VOL. 126 | NO. 48 | Thursday, March 10, 2011
Biz, Arts Intersection at Center of Whitaker Talk
STACEY WIEDOWER | Special to The Daily News
The arts and business aren’t independent entities.
The two spheres overlap in many ways – or at least they should – and nonprofit arts groups Crosstown Arts and the UrbanArt Commission are working together to deliver that message to professionals in both arenas.
To do it, they’re bringing in an expert who’s built her entire career around the interconnectivity of art and economics.
“One-Hour Business School for Artists,” which runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Crosstown Arts, 427 N. Watkins St., is a free, public event that includes a lecture by Amy Whitaker, a Memphis native, international museum expert and author of “Museum Legs: Fatigue and Hope in the Face of Art.”
“I want artists to understand business as much as I want business people to understand art,” said Whitaker, who has an MFA in painting from the Slade School of Fine Art in London and an MBA from Yale University. “I’ve seen artist friends struggle to structure their lives economically, and I’ve seen people actively get taken advantage of because they don’t understand (a business deal). This is about giving people the tools to make their own decisions.”
Christopher Miner, Crosstown Arts co-director, said he hopes the discussion will help artists who are living and working in Memphis think about financial issues in a new way.
“I know that trying to earn a living and be an artist is really complicated,” he said. “A lot of times, how we make money has nothing to do with our art-making. For me, I’m 37 and a working video artist, and this is the first talk I’ve ever been to that’s about economics and money from an artists’ perspective.”
The event targets not only the community’s working artists – “artist” defined in the broadest sense of the term – but also those whose work is affected by the arts.
“It’s designed to reach out to local working artists first and foremost, but also the cultural influencers of our community,” said John Weeden, executive director of the UrbanArt Commission, a co-sponsor of the event.
He includes in that group arts educators, university officials and developers whose projects include public art components, as well as community and civic leaders “who are looking for ways to move Memphis forward as a global talent magnet.”
“If we’re serious about moving Memphis forward on the world stage and making it a world powerhouse, which is common parlance among the leadership in our city, then we must address how our local arts professionals can influence that scenario as well as benefit from that scenario,” Weeden said.
The lecture, which begins at 7 p.m., follows an hour-long reception that also aims to bring artists and other participants in the arts community together.
“There will be food and drinks provided, and it’s going to be a notch above the typical exhibition opening/Friday night gallery fare,” Weeden said.
“We want people to enjoy themselves,” Miner added, noting that he expects 75 to 100 attendees at the event. “We care about the life of the art maker in Memphis. We really want this to be an event they can get something out of.”
Whitaker said the lecture is structured around two questions critical to all working artists: “How do I price my work?” and “What would an investor want to know?”
“I really want artists to understand economics,” she said. “I want them to understand that economics is one part of the ecosystem of their lives. It’s not the ‘scary other’ to their art, but something that helps them enable their creative process.”
Miner said the event marks the first collaboration for Crosstown Arts and the UrbanArt Commission. He hopes it’s the first of many.
“Part of our discovery process is that we don’t want to replicate the work that others are already doing,” he said. “We want to connect with what’s happening here and build on it.”
Weeden said he hopes the event will not only provide artists with a new set of tools to use in relation to their work, but also help to build a bridge between the arts community and those who support it.
“We want to enhance the cultural ecology one step at a time,” he said.