It takes more than artistic talent and technique to earn your living as a visual artist. Like other entrepreneurs, professional artists need business and sales training to be economically successful, but few art schools provide these skills, and many artists lack access to this vital expertise and training.
Enter The Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists (CHF), which invites artists to “conquer the changing marketplace” at its upcoming Art Business Summit in Dallas this fall. From September 7th through 9th, working artists will have the opportunity to accelerate their careers by immersing themselves in a weekend-long business-development workshop.
Taking place at The Alexander Mansion, just blocks from Dallas’ vibrant Arts District, the summit manifests CHF’s foundational assertion that “art is a business, and artists should run it.” With the art market undergoing rapid and significant change—not only with regard to technology but also HOW art is marketed, bought, and sold—the national nonprofit organization maintains that artists need to reclaim their rightful position at the center of the industry. “Success should not be a dirty word,” says Elizabeth Hulings, CHF’s director and co-founder. “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.”
CHF’s summit has been designed to help them do that, teaching artists to take charge of their careers, maximize the extraordinary professional advantages they already possess, captivate their audience, build a powerful network of allies, and sell their art effectively and profitably. “A live, in-person experience with other serious artists who want to grow their small businesses can be transformational,” says Carolyn Edlund, CHF’s events and sales director. “It is our intention that every summit participant take away a vision for growing their business and a step-by-step plan for doing that.”
The program will be led by Hulings, Edlund, and Daniel DiGriz, the organization’s education and marketing director. Attendees will learn how to create a brand story, multiply their revenue streams, price their work for profit, sell art online effectively, build a strong support team, squash resistance, and more. They will also have the opportunity to participate in interactive sessions during which they get to ask the summit’s leaders their specific business questions.
The Dallas gathering is just the latest learning event spearheaded by CHF, which co-hosted an art business summit in Santa Fe this past April. At that earlier event, as at CHF summits past, the program emphasized thriving both as individual entrepreneurs and as members of a community. Part of the time was spent in small-group discussions, allowing artists to learn from and share information with each other—an eye-opening and valuable experience for many. “Where I come from, you don’t work together,” says Melissa Whitaker, a Santa Fe attendee. “You don’t share information. It’s like pulling teeth out of people … you have to go it alone. And so just the thought of having a power collective is really very strong and appealing.”
For other Santa Fe participants, the April 2018 summit had an even more profound effect, shifting their entire business-management mindset. “[With regard to] the part about setting the goals and the follow-through,” says participant Theresa Ratcliff, “I realized that I’m doing that in the other aspects of my life, but I’m just not doing it with my art business.” Edlund echoed this idea, pointing out that artists already possess many of the qualities they need to be successful entrepreneurs. “They have an advantage,” she says, “in that they are already creative thinkers. They just need to know how to deploy that advantage.”
In addition to the learning opportunities, the summit will kick off with a reception and art business congress—at 4pm on Friday, September 7th—allowing attendees to meet informally with local organizations and individuals whose mission is to serve artists. The summit closes on Sunday, September 9th, with an evening soiree where participants can decompress, enjoy a glass of wine, and make plans to meet up with each other in the future to build on the connections they establish at the event.
The total fee for the weekend-long summit is $395, but CHF is offering an early-bird price of $245 until August 1st, with the coupon code EARLYBIRD. Tickets are available here. Along with admission, ticket holders also receive “Colleague”-level access to CHF’s Business Accelerator Portal, a comprehensive online learning resource for working artists.
Beyond its art business summits and online portal, CHF delivers entrepreneurial education and tools through a rigorous, graduate-level Business Accelerator program of study, and The Artist Federation, artist-formed and artist-led networks of opportunity. All of this work is focused on achieving one aim: equipping visual artists to thrive as self-sustaining entrepreneurs. “We offer a holistic model that provides support to artists,” said Edlund, “starting from where they are now, to the achievement of their goals, and all points in between.”
For more information and to register for CHF’s summit, please visit: https://clarkhulingsfund.org/events/texas/.
By Sofia Perez, Clark Hulings Fund