The CHF Business Accelerator Program
Where Working Artists Become Thriving Artists
Artists are the ultimate entrepreneurs...
...but our culture lacks the kinds of incubator and business-development programs that are widely available to technology start-ups and other small enterprises. Art schools rarely teach business skills, but these are essential if artists are to take charge of their careers, and navigate an industry rife with predatory middlemen who are looking to exploit their lack of management experience.
“Art is not a charity,” says 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.”
Accelerate Your Career!
The Clark Hulings Fund helps visual artists better manage their businesses and overcome the specific business challenges they face so that they can be financially independent and make a living through the creation of their art. Customized business training, direct financial assistance, tools, and one-on-one support boost their careers and help make their businesses self-sustaining. [Read more about how our program was developed.]
A total of 20 working artists receive full tuition for CHF’s Business Accelerator educational program, along with individualized guidance from our Business Accelerator team. At the end of year one, CHF will select up to ten program Fellows to receive direct funding that will cover expenses for a significant art project. Year two will include intensive one-on-one support to ensure that our funding delivers the greatest possible impact on each grantee's business.
Our next call for Fellowship applications will take place in September 2018, to select the working artists who will join CHF's 2019-2020 Accelerator class.
Although the application period is currently closed, our free Learning Portal remains open all year long, and it's full of valuable business resources and insights from successful artists, art-industry leaders, and business experts.
In Their Words
“I have seen how important business skills are. I have learned that art has to be a business, or the artist cannot survive to create…”
“I don’t want to piece my business understanding together from a bunch of different resources. I want to have a sense of continuity in my business strategy from here on out.”
“It took years to come to the realization that my art was monetarily valuable to those around me. I support my patrons through my visual interpretation of the world, and they support me by buying my art. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.”
“My goal is to be the finest artist I can be and be professionally recognized as well as fairly compensated. [CHF’s Accelerator] is truly supporting a deeper effort in me to keep evolving in this direction.”
“Artists who try to go it alone often stop making their work. It’s just too difficult, and there’s so much business stuff to navigate that does not get taught in art school … When you’re in a group of artists, the camaraderie helps.”
“…The creation and sale of art is a business. I still wish that everything I make could magically sell itself, but I know that it cannot and that I need to do the work to make it happen…”
“I was trained in traditional drawing methods. Running a business and making your art business sustainable—that’s a whole other skill. I really appreciate that there’s this training with CHF on the business side.”
“….We’ve been taught that art and business cannot coexist. This is a damaging and incorrect perception. A working artist needs to be a businessperson.”
“Some artists believe that turning their practice into a business jeopardizes their artistic integrity and autonomy … I believe that with strong business practices and confidence in my artwork, the two can work hand-in-hand to support my professional and artistic goals.”
“After several workshops, I have realized that I am learning a much broader spectrum about the business aspects of being a professional artist.”
“[Thanks to the CHF grant,] I was able to have my work professionally framed for exhibition, creating a long-term value that benefits the work and my practice.”
“If I invented a shoe that helps people’s feet feel good, people would not knock on my factory door asking to buy them. I don’t know why an artist should think that others will intuitively know how to find them … There simply must be marketing and communication.”
Benefits of the Business Accelerator Program
The 20 artists selected for the program will receive full tuition to attend our intensive web-based Business Accelerator, as well as individualized feedback from the CHF Business Accelerator team. The online course, which consists of broad strategic workshops and labs, provides participants with practical knowledge that’s actionable in the real world, including information about how to develop a business strategy, be proactive about marketing, find buyers for their art, negotiate contracts, handle copyrights, communicate more effectively, and manage their finances and taxes. Each workshop is led by an expert in that session’s topic, and the labs are deep dives that include extensive time for Q&A, allowing our Fellows to obtain feedback on their specific questions and hear the perspectives of their peers.
Although the various educational components form the core of our Business Accelerator Program, participants also gain access to a host of other benefits (see below). Additionally, the fund’s e-learning portal--a considerable archive of art-industry information--is free and accessible to any artist with an Internet connection.
Benefits to Program Participants
- Full tuition to CHF’s live Business Accelerator web-based workshop course, facilitated by experts in the art industry and critical business disciplines
- The customized support of CHF’s Business Accelerator team, group Q&As, and powerful individual consultations with experts in the business of art, business growth, and strategy
- An art-business toolset that includes access to our full media library, including previous Accelerator workshops
- PR exposure via CHF’s digital media and social/PR channels, including training on brand messaging and how to respond to journalist queries
- Introductions to industry leaders (e.g., successful artists, gallerists, collectors, etc.); invitations to regional/local events in artists’ spaces (as available); and referrals to CHF’s core stable of vetted professional partners
- Opportunities to collaborate with other artists in shaping the program so that it addresses the challenges they all face as they grow their art businesses
From among the program's 20 participants, up to ten artists will be selected to receive:
- A grant to cover targeted business expenses. The amount will vary according to each artist’s business plan and specific needs, but the total funding disbursed by CHF in one year will not exceed $10,000.
- One-on-one tailored business support and guidance from CHF’s Business Accelerator team to help maximize the impact of the grant. This support can include anything from helping artists with strategy and implementation, to assistance in evaluating bids from vendors to carry out specific tasks, such as designing a website or drawing up a contract.
For information on eligibility requirements and the selection process, please visit our guidelines page.
Recent "Special Sessions" Offered to Fellows
Digital Marketing for Artists
This workshop takes you beyond the limits of gallery representation and shows you how to build a flourishing, independent connection with a broader community. Determine which marketing efforts deliver the biggest hit with the least disruption in studio time. Then, aim for maximum reach.
Art Business Strategy
There's a pattern to your business as an artist. If you're locked into an income model that isn't about thriving, this workshop is for you. Every artist is different. Figure out what box you're in, and break out of it. Revise or overhaul your strategy to build a self-sustaining, explosive career.
From grant applications and bios, to artist statements and blogs, this workshop focuses on creating a content strategy that reaches the right audience with the right message, and making your business writing jump off the page. Avoid the worst writing traps and craft your message effectively.
Copyrights and Contracts
Whether it's an original work of art or the reproduction of a piece you've created in the past, you need to know how to safeguard your intellectual property and prevent unauthorized use. This workshop looks at copyright, trademark, contracts, and other legal tools to protect you and your business.