Teaching the Business of Art

By Beacon Staff

For many artists, creating art is the focal point of their lives, and selling or distributing their work is a secondary concern.

However, if an artist wants to survive on their creative efforts, it’s essential to understand the business side of the art world. And while some artists may naturally adapt to this challenge, others need help when it comes to presenting their work, pricing it and finding appropriate markets.

That is the impetus behind the Montana Artrepreneurship Program (MAP), an eight- to 10-month program that hopes to teach artists the skills to thrive in both their creative and professional lives.

According to Jan Shanahan, the local MAP group leader, the Montana Arts Council created the program as part of its five-year strategic plan for economic development.

“This is a program that is designed for artists to become more market-ready or become more professional in terms of how they do business in selling their art,” Shanahan said.

Art that reflects Montana’s unique qualities is popular in certain areas of the world, she said, including a surge of requests from Korea. If local artists are able to successfully sell their work, it can provide a boost for their corresponding communities, Shanahan said.

The artists in the program form groups called cohorts, in which they workshop the ideas and challenges from the Montana Arts Council. The workshops take place statewide that are linked through tribal and community colleges, as well as grassroots organizations, Shanahan said.

Program participants also engage in one-on-one sessions with instructors.

Cohorts meet once a month for eight to 10 months, Shanahan said. The Montana Arts Council could have condensed MAP into two or three months, she added, but the goal is to have the artist continue working on their craft without too much disruption and added stress.

At the end of the program, the artists participate in a showcase, during which they display their work and use the new skills they have learned.

Artists who successfully complete the program receive a certification, Shanahan said, and can be put on a reference list for clients requesting Montana art. The certification shows that the artist has an understanding of how they can market themselves in local, national and international arenas, she said.

Another component of MAP is developing market opportunities for people in the program. These could include out-of-state juried trunk shows, website presence and links, promotional endeavors, and special label programs and endorsements, among others, according to Shanahan.

The Montana Arts Council placed the program in four parts of the state; Flathead Valley Community College hosts the local chapter.

Shanahan said a new group of MAP students will start up at the end of April, and there are still several openings available. If that cohort fills up, artists can be placed on a waiting list for a later session, she said.

The courses cost a total of $300, which pays for instructor costs and five hours of apprenticeship in their chosen field.

Shanahan noted that many college art programs do not include courses on how an artist can brand their image or where an appropriate market for their work might be. MAP helps them examine that side of their artistic lives, she said.

“In most cases, artists almost reinvent themselves,” she said. “They rethink about, you know, ‘Where am I going to be able to sell my art?’”

For more information on MAP or to learn about the application process, contact Jan Shanahan at janshan@wildskyindustries.com or 406-862-2363.

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