In the past, we saw art as a passion—not a business. But today, with the popularity of online shopping sites like Etsy and the growing number of community arts and craft shows, more and more artists are creating a thriving business from their art. Couple that with more creative outlets for musicians and actors, and it’s no wonder why dynamic arts communities are scattered throughout the country with growing opportunities for artists to become entrepreneurs.

To help support and guide artists in Akron, Ohio, Summit Artspace is helping these highly right-brained individuals with the business side of things.

In fact, evolving with the needs of the artists, this nonprofit community art center organization is revamping its strategic plan and mission in 2020 to focus on connecting artists and artist-serving organizations to the community and to the resources they need to thrive professionally, creatively, and financially.

Along with offering studio rentals and hosting exhibits and art walks, Summit Artspace is amping up its education offerings.

Summit Artspace hosts presentations supporting local artists.

According to Executive Director Kamelia Fisher, the organization shifted its focus because it found that local artists need help starting and operating a successful business. It is one thing to be an artist and exhibit your work, but Summit Artspace goes beyond that and helps artists become successful entrepreneurs.

Five years ago, it created the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute (AEI) and offered these seminars once a year. However, since there is a growing need for this type of education, it is now a primary focus. Under the new strategic plan, the organization will offer these seminars four times a year and will tailor classes to artists in different stages in their journey because their needs are different—from someone who just graduated from college, to an artist who has been working out of their home for five years but now wants to rent a studio and get commissioned to create art.

The classes are tailored to individuals who want to become entrepreneurs in the creative arts—including visual art, music, theater, dance, and writing. Participants receive foundational business knowledge and hands-on training as part of the curriculum. They meet with and learn from successful artists and entrepreneurs in town and network among their peer group.

Participants write a business plan during the seminar; however, equally important, they walk away with connections. The artists themselves become their own community of artists. With 25 participants per seminar, they now serve as resources for each other. Plus, they develop connections outside the art community with attorneys, accountants, and marketing professionals who they can reach out to as they continue their careers.

It is interesting to note that to date, more than half the people studying in the Institute are over the age of 50. In the past, many artists were discouraged from making a living creating art and encouraged to take more safe routes for their careers. But now, with so many more business opportunities, these folks are changing their careers and following their true passion. And organizations like Summit Artspace are there along every step of the journey—guiding and encouraging them.