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!

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Small But Mighty Arts Grant Among Knight Arts Challenge Winners

Small But Mighty Moment #1
Awards Night for the Knight Arts Challenge

Some people say it's the small moments that really count.  I think all moments count, though Monday night proved that sometimes the small things indeed bring about really big, awe-inspiring stuff.

Dennis Scholl, Vice President/Arts for Knight Foundation told the crowd that he read each and every one of the 1,260 submissions for the Philadelphia Knight Arts Challenge, which were narrowed down by a voting committee to 55 finalists and finally, 35 winners who gathered at The Philadelphia Art Museum Monday night to receive their awards.

I was among them, wearing a name tag bearing a "2012 Winner" ribbon for my idea submission to start the Small But Mighty Arts Grant program, a mini-grant to serve as a catalyst for artists to further their creative work and gain artistic momentum.

Though I'd been keeping the hardest and happiest secret about winning the grant for about a month, my win hadn't really hit me as I sat in the company of fellow winners like Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and Asian Arts Initiative and among leaders of the Philadelphia arts community.

I was quoted in a recent article by Flying Kite writer Sue Spolan, saying that I could not believe that I won.  And it is true, at first I couldn't believe that my seemingly small idea was about to expand into something much more.

After the ceremony, The Philadelphia Art Museum opened up the Van Gogh exhibit for the awards attendees.  As I walked through the exhibit I couldn't help but notice the difference of experience when I stood up close to one of his works compared to the perspective when I took a few steps back.  Up close, each stroke seemed so small and wild, but by stepping back you could capture the depth, dimension and movement in his pieces.

As winners of the Knight Arts Challenge, we are a lot like those paintings, each of us a small, wildly creative part of the growing Philadelphia artistic scene, bringing our strokes of genius to the city's palette in such array.  When you step back in the coming weeks, months and following year, you will see what Knight Foundation saw in all of our projects...a collective masterpiece.

I am incredibly honored to receive this grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to establish a mini-grant program to help Philadelphia artists add to the vibrant creative landscape one small, but mighty grant at a time.


  1. Sign up to receive SBM Arts Grant updates and news in the Contact Us section.
  2. Sign an artist's email list (and stay on it).
  3. Next time you buy a gift for friends or family, shop local, purchase something from a Philadelphia artist!

PRESS RELEASE: Small Grant Receives Mighty Boost to Support Philadelphia Artists!

April 24, 2012


PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia artists will soon have an opportunity to apply for micro-grants of $200 to $1,000 that could help them complete, continue or begin an artistic project.  Thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, local artists could utilize these small grants to gain artistic momentum and share more of their work within the community.

Many grants are highly competitive and geared toward larger organizations, providing fewer small grant funding options for individual artists.  Many independent artists rely on funding from their jobs or savings to support their artistic endeavors.  This often leaves artists without adequate funding to move their creative projects forward.

The Small-But-Mighty Arts Grant will launch with a $60,000, two-year grant from Knight Foundation to provide small grant funds to independent artists.  Read more