The raison d’etre of the nonprofit business mentoring program at the Clark Hulings Fund is to teach artists how to be true entrepreneurs. Because while artists may have all the poetic, expressive and aesthetic gifts in the world, so often they can lack direction when it comes to the business side of their career. That’s where the CHF can help.
“I would not call it a grant,” says artist and CHF Fellow Gregg Chadwick. “What the Clark Hulings Fund offers is much more akin to an academic program.” When it comes to mapping out clear goals and learning communication strategies to achieve them, CHF doesn’t just hand out cash. As the old saying goes, it teaches artists to fish for themselves.
The program consists of two one-year stages of increasingly focused career coaching. The first year, the 20 accepted applicants go through the fundamentals — writing statements and proposals, researching exhibition opportunities, portfolio and website production — and a multiyear career-goals trajectory is established. At the end of the first year, about half of those 20 are invited into year two, where things get really focused.
Students meet with a variety of art experts and with their fellow course-takers a few times a month, in person or in online video groups depending on geography (Chadwick lives and works in Santa Monica, but CHF Fellows come from as far as Maryland and Hawaii.) Chadwick further describes a healthy sense of camaraderie developing among them, along with their amped-up business savvy.
“Art is not a charity,” writes CHF director Elizabeth Hulings, “and artists deserve every opportunity to earn a living from their work. To do this, business expertise is just as vital as creativity and artistic technique.”
“Elizabeth is a treasure,” Chadwick says. “The amount of time she gives to us! And we know we can always call her for help. She really saw a need and supplied an answer. This should be in every art school curriculum — it’s a lot of knowledge.”
“I’m definitely being looked at more,” Chadwick notes. At the start of his first year, his “Business Objective” read in part: “To open up new markets and reach a national audience by mounting a three-year traveling exhibit of my 'Mystery Train' series. The show will criss-cross the U.S., stopping at college art galleries, fairs and regional museums, encouraging visitors to interact and collect a piece of shared history.” Now his “Whistle Stop Tour” will appear this month at Chicago's Other Art Fair from Sept. 28 to 30. And a related series titled “Mystery Train” is being shown at the University of Michigan in December.
Perhaps quite fittingly considering the context, Chadwick’s inspiration for his train paintings is in large part about taking “a temporal and geographic journey that reminds us of how our railways helped forge the very idea of America, creating economic prosperity while keeping us connected.” That sounds a lot like what CHF sets out to do as well.
For those interested in taking part, applications for the 2019 Art Business Accelerator Fellowships are open online until Sept. 30. Beyond the coursework itself, there’s a great deal of useful information and assets available free to everyone on the website, including videos and podcasts in which artists and experts cover a lot of useful ground.