Details, Details: The Fund Helping Artists Boost Their Business Acumen

Conventional wisdom tells us that the pure artist doesn't concern himself with the minutia of the corrupted business world.

We highly doubt that Botticelli, after whipping up The Birth of Venus, popped into the office of his patron, Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici, to pour over P&L statements or submit his expense report (with receipts).

But—spoiler alert!—things have changed in the last 500 years.

Whether they like it or not, artists need to become more business-minded (we'll get to why they need to become more business-minded in a second) and fortunately, grantmakers have been increasingly active in guiding this transition, as we've reported in the past. 

Related: Here's Five Million Bucks to Help Juilliard Grads Actually Make Some Money

Here we look at the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists. Their home page boldly proclaims "Art is a Business," and though our inner Botticelli may recoil at such a crass statement, we must inevitably nod in solemn agreement.

And so the Clark Hulings Fund provides business training and funding to professional working artists through online learning resources, business tools, networking opportunities, and "accelerator grants" that provide funding capital to extend artists' careers.

Now before we take a closer look at the fund's accelerator program, we feel obligated to buttress our earlier argument around the need for artists to become more business-savvy. In short, don't just take our word for it. Grantmakers and organizations alike see the writing on the wall, and the need for more business-oriented artists manifests itself in various ways.

For example, take the rise of arts-related venture philanthropy. In our brave new world of real-time performance metrics, donors increasingly want to see a relative return on investment. The purist in us would argue that "art for art's sake" is sufficient, but alas, that isn't the world we live in. And so artists need to brush up on effective ways to measure performance, impact, and engagement.

Then there's the rise of creative placemaking, which places artists squarely within their community, thereby compelling them to engage with all types of relevant stakeholders, including banks, lending officers, zoning planners, and so on. They need to navigate these red tape-strewn waters like a small business owner or entrepreneur.

When you add it all up, it's no surprise that panelists from a recent Art Basel discussion around the state of arts-related venture philanthropy argued that artists need to become more business-savvy:

If art is supposed to serve a cross-over social purpose, artists, by that very definition, need to expand their skill set. They need effectively leverage—quoting [Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors President and CEO Melissa] Berman again—"capital and financial instruments" that have traditionally been available to their non-artist small business brethren.

Which brings us back to the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists.

The fund will accept applications from September 1st through September 30th, 2016 for its Business Accelerator Program, which aims to "transform the art industry by helping visual artists better manage their businesses and overcome the specific business challenges they face so that they can be financially independent and make a living through the creation of their art."

In doing so, the program seeks to fill a void in the art world:

Art schools rarely teach business skills, but these are essential if artists are to seize lucrative opportunities in a timely manner, and navigate an industry rife with predatory middlemen who foster dependency by exploiting artists' self-doubt about their business acumen.

And so the fund also addresses a dynamic as old as the Renaissance itself: bankers, agents, or other shady financial characters exploiting an artist's lack of business acumen.

A total of 20 artists will receive free tuition for CHF’s 2017 Business Accelerator workshop course, along with individualized feedback from our Business Accelerator team. For more information and to apply click here.

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