Teaching the Art of Art-Business

Emi Dammers, The Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists

What makes a successful artist? An art career is not made just by talent or knowledge. Artists have to put in the work and practice to perfect their craft over time, and the same is true of their entrepreneurial development. The right tools for success are something that everyone is looking for, but few find.

The problem is that in the art world, stories of the road to success can often be vague and can gloss over the important details artists need. An absence of business training and a lack of supportive professional networks can leave artists relying on the hope of being discovered: but a more empowering model is that artists thrive when the plan for their career is back in their own hands. When they are armed with entrepreneurial skills and specific information, artists can make informed decisions about their professional trajectory and meet their art-industry collaborators as peers.

The Clark Hulings Fund (CHF) is a nonprofit organization built to help artists learn business skills and become more effective entrepreneurs—and to encourage open dialogue and transparency in the art industry as a whole. With the central purpose of “turning working artists into thriving artists,” they have made these events available to support art communities across the country, and have made learning content accessible online as well. Their ongoing series of Art-Business Conferences includes two more “boots on the ground” events in 2019.

Earlier this year at the Washington DC Metro-Area Art-Business Conference, artist Pamela Gordimer said: “It was a wonderful event and pivotal point for my art business. I cannot thank you enough! After being through the amazing weekend of valuable information provided by the CHF group, I’ve been so inspired to move forward and push my art business to a new level.”

CHF’s next conference is in art community haven, Santa Fe, New Mexico. It will be a three-day event September 16, 17, and 18, 2019 at the Santa Fe Convention Center. The first two days of the conference will be business training for artists and artisans, jam-packed with presentations and top-of-the-line breakout sessions. Central topics include setting a viable business objective and action plan, honing a brand story, pricing, sales strategies, and building a dynamic peer network. A Thriving Art Exchange (TAE) event on the final day of the conference will bring artists together with art industry leaders and influencers, government and business owners, and collectors and other stakeholders for a day of productive discussion designed to foster collaboration—and to work towards building a productive art industry in which all of its members can thrive. The conference is presented by CHF in partnership with the Santa Fe Arts Commission.

Executive Director of The Clark Hulings Fund, Elizabeth Hulings speaking at the Washington, DC Metro-Area Art-Business Conference 2019. Photo credit: Kelly Heck.

Conference leaders include Elizabeth Hulings—executive director of the Clark Hulings Fund. “Art is not a charity,” says Hulings, “and artists should not be expected to work just for ‘exposure,’ or to starve for the ‘privilege’ of doing their jobs.” Artists are expected to play within a set of rules that shift regularly and without warning. Entrepreneurial training equips artists to respond, to take advantage of shifts, to seize the moment effectively and make the most of opportunities in the changing art market.

A second fall conference is also happening this year, taking place in Virginia November 7–9, 2019. The event features the same art-business training and industry dialogue components as Santa Fe, but in reverse order. It starts off with a Thriving Art Exchange at the beautiful Belmont Estate, featuring brainstorming with working artists and other key industry community members, including locals, college, and nonprofit arts administrators, collectors, gallerists, retailers, and more. Join in this interactive process as we work toward shared goals, values, strategies, and action plans. The second two days are specifically for artists and artisans, honing-in on state-of-the-art entrepreneurial strategy and taking place at the University of Mary Washington Stafford Campus. Additional partners include Stafford County Virginia Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and the Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

The Santa Fe and Virginia gatherings are the latest learning events spearheaded by CHF, who has led multiple Art-Business Conferences in previous years and is making a measurable impact on artists’ success. The program emphasizes thriving both as individual entrepreneurs and as members of a community. Part of the time is spent in small-group discussions, allowing artists to learn from and share information with each other—an eye-opening and valuable experience for many. Artist Erin Bassett, who participated in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida conference this winter said: “I found the information extremely useful and the instructors very knowledgeable. I made goals in the conference that I have started to take action on. The connections I made with the other students, instructors and special guests were also a benefit.”

Daniel DiGriz speaking at the CHF Washington, DC Metro Area Art-Business Conference 2019.
Photo credit: Kelly Heck.

Both events will additionally be led by CHF Accelerator Facilitators Carolyn Edlund and Daniel DiGriz—with Thriving Art Exchange (TAE) discussions moderated by CEO of Change Events, Shem Cohen. Artists can register for the art-business training at the Santa Fe Conference using coupon code SFREGISTEREARLY in the shopping cart to save $500 until July 31st, with savings the earlier you register until September 13th. For the Virginia Conference, use coupon code VAREGISTEREARLY in the shopping cart to save $500 on registration until September 8th, with continuing reduced rates until November 5th. Art community professionals can register for the TAE discussions for Virginia and Santa Fe by selecting the “Industry Badge” on the same registration page.

The Art-Business Conference helps artists hone their business into a fine art. As a facilitator of positive, professional dialogue within the art industry, CHF is supporting a healthy ecology to support the interests of all of its stakeholders. With multiple days in Santa Fe and Virginia, it’s easier than ever to meet your art community in person and build a supportive group with your professional peers.


  1. Sagarworld

    17 October

    Thanks for sharing this informative blog about art and its business.

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