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The Trend of the Artist Entrepreneur

Macchia by artist Dale Chihuly [1]It used to be that being an artist meant not making money (“starving artist”) except for a tiny few who hit the big time (such as Dale Chihuly [2]).

But Steve King [3], a member of our Small Business Trends Expert network, has been profiling the trend toward artists combining entrepreneurship with art.  He points out how people are choosing art as their life’s passion and learning how to make a business of it, too, to support themselves and their families.

A few months ago over at the OPEN Forum site, he wrote about the artist entrepreneur, noting 3 underlying trends supporting this broader trend toward combining business and art skills:

” … [W]hile making a living as an artist continues to be difficult, 3 broad trends are combining to create new opportunities for artist entrepreneurs:

1. Consumer interest in unique, one-of-a-kind or handcrafted products is growing, broadening the market for works of art.

2. The Internet is creating new and effective methods for tech savvy artists to find an audience – and for art buyers to easily find art that interests them.

3. Technology is reducing the costs of producing many types of art, allowing artists to price at levels that attract new buyers and expand the art market. Technology also gives artist entrepreneurs the ability to create and manage small businesses with multiple revenue streams. This greatly increases the likelihood they will generate enough revenue to succeed.”

This past week the New York Times also picked up on the topic [4], citing Steve’s article and writing about several artists who are making a living through their art.  The New York Times article mentions Dr. Elliot  McGucken’s course in artist entrepreneurship [5], which teaches artists that they should have the skills to profit from their creations.

This is a welcome development.  It’s great to see artists who figure out how to cost-effectively produce and sell their artwork, and otherwise are able to combine entrepreneurship with their creative sides.

We used to own an art gallery, and were literally stunned when we started dealing with artists in a business relationship for the first time.  Many did not have practical business skills — and a surprising number lacked even basic organizational skills.

They’d move and leave no forwarding addresses so that it was impossible to send them payments for consigned work.   Some would go weeks or months without returning phone calls or answering letters or emails — even though you were trying to buy more of their work.  They’d take months to cash checks!



A large percentage of artists had no record-keeping system or accounting system — NOTHING, not even pencil and paper.  Some artists would completely forget which artworks they had delivered to you and their prices.  Although we never cheated anyone, I can imagine that many artists were flat out cheated for the work they so lovingly created.

Consider that if art is your life’s calling, shouldn’t you make a fair profit from it, too?  What’s wrong with that?