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Artpreneur 2016 keynote speaker, Jinny Yu. Photo by Liana Voia.

Artpreneur conference teaches artists to hustle

By Andrew Monro on November 12, 2016

Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 71 Bank Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.


“It was only recently that I finally accepted that hustling was part of my job.” That was Ottawa-based visual artist, and keynote speaker for Artpreneur 2016, Jinny Yu, as she sat on stage next to the other speakers, singer-songwriter Lynn Miles and theatre producer Adrienne Wong. In only a few words, Yu summed up the purpose of Artpreneur – helping artists of all types learn and grow their creative professions.

“It was only recently that I finally accepted that hustling was part of my job.” 

Artpreneur, now in its fourth year, is a one-day conference that aims to inspire artists, creatives and groups to work and grow in our unique community. Held at the Shenkman Arts Centre, produced and sponsored by a range of Ottawa-based businesses and organizations, this year’s conference theme was “Put Yourself on the Map.” Attendees had opportunities to listen and learn from local artists and business leaders about how to find their way in Ottawa, use entrepreneurship to get noticed in our city’s arts and culture scene, advance their careers, and find the success they are looking for.

After the morning keynote, the conference was broken up into several workshop sessions. There was a range of workshops and panels, too much for one person to see alone. So I picked the workshops that sounded most interesting (especially for a writer like me). Here is a taste of some of those workshops and presentations.

Designing a Creative Business Map

In the morning, Toni van Eeden, CEO of RedBrick Rooster, and Tanya Woods, Chief Impact Officer of Kind Village, took the stage and talked about designing a creative business map. The two women walked the audience through building a business plan using the same creative skills they use in making their art.

Artists have a profound understanding of their own art, but may have received little to no education on the business of their art, which demands a different set of skills and involves many artists having to change how they think about themselves

“What can you deliver on consistently and what value are your offering to your client?” Toni led us through the core elements of a business, including how to create an effective mission statement, value proposition and how to find the market fit that works. Tanya then talked about businesses and entrepreneurs being able to create meaningful social impact and doing work that does more than just meet a financial bottom line. When you aim to have social impact on a bigger social issue, it helps to work with organizations like Kind Village who understand business realities and the many different ways you can use art to make a different. This will make it “easier for you to achieve your impact goal and help to build stronger, kinder, and more sustainable communities.”

I found it striking how much of a chord both of them hit with the audience. Artists have a profound understanding of their own art, but may have received little to no education on the business of their art, which demands a different set of skills and involves many artists having to change how they think about themselves and their art as the foundation of a marketable brand. Even more, both of the speakers emphasized how this does not simply have to be about making money from their work, but how it can also influence bigger social outcomes for both their profession, and the community.

Beyond Grants: Alternative Resources and Support

“Sponsorship should be approached as partnerships for growth opportunities in our communities, artists’ disciplines and local businesses,” said Christina Devine, public relations and web coordinator for House of PainT. Christina and her fellow panellists, Dan Gainsford of Windpath Media, Zachary Dayler of the Wellington West BIA, moderated by Michael Wallack of Wallack’s Art Supply, discussed how artists – by engaging with the community and with businesses – could find funding and support beyond grants and government funding. Discussion focused on the need to create value in our work – how art can be a kind of problem-solving for individuals and organizations, and a foundation for in-kind agreements, partnerships and patronage of artists by enterprises that value their work and can use it to further their own goals. Christina drove home the message that artists, when engaging patrons and potential clients, need to keep transparency, authenticity and accountability top of mind in all of their interactions.

L to R: Michael Wallack, Zachary Dayler, Christina Devine, Dan Gainsford. Photo courtesy of Artpreneur.

L to R: Michael Wallack, Zachary Dayler, Christina Devine, Dan Gainsford. Photo courtesy of Artpreneur.

The energy and enthusiasm of both the panellists and the audience was palpable. The main message that I think many people walked away was this: ask for what you need. A wealth of possibilities and opportunities can be created through relationship-building between artists and business that go well beyond the scope of government or organizational funding. These could develop into some of the most sustainable and fulfilling professional relationships that artists could have, and it starts with finding ways that everyone can help support each other’s business goals and being upfront and clear about the value that everyone can bring.

Collaborations

In the afternoon, there was a workshop on collaborations. The panel consisted of Tara Shannon (Willow Sound Artist Development), Megan Piercey Monafu (Community-Supported Art Ottawa) and Impact Hub Ottawa’s Artist-in-Residence, and Cynthia O’Brien (owner of Blink Gallery).

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Each told stories about how the collaborative spirit had influenced their creative work. For many, Ottawa’s art scene might feel a little insular, the reality is that, as Megan pointed out, “it might be impossible to create art that is not collaborative.” There still a myth out there that artists work in isolation – each of the three women told stories about how many of their most successful artistic endeavours resulted from not only working with other artists, but other members of the community as well. On the other hand, while collaboration is overwhelmingly seen as a positive thing, it is important to lay out clear boundaries and expectations before the work is started, especially if the people involved are not the right fit for each other.

Artpreneur 2016 was a remarkable convergence of artistic work, business and marketing expertise. Geared toward not only to help creative professionals grow and nurture their art careers, but also to show how businesses could work with artists, and get positive results from these relationships.

Visit www.artpreneurottawa.com for more on Artpreneur or follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter.

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