Artists anticipate and affix meaning to major social, cultural, and economic shifts—they help communities make sense of the world around them. They inspire us with their ingenuity, and our communities are transformed by their creations. Yet artists and culture makers are often misunderstood, and the value of their contributions is hard to measure.
Artists and arts and cultural organizations are entrepreneurs whose very productivity in a community can elevate the quality of life, help generate economic activity, and nourish the ground for innovation to take root. And while communities are increasingly embracing the opportunity to build vibrant, arts-driven places, few of these investments flow to the artists themselves.
Surdna is supporting efforts to provide artists the entrepreneurial skills they need to develop greater economic self-sufficiency, so that they can learn how to benefit financially from their art and create opportunity for others.
Surdna grantee First Peoples Fund (FPF), for example, provides business training to Native artists to help connect their craft to broader community development strategies and to demonstrate this activity as a catalyst for economic and social change. Jeremy Staab, a graphic designer and member of the Santee Sioux Nation, is an FPF business coach who says the trainings not only provide expert counsel on breaking into new markets, budgeting and business expansion, they also offer a reassuring boost of confidence to artists that their work—and their very presence—is critical to the community.
Another Surdna-funded program at the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) matches creative ventures with business mentors, subject matter experts, and a dedicated DC3 entrepreneur-in-residence to work with entrepreneurs, providing the coaching, executive mentoring, office space, and other resources they need to plan and execute their business objectives. According to Jesse Green of MammothReach, a Web design company, DC3’s business acceleration services have helped the people at MammothReach quickly learn things about their business that would have taken them years to realize on their own. And the Web design firm has been paired with mentors and resources that have allowed Green to accelerate the growth of his dream.
These and similar programs are cultivating artists’ business skills so they and their communities can continue to benefit from the inquiry, understanding, provocations, and debate nourished through artists’ presence.