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June 2024

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Make Art Work

Artists of many genres gathered over the weekend of March 2 and 3 for a free business development workshop specifically targeted to the creative economy. Tenured artists as well as artist entrepreneurs received training on developing the building blocks to establish and grow a thriving arts practice.
Held in Questa at the Living Word Ministries Fellowship Hall, 28 individuals from as far away as Santa Fe attended the workshop to further develop their personal branding, strengthen and enhance their current marketing and promotional practices, and set goals for their creative businesses.

To begin the workshop, attendees introduced themselves one by one, and shared a brief description of the art they call their own; photography, watercolor, bluegrass music, murals, leatherworks, plein air painting, writing, and more. It was a truly diverse and passionate group.

Chris Dahlquist, one of three facilitators for the day from the Mid-America Arts Alliance (all artists themselves), introduced the workshop by explaining, “Successful artists understand the business side. They leverage relationships and technology, set goals—they often have multiple revenue streams, and are proactive in asking for what they need.”

Guided exercises were used throughout the day to galvanize these ideas. The participants were asked to change tables after each task to share their outcomes, hear one another’s unique results, and connect with others in the workshop.

Dahlquist explained that before goals could be set, self-assessments needed to be completed. “Identify your assets and deficits. What activities are you good at and where do you think you could use improvement? What do you want your legacy to be, how do you want to be remembered? How do you define success? Write it down. Keep writing.”

After the self-exploration assignments, the energy in the room was charged with possibilities. It was time for goal-setting. Facilitator Sarah Hearn explained, “We’re writing one arts-oriented goal for each of the next three years using the “SMART” model. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. Where do you want to take your business?” Hearn emphasized that “…your goals should stretch you, and you should not be afraid to change your goals!”

Facilitator Christine West asked how many in the room had an artist statement? Only three hands were raised. “What is your story? As artists, you need to understand your brand and what differentiates you. Have an artist statement and head-shot photo ready to go for grants, shows, catalogs, and press releases. It’s a bio of sorts, a detailed paragraph or two that describes your work, which helps people understand what you do, how and why you’re doing it, what influences your work, and what you want them to understand about it.”

The group wrote and shared their initial draft artist statements. Then they were told to shorten them into an “elevator speech” that could be conversationally conveyed in 20 to 30 seconds—the theoretical time spent on an elevator when you might be asked, “What do you do?”

Different types of income sources were discussed, with the suggestion that a portfolio of a variety of revenue streams provides a safety net. A Marketing Tools Checklist was reviewed, which includes 35 items that an artist needs to use to promote their work. Hearn said, “add these to your one-year goals.”
The workshop wrapped up with each person sharing what they would work on in the next week (artist statements!). After connecting over the two days of training, emails were exchanged, and a common pledge was made to keep in touch and support each other’s art.

If you missed this class, the same workshop is being offered for free on Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28 in Peñasco; register here: https://www.maaa.org/event/artist-inc-express-new-mexico-penasco-in-person/

Stay tuned for follow-up classes in Questa that will continue to expand on the creative economy business essentials, as there is more to come.

The free workshop was sponsored by Taos County, who received one of 18 inaugural grants from the creative industries division of the New Mexico economic development department. Other sponsors included the Taos Arts Council, Chevron, the Questa Creative Council, Questa Economic Development Fund, and Taos Bakes.