There are any number of publications that artists can refer to in the search for effective art advice, ranging from technical guides to business advice. For the artist seeking it all in one condensed volume, they need look no further than the second edition of The Profitable Artist: A Handbook for All Artists in the Performing, Literary, and Visual Arts (Allsworth Press, 2018), edited by Peter Cobb, Felicity Hogan, and Michael Royce. This tome consolidates the more than 40 years of experience that the New York Foundation for the Arts has in supporting artists in one comprehensive, go-to guide to help creatives plan and organize their careers. Much has changed since the first edition was published in 2011, and the updated version is packed with new resources based on current trends, technologies, and platforms. The first edition of the book was inspired by NYFA’s Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp. Tad Crawford, Publisher and Founder of Allworth Press, had seen a New York Times article about the Boot Camp and reached out, resulting in both this original version and this second edition of The Profitable Artist. Presenting a comprehensive guide to art advice, teaching artists all aspects of the business of art, the book is organized in sections related to the various facets of making, selling and managing art. This includes techniques for career planning, strategies to fundraise and find resources, tips for marketing and selling work, basic budgeting, legal requirements for protecting creative works, and networking tools to thrive in the digital world.
Art Advice: From A to Z
The format of the “Artist as Entrepreneurship Boot Camp” encourages participants to interact and think about how collaboration and community play a role in their work. The Profitable Artist concludes by describing how empowering collaboration and community can be to artists, showing artists how establishing a network can help leverage shared resources and create mutually-beneficial collaborative structures. Expanding an artist network can provide artists with access to other creatives with different, complementary skills and resources – and potential collaborations!
The publication also includes highly specific art advice and resources, including concrete exercises and templates to craft both mission and vision statements, create a business plan and conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats =SWOT). These tasks will help artists understand and articulate what they need for successful implementation of their creative endeavors. For example, identifying a target audience will help make their work more relevant, and therefore more marketable, than simply waiting to be discovered. Beyond essential tips and advice, the book also mentions other art service organizations that artists can go to for information and support. Anything and everything artists could need to focus on making their studio practice a success is contained between the covers!
Practical Art Advice from the Pros
Jennifer Reis, former Coordinator/Instructor for the Arts Entrepreneurship program and Gallery Director at Morehead State University, knows firsthand the importance of business training for artists. “As a practicing artist and an educator in creative entrepreneurship, I strongly believe that not only is this work is necessary for success, these tools also integrate problem solving and communication that are actually in creatives’ wheelhouse when reframed outside of “traditional business development,”” notes Reis. “Learning entrepreneurial tools like business modeling and analysis is integral to the DIY process of venture development many creatives have to do. If you can understand what you do, and identify who your target audience actually is, you will know how to best market your work. Taking an objective look at the financials while considering your value propositions and clients is necessary to develop a sustainable and diverse portfolio of revenue generators.”
Janna Willoughby-Lohr, the artist behind Papercraft Miracles, an eco-friendly handmade paper company that specializes in stationery, plantable paper & seed bombs, and wedding invitations used many of the tips from the “NYSCA/NYFA Artist – As Entrepreneur Boot Camp” at Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, (ASI) as well as The Profitable Artist about grants. Notes Willoughby-Lohr, “I refined my business pitch and got a $25,000 Ignite Buffalo small business grant. I heard about the grant through my National Association of Women Business Owners chapter, and attended a special information session through that group to help to refine my application to what the jury was looking for. After participating in the Boot Camp, I was also sure to mention the community involvement component to my business and show that my financial statements were in order. I spent a lot of time reviewing my answers with other artists and business owners to make sure that my answers were clear and made sense to a wide range of audiences.”
Marco Scozzaro, an Italian interdisciplinary artist based in New York City, read The Profitable Artist was a way to deepen some of the topics discussed during the very informative “NYSCA/NYFA Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp” at Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA). “I wish I had read the book 8 years ago when I moved to New York from Italy, as it would have made my life a little easier!” Scozzaro exclaimed. “The book explores very important topics from an insider’s perspective and allows every reader to not feel alone in the everyday struggles and hassles of an artist’s life. I found the section related to different types of businesss an artist can set up particularly interesting. I will definitely spend more time reviewing the section regarding self-promotion and strategies for crowdsourcing and grant applications, as those are challenging areas that I am committed to strengthening.”
Finding Strength Through Adversity in the Arts
Felix Endara, a queer transgender filmmaker with a record of producing innovative, thought-provoking media participated in NYFA’s “Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp for Artists of Color.” “It was transformative. I have always worked across disciplines, and spending time with folks with a multiplicity of artistic practice allowed me to appreciate the myriad ways that creative problem-solving shows up meaningfully.” Endara notes that the bootcamp was a real eye opener, explaining, “After interacting with dancers, I now think of my body and physical space and movement in more expansive ways. And it helped me re-formulate ideas of how I can collaborate with others, which has added dimension to my artistic expression.”
For Maia Cruz Palileo, a multi-disciplinary, Brooklyn-based artist, the book provides a really clear and excellent presentation on finances. “The thing that really stuck with me though was a sense of ownership and empowerment in what we do, and that finances shouldn’t be scary or thing to avoid but an aspect of the creative prices to face, own, access, spend, and dream. One action I took is using the budgeting tools. I also created a separate bank account for my art income and expenses.”
Palileo notes of the bootcamp, “One of the presenters at NYFA’s “Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp for Artists of Color”, Tricia M.Taitt, gave a really clear and excellent presentation on finances. Because she herself was a dancer with experience in finance, she understood what artists’ incomes look like and she gave us tools to track money. The thing that really stuck with me though was a sense of ownership and empowerment in what we do, and that finances shouldn’t be scary or thing to avoid but an aspect of the creative prices to face, own, access, spend, and dream. What were the results? I used her budgeting tools and also created a separate bank account for my art income and expenses.
Goal-setting was a big part of the program and I am happy to report that many of the goals happened! There is much to be said about envisioning and dreaming but, for me, having a structure in which to write them down and organize proposed timelines creates a map that guides next steps. Doing this in a group helps to say them out loud and get insights and resources that can only be generated by working with other artists across disciplines. The challenge is finding time to do it, to organize a group to check in with, though I did make some great connections with some of my fellow Boot Campers who are doing amazing things and occasionally we do them together.”
Whether working on this actionable art advice as a group in a bootcamp setting or individually by reading this second volume, artists are keenly aware of the statistics: few of them will be able to survive solely as working artists. Artists are, however, uniquely situated to create a return on their educational, financial, and artistic investments. By broadening contexts, markets, audiences, and applicability of their work—and by redefining what it means to sustain a creative life—they can put themselves in the driver’s seat in their careers. The Profitable Artist provides a straightforward and practical road map, with demonstrable art advice that will impact an artist’s career for years to come. Artists will return to it again and again to help chart their course, avoid roadblocks, and keep moving forward with confidence.