WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists (CHF) is helping professional working artists take a deep dive into the business side of their art careers. CHF will host their Art-Business Conference in the Washington D.C. metro area on March 23-24 at the Artists & Makers Studios in Rockville, Md. to inspire visual artists to “Conquer the Changing Marketplace.”
“Art-Business Conferences are one of the ways we deliver entrepreneurial training and community-building to artists,” said Elizabeth Hulings, CHF director and cofounder. “Held regionally throughout the year, with the next one coming up March 23 and 24 in the Washington DC metro area, these events include two days of intense business training in which artists learn how to define viable business objectives, build agile action plans to realize those objectives, price their work properly, win their audience through powerful story-telling and more.”
With the art market undergoing rapid and significant change — not only with regard to technology but also how art is marketed, bought, and sold — CHF, named after Hulings father Clark, encourages artists to reclaim their rightful position at the center of the industry. Hulings said they see so many amazing “a-ha” moments as artists learn how their creativity can propel their careers both in their art and their artist business. “At the events, we throw participants together in small groups to begin putting into practice immediately the concepts and tools we present. This means by the time the training ends, they already have a network on whom to rely for support, and they are already in motion, accelerating their businesses. We then deliver ongoing assistance through our digital campus. This way they actually gain momentum after we see them,” she explained.
The conference is an extension of the CHF’s work to equip professional visual artists to be self-sustaining entrepreneurs. Huling said she and her mother felt compelled to answer a need that they saw woefully unaddressed — supporting talented artists who are audacious just like her late father. “He was fortunate to have been able to self-finance a midlife transformation from commercial illustration to easel painting. The Clark Hulings Fund recognizes that, for most artists, that option does not exist. Most grant money targeted to artists is for art education and training, some of it is for residencies and the rest winds up going to exhibiting institutions. Almost no one is supporting the working artist directly, especially when it comes to the business side of their profession,” Hulings said.
Hulings is dedicated to helping artists get past the “starving artists” stereotype. She believes artists need to handle the financial and career building aspects of their lives just like professionals in any other field. “We help artists see that their main advantage, their creativity, can be used in all aspects of their career and that taking hold of their business will allow their artistic creativity to flourish more, they aren’t so stressed out about making money and it positively impacts their work.
“My father used to say that he was successful because he was only really good at one thing,” she continued. “So he had no safety net — which meant he couldn’t opt out. So he just kept going. He did a crayon portrait of his stepmother when he was in the first grade. He got a likeness and everyone knew it was her. So from the age of six everyone knew what Clark’s job was. But his father worried about him. He didn’t want him to be a ‘starving artist.’ So he forced him into a completely different career. Eventually, my father made his way as a painter anyway, but he had to fight his whole life to be allowed to do the one thing he knew he was good at and meant to do. The end result is masterful, and he achieved success, but it wasn’t easy. There’s a popular adage in the startup world that the ventures that succeed are the ones led by stubborn people who keep going, even when they’re broke and everyone is telling them they’re crazy. The difference between success and failure often amounts to sheer determination. We know that business skills and confidence — belief that you do have the right and the capacity to manage business activities — help shore up that determination. Artists are actually really good [at] business.They have to be.”
Tickets to the Art-Business Conference are on sale until they sell out. Participants can also register at the door. In addition to conference admission, ticket holders will receive one year of “Colleague”-level access to CHF’s Business Accelerator Portal, a comprehensive online learning and community resource for working artists.
The portal offers podcasts, videos, digital courses and expert columns. It also offers an artist community where artists can discuss issues, post and view articles and videos other artists post and generally get a sense of being part of a community of artists who are all working on their artist businesses.
The Clark Hulings Fund also has events scheduled this year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Virginia in the Fall and are currently working on other regions. They have a new class of Fellows in their Art-Business Accelerato, are hosting virtual town halls, office hours and are hosting both in-person and online Thriving Art Exchange salons, where they gather stakeholders from all corners of the industry to engage in dialogue and brainstorm how to improve local ecosystems.
“The industry is continuing to change quickly and dramatically, and we want to help all concerned succeed,” Hulings added.