Art Business

This CERF+ Workshop Will Teach Artists to Manage Risk

Artists are inherently far more focused on creating than they are in managing risk within their art business. Aside from the task of creating work, artists are often preoccupied with various administrative tasks necessary to sustain themselves and their business – from purchasing materials and coordinating exhibitions to marketing and distributing their images of their latest works and managing relationships with galleries and collectors. There’s hardly any time left to wonder whether your studio is properly insured or your works are protected from significant loss, but as a crop of artists recently discovered in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the failure to plan for catastrophe can severely disrupt your artistic practice.

In November 2016, a wildfire swept over 100 acres of Gatlinburg woodland, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Gatlinburg residents were distraught that another disaster of this magnitude could occur. And for many artists working in the idyllic, wooded setting, the destruction was especially harmful.

Thankfully, Gatlinburg artists have an ally in CERF+, an organization dedicated to helping artists navigate emergency situations with emergency relief fund assistance, disaster relief programs, and preparedness. “We have a direct focus on emergency response and relief for artists – and want to help them create resilient careers for the future,” says Jenifer Simon, the director of programs & outreach of CERF+. This week, CERF+ will host a workshop for Gatlinburg artists in partnership with the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, a craft arts institution that was badly damaged during the November fires. “Ready + Resilient,” held all day on Saturday, November 18, will cover topics in disaster preparedness along with a host of others focused around managing an art business. The program is made possible thanks to a grant from the Westfield Insurance Foundation Legacy of Caring Fund.

“Part of our mission is to be a resource of our local community,” says Bill May, the executive director of Arrowmont School. Because of the devastation of these fires and the impact it had on local artists, we’re taking this opportunity to offer a place for them to come and have access to resources they wouldn’t get otherwise. We want to get them focused on the future.”

CERF+ frequently gathers artists to discuss the importance of risk management.


Helping artists look beyond the destruction that’s in front of them and focus instead on what’s to come is at the core of CERF+’s mission. The organization got its start over 30 years when a community of artists started ‘passing a hat’ at a local gathering to provide additional support for the community. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the vibrant New Orleans artist community, however, the organization decided it was time to step up to the plate.

“After Katrina, CERF+ realized it needed to lead a national conversation and be a catalyst for an artist’s safety net. Artists have unique needs when a disaster happens and they are the fabric of a community’s creative economy and culture,” says Simon.

Since then, CERF+ has morphed into one of the most proactive organizations for artists looking for more effective preparedness strategies that go far beyond natural disasters.

“In addition to our core work- providing emergency relief for artists working in craft disciplines, readiness is critical to artists. Our Get Ready Grants launched this year,  provided funds for 20 artists to help plan their estate, purchase security monitors, ventilation systems, and take other health and safety measures to help safeguard their career,” says Simon.


The idea behind the programming for “Ready + Resilient” is spawned from the notion that artists can benefit by having more skills and resources for effectively managing their business – disaster or otherwise.

“Artists typically don’t think of themselves as a business,” notes Simon, “and they really wanted practical tools to get one step ahead.”

This CERF+ event will present a more encompassing view of the art business. “The whole concept of being resilient is not only taking practical steps to care for your artwork but also promoting yourself and getting yourself into a business mindset,” says Simon. “We found that a lot of professional development for artists doesn’t talk about managing risk. CERF+ fills that gap.”

Part of being resilient is understanding that peace of mind can be bought, says Seth Zaremba, the owner of ZINC, an insurance agency specializing in catering to artist communities.“We’ve always been interested in supporting the arts. When the opportunity arose to become the new curator of an insurance program for artists, we couldn’t say no,” says Zaremba. “So we built a web app that would make the process easier for customers and in 2015 insuranceforartists.com (IFA) was born. This is what brought us into contact with CERF+. It soon became apparent there was room for us in their wheelhouse.”

Interestingly, insurance policies for artists cost a lot less than one would normally think. According to Zaremba, their insurance policies can be made quite affordable for artists who are looking for added protection against any unforeseen circumstances.

“ZINC can do just about anything for an artist. If an artist interacts with us online, IFA gives them general liability, covers work, material and transit. This is our efficient fix that covers an artist’s basic needs, offering a package policy that starts at $400 per year,” says Zaremba. “Other artists have more complex requirements, so we work with them to build the right policy solution. This might include insuring them to work with a gallery, studio, exhibition, or public art for the community. We kind of run the spectrum and love being able to help artists manage the business part of their creative life.”

art business
“Ready + Resilient” will offer participating artists several practical tools for managing their business.

“This event is a byproduct of that grant. We’ll be talking about what people think about insurance, what we do and what they need, and how we can protect them and promote the creative bubble they work in. Planning with a partner like ZINC or CERF+ or Orangenius will allow you to spend more time being creative because you have a team of empathic, strategic partners,” says Zaremba.

“For many creatives, the right/left brain tension that results from trying to excel as an artist and at the same time develop a business acumen can be exhausting. ZINC is unique in that it has its own creative department and so our team has experience with this. And we’re growing our ability to participate in the solution. Meantime, one thing we do really well is help artists relieve the insurance part of that tension. It’s a small but important part of the equation,” adds Todd Mucurio, the communications director at ZINC.

Programs like “Ready + Resilient” do much to get any art business in shape, but artists have to be savvy enough to attend a workshop and implement the tools at hand. If you can’t make it to this CERF+ event, consider looking into some local opportunities to become a better artist and art business owner. Says May: I think this proactive approach towards helping artists become confident business people is really needed more than ever.”

About the author

Nicole Martinez

Nicole is a veteran arts and culture journalist. Her work has appeared in Reuters, VICE, Hyperallergic, Univision, and more.

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