2014 Recipients

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L to R: Josh Meyer and Matt Hislope

Rubber Repertory's Pilot Balloon Church-House (Austin, TX)

Josh Meyer and Matt Hislope, the co-founders of Austin’s Rubber Repertory theatre company, are the creators of the Pilot Balloon Church-House, a pop-up artists’ colony in a historic church in Lawrence, Kansas offering short term residencies to artists of any discipline and any financial means. To keep fees to a minimal $50 for a week stay and to avoid the huge capital outlay of owning a facility to house the colony, the enterprising duo raised over $9,000 via a crowd-funding campaign to cover a portion of rent and utilities. More than 80 artists from 11 states and four countries visited the colony over the course of the year-long pop-up, proving that Rubber Repertory’s model is both a hit with artists and can be replicated by other arts groups anywhere.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring arts entrepreneurs?

Look for the place where your own needs, wants, wishes, and guilty pleasures intersect with the potential to serve those of others.

Julia Rhoads

Creative Partners (Chicago, IL)

Setting out to demonstrate that cooperation among arts groups, rather than competition, can lead to fundraising and audience development success, Julia Rhoads launched Creative Partners, a collaboration between three nationally recognized, Chicago-based interdisciplinary arts groups – eighth blackbird (music) , Lucky Plush Productions (dance), and Blair Thomas & Company (theater). Under the pioneering partnership, the organizations share a two-person development team and a professional fundraising infrastructure while splitting the overhead costs.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring arts entrepreneurs?

With an increasing emphasis on technology-based networking in both fundraising and marketing, connecting with real people has never been more important and essential. Being in relationship to a diverse range of people and perspectives in your field will allow you to respectfully question what doesn't work in traditional systems, and new thinking will arise. In order to reinvent the wheel, it's important to have a deep understanding of the wheel, it's component parts, and the terrain in which it operates. Great ideas in a vacuum generally don't go anywhere. And because well over 90% of arts organizations have no staff, my advice to arts entrepreneurs is really advice to artists, who must see themselves as entrepreneurs in order to create sustainability for their work.

Esther Robinson

ArtHome (New York, NY)

Looking beyond obvious barriers to a successful arts career like fundraising, marketing, and audience development, ArtHome was founded by Esther Robinson to help artists build wealth through homeownership, asset-building, and financial literacy. Recognizing the crucial role that homeownership has played in the lives of successful artists, ArtHome offers a variety of programs to help achieve financial solvency including: peer lending program to help broaden access to existing credit sources; Match Savings Accounts, which help low-income artists build assets for education or entrepreneurship; and counseling for first-time homeownership, foreclosure prevention, and loan qualification.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring arts entrepreneurs?

1a. Failure is your awesome-but-sometimes-hard-to-take-honest friend. Even if it's uncomfortable, you must invite them to every single thing you do-- because they will teach the fastest about how to do it better.
1b.Do everything better.

L to R: Claire Mazur, Erica Cerulo

Of a Kind (New York, NY)

Leveraging the power of the internet to build audiences for emerging fashion and product designers, Of a Kind profiles a different up-and-coming designer every week who creates a limited-edition, specially commissioned piece for Of a Kind customers. By integrating smart fashion editorial with cutting edge online retail and marketing, co-founders Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo are now generating seven-figure sales for Of a Kind and pioneering a new way for designers and artist to connect with fans.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring arts entrepreneurs?

Think of yourself like a business. One that has to make more money than it spends. One that has to think about things like marketing, press, and balance sheets. Nobody benefits from you being a “starving artist”—not you, not your audience, and not your industry.

Todd Scalise

Todd Scalise, Higherglyphics (Erie, PA)

Artist and designer Todd Scalise, the founder of Higherglyphics, has redefined how public art can stimulate economic development by approaching every public art project as a business venture and model for creative capital in communities. By forging partnerships with cultural institutions, businesses, and nonprofits, Scalise has developed a business infrastructure around public art installations to increase brand awareness and patron interaction through everything from branding sponsorships (from city bike racks throughout his hometown of Erie, PA) to merchandising (from t-shirts to beach towels) that create new revenue streams for local nonprofits.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring arts entrepreneurs?

Because you are a pioneering artist, you have the extra responsibility of ensuring that your creativity will benefit others. So when taking up this burden of excellence, it behooves you to also take up the burden of becoming a pioneering business person. Throughout history, commerce has been a powerful catalyst for art and art has been a powerful catalyst for commerce. These two mutually supportive energies enable the creative professional to receive support for their endeavor by enriching communities through personal expression.