Artist Incubator highlights business side of craft

Posted on Feb 10 2015 - 9:06am by McKenna Wierman 

Artists are commonly stereotyped with their brushes in hand, painting, dancing or singing their way to fame or failure. What isn’t perpetuated is the business side of artistry. The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council will hold the third of a series of workshops designed to teach business and marketing skills while networking artists and professionals tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Powerhouse. The workshop, Artist Incubator, is open to any individual involved in visual and performance arts.

Meghan Gallagher, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America), has aided the arts council in developing education and anti-poverty programs for both children and adults. Gallagher said she books speakers and activities that will help artists develop business knowledge and a network of experts that will help grow small businesses into successful ones.

“Many of the tasks, like writing a business plan or answering intellectual property questions like ‘What are the implications for the image of my painting if I post it to my blog or Etsy shop?’ can be hard to answer unless you’ve spoken with an experienced businessman or an intellectual property lawyer,” Gallagher said. “It can be intimidating, though, to know where to start looking for such an expert. The arts council, through the Artist Incubator, is helping develop an entrepreneurial network upon which artists can rely.”

But the purpose of the workshops isn’t simply to help artists rocket to fame, notoriety and fortune. She said the arts council hopes that in supporting local artists, they are supporting the families and small businesses of the Oxford community.

“The hope is that we’ll impact entire families — a successful small business will bring a livable wage to an entire household,” Gallagher said. “Successful small arts-based businesses also give back to the community, enriching the cultural diversity and the scope of the arts programming available to the community.”

Vicki Stevens, a visual artist who has attended the two previous workshops, said after each session she has gone home with new ideas and thoughts about steps to take in her business of creating art.

“At the ones I have attended, I have met musicians, painters, printmakers, jewelers and writers – all seeking the tools to improve and promote their particular form of art,” Stevens said.  “The sessions are led by business professionals on a variety of topics. Artists are giving the opportunity to listen, ask questions, network and talk with the session leaders. It is a valuable opportunity to gain knowledge from professionals that artists may not have access to on a daily basis.”

The two previous Artist Incubator workshops have focused on business development, using social media to promote work and dealing with legal issues. The upcoming session will focus primarily on how to present yourself publicly and professionally as an artist. Gallagher said since the quarterly workshops began in 2008 Artist Incubator has drawn a crowd from all around Lafayette County.

“Artists from north Mississippi typically attend the workshops,” said Gallagher.  “We have had members of the artist guild, college students and emerging artists attend.  We have had fashion, visual and performing artists attend.  The workshops are always open to the public, too.”

Since attending the workshops, Stevens, who specializes in painting abstracted natural landscapes, has found unique ways to showcase her work around Oxford. She has participated in the Gallery Series at the Powerhouse as well as the Art Vending Machine, which both work to promote and showcase local art. Steven said the Gallery Series is exhibited at the Powerhouse and featured on the monthly Art Crawl including a tour of art exhibits around Oxford with transportation on the double decker bus.

“The Art Vending Machine is a sort of snack vending machine at Cups that dispenses art instead of snacks,” Stevens said. “Both are fun, unique ways to view art.”

Making a name for yourself is key to the success for any artist. Sometimes, however, the difficult part can be finding outlets to do so. Through the Artist Incubator workshops, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council helps local talent to seek out and utilize the opportunities around them.

Jordan Smith is another Oxford creative who has participated in workshop discussions said the workshops are a great way to learn more about the art scene around town, and to become more involved with the art community in Oxford.

“The workshop is a great opportunity to network and increase your support network,” Smith said.  “It is nice to learn that there is a network of like-minded and similar people here in Oxford.”

Smith, a collector of odd art and old ephemera, became involved with the artistic community in Oxford through last summer’s Fringe Festival where he had a small showcase on the second floor of Boure.

“My showcase was about CB Radio QSL cards of the 1970s,” Smith said. “My collection was just featured in a book called Public Collectors and I have a website devoted to the art of these weird, forgotten things. I wanted a chance to showcase them and the arts council liked it to and felt like it fit the spirit of the Fringe Festival.”

Registration is free and can be completed online. All artists interested in learning to market themselves better and establish a stronger relationship with the creative community in Oxford are encouraged to attend.

McKenna Wierman