POTTERY PRODUCTION PRACTICES: Getting Down to Business

March 1, 2008
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The Arts Business Institute was created to provide practical business education for creative entrepreneurs.

At ABI seminars, faculty members provide one-on-one mentoring sessions with each artist.


The Arts Business Institute (ABI) was founded in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) organization to serve a crucial, common need in the art- and craft-making communities-practical business education for creative entrepreneurs. The ABI originated through the seeds of the Craft Business Institute (CBI), an annual weekend education program managed by The Rosen Group for craft professionals in Baltimore, Md.

After hosting the CBI weekend retreat for several years, it became apparent to The Rosen Group that one weekend per year was not reaching a broad enough audience. With help from artists who had attended the CBI, it became clear that artists across the nation needed a new education model that brought information to them in a format that would fit their busy schedules. Due to its success, the CBI had generated enough support to form a board of arts professionals, and this group came together to design the Arts Business Institute.

Headed by its board of directors, the Arts Business Institute recognizes the need to deliver support to a wider range of artists in underserved segments of North America. The board developed a series of workshops to travel and be presented across the nation, providing the ABI with the opportunity to speak to artists in locations as far away as Toronto, Canada, and as small as Bristol, Va.

The ABI faculty is composed of artists, gallery owners and small business professionals who are currently working in the arts field, so they are aware of the challenges artists are facing. ABI faculty members range from glass artists and painters to accountants and gallery owners.

The ABI’s curriculum offers courses on marketing, wholesaling, retailing, booth design and many other topics.

Business Training

The goal of every ABI workshop is to provide artists with the business tools that they need to succeed. The ABI faculty covers topics in open settings that allow artists to have a free and comfortable dialogue with the presenters. Communication is a very important part of ABI workshops. Faculty members understand that each artist has a unique set of needs, and they strive to provide information to the broad group of artists as well as on individual levels.

At ABI seminars, faculty members provide one-on-one mentoring sessions with each artist. These mentoring sessions are an opportunity for the artists to sit down with one of the ABI faculty members, ask questions and receive individual feedback. One of the goals of every participating ABI workshop is for each artist to walk away with a unique individual experience.

The ABI distinguishes itself by offering seminars that are designed to instill successful business practices in artists. This allows artists to see what strategies work for each unique medium and artist. Many artists struggle with the day-to-day tasks involved in running a business. The ABI has created seminars that break down sometimes-overwhelming tasks, such as accounting, booth design and photography, into clear and manageable processes.

“There are many useful elements to my spoon business that I can attribute to things I learned at ABI, such as the importance of good lighting, color, having chocolate in my booth, things that craftspeople do that frighten customers away, and the importance of including Our Story in marketing,” says Jonathan Simons of Jonathan’s Spoons.

Networking

Artists who attend an ABI seminar meet other artists who have similar needs. This helps them create a community, giving artists a place to find resources to pull from, and inspiring them to take the step to becoming fully functional business professionals.

Artists at all levels attend ABI workshops. While discussing the basic principles of business, ABI faculty also cover more advanced topics. Artists who have previously attended an ABI workshop return to refresh themselves, to be part of the workshop community and help keep the community alive.

“The Arts Business Institute introduced me to the right people to assist me in moving forward in my business of art,” says Matt Bezak of Bezak Glass.

Growth Opportunities

The ABI is currently working with organizations in North Dakota, Tennessee, Iowa and Philadelphia to host educational events. The ABI’s curriculum offers courses on marketing, wholesaling, retailing, booth design and many other topics. When an organization chooses to partner with ABI, they work together closely to develop a curriculum tailored for the artists in their region.

Attending an ABI seminar is often the first step that many artists take to launch their career. The ABI encourages each artist to develop his or her own story and reinforces the importance of each artist’s own unique voice. As artists create, they often get lost in process or concept; ABI workshops provide an environment for artists to reassess their body of work to see what is successful and what is not. After each seminar, ABI encourages artists to share their experiences and keep the organization up to date on their careers.

For more information, contact the Arts Business Institute at P.O. Box 4850, Baltimore, MD 21211; (877) ABI-5771; e-mail Meghan@artsbusinessinstitute.org; or visit www.artsbusinessinstitute.org.

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