SBDC helps Lynchburg artists thrive

ArtThrive, an innovative business course for artists, began during a casual conversation. “I was having coffee with my friend Stephanie Keener. She works for the SBDC at Central Virginia Community College where she counsels and trains small-business owners,” Kim Soerensen says. “And my background is a blend of the arts and design. I run the Riverviews Art Space in Lynchburg.”

The discussion turned to a common problem in the art world — artists marketing their work.

“Stephanie and I talked about how artists don’t realize that they’re small businesses,” Kim adds. “I said, ‘What if we started a small business course for artists?’” The two friends liked the idea and began making plans.

Many artists, Kim notes, do not feel justified in asking for money for their work. “It’s called artwork for a reason,” she says. “Creating art is work! We called it ArtThrive, because we want our artists to thrive.”

The course ran for four weeks in October and included classes in marketing, social media, finances, taxes, and resources. “We brought in speakers in each field,” Kim notes. “Stephanie did a phenomenal job. She set up the syllabus, and she was there every day for the classes. The response was amazing.”

Throughout the ArtThrive course, Kim stressed the importance of artists marketing their own work. “I would tell them, ‘You have to convey the value of your artwork,’” she adds. “‘You have to tell that story.’”

The business classes ended with an exhibit of the artists’ work held at Riverview Art Space in Lynchburg. “The exhibit opened Dec. 1, just in time for Christmas shopping,” Kim says. During the exhibit, Kim continued to offer advice. “When we set up the exhibits, I asked the artists, ‘Do people know how to get in touch with you? Do you have a website? Do you have business cards? Are you collecting people’s names for your mailing list?’” “I didn’t know that marketing myself as a business for my art was part of the job,” a participating artist comments. “Now I understand it.”

Kim credits Stephanie with helping to set up the small business course for local artists. Kim believes that ArtThrive, being offered again in the spring, should be a pilot program for SBDC. “It was the SBDC that made ArtThrive work,” she concludes. “SBDC resources were imperative to the success of our classes.”

Virginia SBDC