Small But Mighty T-shirt Contest!

Small But Mighty Arts is looking for a few good designs for our 2013 t-shirt!

tshirt design contest (website2)

Submit up to 3 design ideas and if we select your design, it will be the featured design for our 2013 t-shirt and YOU will win our first Small But Mighty Arts Grant!


  1. Must be a Philadelphia resident to participate

  2. Artist can use up to 3 colors in the design

  3. Design must include the words: "Small But Mighty Artist"

  4. Designers can submit up to 3 ideas (jpeg or pdf files only please)


SmallButMightyLOGO (image)

UPDATE: SBMA selected a design winner last year. Plans are underway to feature the winning artist and design. T-shirts will be made available for sale Summer 2014. .  

When you give your creativity,
we give back to you...
and to other Philadelphia artists!

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!


If You Support Philly Artists...

This week I attended a nice formal dinner, and while talking with an executive of a local museum, we found an exciting common interest:  Live Arts Fest & Philly Fringe!  Without a second thought or concern for our surroundings...we gave each other an instant high five across the table!...Wait, did I just high five someone at a formal event?  Yes, yes I did!  Two cool points for both of us!  High fives are acceptable everywhere!

Giving someone a high five is still among my top faves ways to show solidarity, agreement or outright support.  If only for a moment, it bonds you with the other high five giver, whether you know them or just met.

Yet, there is nothing more disappointing than to  raise your hand in high five bliss only to find yourself in the awkward just-got-left-hanging pose.  The shame that follows is insurmountable!...or am I the only one borderline devastated? Just me? Ok, I can live with that.

The point is, high fives are a cool way to show support, they should be given no matter where you are, and leaving someone hanging is never cool. 

Philadelphia emerging artists have raised their hands and accepted the challenges that come with pursuing their creative work.  I founded Small But Mighty Arts Grant to support emerging Philly-based artists through micro-grants so they can take the small creative steps needed to achieve their mightiest professional success.  Many emerging artists are only $200 - $1,000 away from significantly changing their creative lives.  Meanwhile, they are creating art that transforms communities,  helps connect us to one another and contributes positively to the City's creative landscape.   Their work needs to be seen, heard, felt, shared...and supported.

The effort begins today.  Don't leave Philadelphia's emerging artists hanging...

If you support Philly Artists...
Give Them 5!

Make a donation divisible by $5 today! 

Let the campaign begin to support Philadelphia's emerging artists !

video by Sharvon Urbannavage of SP Photography

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

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