continues the education and the relationship after the event is over.”
While CHF’s Fort Lauderdale Art-Business Conference will offer new avenues for established artists and graduates of the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute to explore, the training is also a good fit for younger artists. “Our programs are designed for a variety of artists,” Edlund says. “We are looking at artists who are serious and who are ready to direct their own careers.”
After all, as Elizabeth Hulings says, “Art is a business and artists should run it.”
Fort Lauderdale Art-Business Conference: Conquer the Changing Marketplace
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 – 2, 2019, 8 am to 5:30 pm at ArtServe
1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Tuition Support: Broward-resident visual artists are invited to apply for tuition support to attend the national conference: The Art-Business Conference – Fort Lauderdale, presented by The Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists. Seating is limited. The regular registration fee after January 1, 2019 will be $395. If selected, the artist will receive a $300. scholarship, and will be required to pay only $95. to attend.