Over the past year, I’ve been more active in learning about the business aspect of my art. I already told you guys about the classes I’ve been taking and the research I’ve been doing, but I’ve yet to mention the conference, workshop, and panel discussion I went to a while ago.
Last November, I went to the annual “Make Art Your Business” Conference at Blue Ridge Community College. This conference is still pretty new–it began in 2011. I wasn’t able to go the year before unfortunately, so I was really excited that I had the opportunity to go this time. The conference took place on a Monday so I skipped class and brought an artist friend with me. It was a great experience. I networked a little and learned a ton of information about marketing strategies, setting up a physical store, creating a social media presence, getting work into galleries, etc. The keynote speaker was Ragan McManus, the executive director of The Arts Council of the Valley in Harrisonburg. Her presentation was probably my favorite part of the conference.
The conference this year is taking place on Monday November 4th from 9am-4pm and the keynote speaker is internationally-known artist P. Buckley Moss. I recommend this conference to any artist who is interested in starting a business as well as artists who have already taken the plunge and own a business. It’s always a good idea to keep seeking more information and see what other people are doing. You can find more information and register here: Make Art Your Business
A few months later in February, I went to a workshop called Start Smart that I signed up for through the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center in Harrisonburg (which also co-sponsored the Make Art Your Business conference). This workshop did not focus on art, but on starting any kind of small business. It’s goal was to help participants determine whether starting a small business was really what they wanted, and if so, how to get started and what things to consider. We talked about coming up with a business name, the importance of marketing, common mistakes, startup costs, etc. The small workbook I got to take home with me even had a thoroughly-explained business plan template, which I find very useful.
The last thing I attended that I want to mention was a panel discussion in Roanoke. This discussion was part of the Cox Business Executive Discussion Series. I went on May 8th when the topic was “The Role of the Arts in Economic Development.” Admission was free and participants were provided with a really nice breakfast. The expert panel included: David Mickenberg (former president/CEO of the Taubman Museum of Art), Amy Moorefield (director of the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University), Chris Morrill (city manager of the city of Roanoke), Wayne Strickland (executive director of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission), and Ruth Waalkes (associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech).
The discussion was really enlightening and I learned about the growth of art where I live compared to the growth and presence of art in other fairly large cities. I also learned that while Roanoke is developing pretty quickly, it is not the greatest place for a new artist (like me) who doesn’t have a lot of connections. In other words, there seems to be more focus on individual success than there is on helping out fellow artists. This is pretty discouraging, but I think it’s good to be realistic when it comes to your career. For the time being, I am staying in Roanoke. After all, with the internet, you can become a successful artist even in the smallest of towns. Successful is a relative term of course.
I’ve learned so so much in the past year about starting a business, and I’m actually feeling pretty confident that I can do this. Unfortunately, this government shutdown is putting a bit of a damper on things, so I’ll just keep doing some more research in the meantime. As always, thanks for reading :]