Local artists who are serious about making a living have the opportunity to move closer to their dream by participating in Entrepreneurship in the Arts, a certificate program SUNY Buffalo State is offering for the second time in the fall.
During the five-week continuing education course, participants will hear from experts in small business, finance, marketing, accounting, and law on consecutive Thursday evenings, beginning September 26 in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Collection Study Room. The course runs from 5:45 to 9:00 p.m. each week, and will be repeated in the spring.
Presented by the School of Arts and Humanities in tandem with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Continuing and Professional Studies Office, and the Burchfield Penney, the workshops cover such non-artistic topics as how to write a business plan, how to market your product, and copyright and trademark law.
Response was so strong when Entrepreneurship in the Arts was offered last spring that Sue McCartney, director of the SBDC, knew they had tapped an unmet need for information and that the course should be repeated.
“Most artists don’t have an MBA or a business background. This course give them a little of that business know-how,” said Ben Christy, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, who oversaw a similar certificate program when he was at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. The idea originated from a question he frequently hears from students: "How do I make a living with art (or music or writing)?”
According to founder of JPHii Design John Harris, it is possible to make a decent living following your artistic passion. Harris, who graduated from Buffalo State in 2012 with a dual degree in anthropology and jewelry design, established a customized jewelry company in 2011 after receiving multiple requests for commissioned pieces. Harris, 26, now has a private studio in Lancaster and a small staff.
Harris shared his story with a group of eager artists when Entrepreneurship in the Arts was offered last spring. His key pieces of advice were to take advantage of the SBDC, a “very useful resource that is free to students,” present a professional image, and market yourself on as many social networking sites as possible.
“My website is constantly updated, and I’m active on Twitter, Facebook, Pininterest, and other sites,” he said. “That’s how you get people to come to you.”
Four other local artists also shared their stories last spring, and McCartney has invited them to return in the fall. One is Andy Donovan, founder and president of DPost, which handles filming, musical composition, and post-production services for broadcast and new media.
A longtime film editor, Donovan started DPost 13 years ago with a couple of partners, and they now have a staff of 12 and hire approximately 60 freelance actors, camera operators, and producers over the year. While he said running his own company has been very fulfilling, it isn’t an easy road to travel.
“Everyone thinks owning your own business is relaxing, that you get to call the shots, have flexible hours, and no longer have a boss. The reality is every client is now your boss, each with different demands and schedules,” Donovan said. “You work harder every single day than you did the day before. The payoff is you are controlling your destiny and doing what you love.”
Christy has a personal affinity for the artist trying to make a living. As a young clarinetist, Christy started a wind trio while also teaching junior and senior high school students in New Jersey.
“I learned how to write grants and find places for us (the trio) to perform,” he said. His efforts paid off. “We received four grants and got a favorable review in the New York Times. I want to help other artists find their niche.”
“Entrepreneurship in the Arts” costs $75 for Buffalo State students; $100 for alumni and students from other schools; $125 for Burchfield Penney members; and $150 for community members. Parking in the Burchfield lot is free on the evenings of the course.
For more information, call (716) 878-4030 or e-mail Sue McCartney.
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