I attended the 2012 Make Art Your Business Conference because I was looking for some advice on how to jump start my small creative business. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I arrived at Blue Ridge Community College, but by the end of the day I was glad I went. What did I get out of the conference? Three things—inspiration, information, and encouragement.
The keynote speaker was Ragan McManus, Executive Director of Arts Council of the Valley. I was inspired by Ragan’s story, which included details about her early relationship with art, her educational experience at CalArts, and her commitment to educating the community, especially children, about art.
I was also inspired by some of the other attendees I met—artists and creative people of all sorts. It was nice just sitting and talking with them during lunch and finding out how others are either earning an income with their art or working toward that goal.
The conference was packed with valuable information. Marc Willson’s presentation on Art as Business provided great insight on how to set up a retail setting—a vendor booth at arts and craft shows in my case—to improve sales. For example, he stressed the importance of well-positioned lighting that really shows off our work.
Michael Hough’s presentation was equally informative, and from the perspective of a fellow artist. I learned the proper way to approach retail establishments when inquiring about wholesale or consignment sales. I also enjoyed Deb Booth’s out-of-the-box tips on how to expand one’s artistic income. And Betty Hoge’s roundtable discussion on pricing was valuable, since pricing is something I’ve struggled with.
Other valuable information I walked away with includes introductions to the Artisan Trail, the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center (SVSBDC) in Harrisonburg, and the numerous art classes offered at Blue Ridge Community College.
The final presentation of the day was delivered by John Hancock. His entertaining talk covered the balancing act creative people perform between art, work, and life. It’s not always easy, but it’s nice to know others are out there and struggling with the same issues.
Since the conference, I’ve been working with the SVSBDC and learning about everything from branding to budget forecasting. I believe the inspiration, solid information, and encouragement I’ve received—at the Make Art Your Business Conference, from the SVSBDC, and from friends and family—have taught me that my creative business will grow in direct proportion to the amount of effort and artistic sweat I put into it and given me the confidence to keep working toward that goal.
Studio D Beads