Three Things Every "Artrepreneur" Needs...

photo courtesy of IdeaMensch

I had the fortune to present at the IdeaMensch event a couple of weeks ago when their team stopped in Philly along its 48-state tour.  Before being invited to speak at the event, I'd never heard of it, but once I went to the site to read more about it, I was sold! From their site: "#IM48 is a road trip for people with ideas. Four guys, spending four months traveling across America to put on events that encourage people to bring to life their ideas."  Awesome, I'm in!

Last week I was absolutely geeked to find out about IgnitePhilly, and was lucky to get a last-minute ticket to attend the sold-out event.  By the time I received an email from Collin at IdeaMensch, I truly thought I had tapped into some kind of law of attraction for idea nerds!

While writing up what I will share about my experiences with starting Small But Mighty Arts, it made think:  I'm not just an entrepreneur, I'm more of an "ARTrepreneur".  As a matter of fact, I know a few artrepreneurs.  Our work is our art, and our art is our work.

Despite the stage lights, occasional publicity and wonderful creative projects that artrepreneurs bring to life, we need at least three things to keep at the awesome work we do, because it is hard work...and it's also life-changing work.

1.  Artrepreneurs

Seems basic enough, but you'd be surprised how many creative leaders feel as though they are in the midst of their projects alone.  Of course, the kind of support each needs will depend on the work they are doing and where they are in their careers.  For some it could mean mentorship to help navigate the professional landscape.  At other times, it's hands-on help; volunteers, board members, etc.  A couple of weeks ago I needed support in the form of something as simple as  a word of encouragement, which came through a meeting with another artrepreneur who also built a great project from the ground up.  The simple words "Don't give up," or "You can do this," does wonders, really.  As an artrepreneur I've also learned the importance of asking for support, and have been pleasantly surprised at how readily people will give help when asked.  An idea is just that, an idea, until action and support bring it into reality.

2.  Artrepreneurs need...a social life

Mary Oliver writes beautiful poetry, and she does so mostly in solitude.  No Facebook, no Twitter...yet thousands of readers have liked and followed her work faithfully.  As for the rest of us...we need to get out of our offices, familiar circles and bubbles for two reasons: 1) to have fun...period and 2) to co-create.  Real friends don't let friends work too hard, and when your work is your art and your art is your work, sometimes it's hard to remember where the line between work and art is drawn.  That's where friends come in to remind you that some of the best ideas and the most successful projects happen via good old-fashion fun.  Not to mention, when you get out and about you meet more amazing people to share what you do and learn what other people are doing.  In October, Small But Mighty Arts will get an opportunity to play nicely with others when CultureWorks opens its co-working space...a small, but fun way to connect with other groups of fellow artrepreneurs doing great things.  These are the moments that create yet another layer of possibility: to create collectively.  

3.  Artrepreneurs need...resources

At the top of the list of resource needs:  funding.  Everything is not about money, yet the need for funding to get started and persist is indeed important.  There are other resource needs such as space, professional development, tips & tools, personal connections, materials, people-power, etc.  Artrepreneurs are especially focused on finding these resources and it is a great benefit when programs, organizations and services are readily available to support them in advancing their projects and creative work.  When I received the Knight Arts Challenge grant (now accepting applications for 2013), it was a great catalyst resource for Small But Mighty any catalyst, it is only a starting point.

We're in the last few weeks of our online push for funds, and we have a way to go.  In order for us to do the work of identifying artists who could use support, connections and resources, it is critical that we too receive the resources to do so.  Click the image below and be a part of the spark that makes it happen for Small But Mighty artists in Philadelphia!

If you support Philadelphia artists (artrepreneurs)...give them 5! 

Make a donation divisible by 5 and make a difference in artists lives!


Small Talk: Local Artist Gives SBM a New Logo!

It is our goal to build Small But Mighty Arts Grant utilizing as many Philly-based artists and resources as we possibly can.

Jaison Smulski

So when we decided that our temporary logo needed a boost, we hired local artist Jaison Smulski to add his creative spin for a new look.

Get to know a bit about the man behind the work, and then check out his site to see more of his creative collections!


SBM: Ok so what is your primary artform, i.e. the creative work you do most of the time?

JS: I am a graphic designer.

SBM: Any other artforms?

JS: Illustration/music/accumulation of junk.

SBM: I guess we can count "accumulation of junk" an artform if you do it well!  What Philly Neighborhood do you call home?

JS: I live in South Philly now, but I was born and raised in Pittsburgh...but I've lived in Philly for the last 9 years.

SBM: Got a day job? Or do you work via your artform full-time?

JS: I work doing business and community outreach for the Philadelphia Marathon.

SBM: That's pretty cool!  Checking out your site I see you've had a chance to work on some pretty cool projects.

JS: Yeah, it's been cool working with Flying Kite's On The Ground program and Small But Mighty Arts Grant, of course!

SBM: Well with all this talk about cool stuff, what's one cool thing about working as an independent artist in Philly?

JS: There is a thriving community of creative professionals, artists, tech people in Philly.

SBM: There sure is...and I'd say that makes it a pretty fun place to be creative and collaborate.  Thank you for collaborating with us!

JS: You're Welcome!

Check out Jaison's website:

SBM On the Move: Made In America Festival 2012

Jay-Z, Pearl Jam and Small But Mighty...

Thanks to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Small But Mighty Arts was able to share an info table at the Made in America Festival.  When I arrived to set up, Philadelphia's own Jill Scott was on stage singing her heart out and the dance tent behind our table was bursting with beats and dancing bodies.  The on again, off again rain did little to deter the crowd and it wasn't hard to get people to pose with our signs, sign the email list and profess their undying love for all things arts and culture in Philadelphia.   It was SBM's first tabling event and a lot of fun!

Gabi & Ed
Chris & Sophia
Rashid, Photographer & Videographer

 I thought about the amazing artists performing over the weekend...major artists, who also started out as unknown up-and-coming artists.  It goes to show that you never know...the poet at the open mic, the MC around the way, the dancer, the painter, the writer, the actor...could be only steps away from the step that could significantly enhance their creative careers.

Any artist, at any given time, is one moment away from their next great creation...we've got to make sure that artists have the opportunity to take the steps that lead to that moment. 

During my last stroll through the Cause Village section of the festival, I stopped to talk to people at a nearby of the men I spoke to was happy to hold our sign and show his support...and why not, after all his son is proof that Philly indie artists may start small, but often go on to do great things!

Ms. Loretta Coney and Mr. Will Smith Sr.

From Hesitation to Creation...

I've probably told some form of this story many times over, but it's true, I moved to Philadelphia from Minneapolis in 2003 to specifically be a part of its arts and culture scene.  At the time I was listening to a lot of internet radio as I worked as an Assistant Hall Director, building community among staff and residents.  At the same time I was finding my poetic voice, frequenting open mics and falling in love with Philadelphia from a distance.

So when I was ready to make a change in my career, rather than stay in Minneapolis, an equally awesome creative city, I set out east to find out exactly what they were drinking in the creative water in Philadelphia!  In my first few years here I soaked it all in:  grad school, open mics, theatre, live music, art, food, house parties, new friends, new jobs and neighborhoods each with their own ebb, flow and creative tick.

In 2006 I set out to record my first album.  I had no idea what I was doing, I was just really passionate and believed in the words I had to share.  To promote the album, I watched the artists before me, whose work I admired, and mimicked them.  Email updates, tours to cities where friends and family could lend a couch, self-marketing, professionally pressed CDs, more performances, more self-promotion, networking, grinding, juggling and hoping with a lot of hope that my "break" would come.

One thing is very true of what they say about the Philly arts scene; it will toughen you up, and if you can hold your own in front of a crowd here, you're pretty cool most anywhere else.

In that time, I learned a lot.  I can't say that my "break" ever came, it was more like a lot of smaller breaks and opportunities to build other bigger creative projects.  I joined a collective of driven artists who also wanted to support the arts scene in Philadelphia.  I stretched myself from spoken word into theater and I embraced my marketing and programming skills to help other organizations and businesses.

If you met me at that time, I had a pretty constant "soap box" speech about what artists like myself and my peers needed in order to actually grow and thrive (i.e. funding, connection to resources, professional development), and I felt pretty strongly about artists being able to do so in Philadelphia.

Sometimes it comes down to timing and common business sense, and other times it is the need for basic dollars and cents.

When the Knight Foundation released their announcement of the second Knight Arts Challenge I'd like to say I jumped at the chance to apply, but I didn't.  Not at first.  My idea seemed pretty small and almost too simple: "give me money and I will give money to others" -- like yeah, sure.  But Small But Mighty Arts Grant seeks to do that and much more.

SBM  has everything to do with timing, the opportunity to support indie artists at a time in their careers when a boost through a micro-grant could make a significant difference to the advancement of their work.  The timing in Philadelphia couldn't be better.  The City's arts and culture scene is among the best and fastest growing.  SBM would be a part of a very rich collection of established organizations and grassroots efforts to bring more art to Philly and sustain up-and-coming artists.

Small But Mighty is starting with the basic need among artists for dollars and cents.

In the coming weeks and months, you'll see more updates and news about why micro-grants are so critical for artists in Philadelphia and you will have a chance, as an artist or supporter of the arts, to lend your support to our efforts.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to join a team of equally passionate folks to do something that I've always wanted to do..."insert [more] art here" in Philadelphia, one small but mighty artist at a time.

Thank you for's the first step to supporting our mission...we're looking forward to many more to come!

Erica "RhapsodE" Hawthorne