Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the summer edition of Business Leader magazine. To view that issue and other special publications produced by the Leader-Telegram, go to leadertelegram.com/magazines.

As the wife of an artist, Hollie Moe has firsthand experience with the challenges the career path often presents.

“Just like many entrepreneurs, artists may not have had formal education in business or marketing skills,” said Moe, program manager for UW-Eau Claire Continuing Education. “They are also small businesses, so they wear many hats.

“They often have second jobs or careers, families and other priorities and are juggling these responsibilities as well as their art.”

Seventy-five percent of nearly 100,000 people who responded to a 2011-13 survey of The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, an online effort aimed at enhancing the impact of arts and design schools, said they had been self-employed at some point in their careers.

More than 80 percent of those in a different survey said they could have benefited from learning more about marketing, promotions, finances and strategic planning.

Moe developed a program — adopting a relatively new word in the American lexicon — to fill that void. The Artrepreneur program at UW-Eau Claire got started in fall 2017. Workshop titles in the program include Business Basics & Recordkeeping for Artists, Career Planning & Time Management for Creatives, Pricing Your Work and The Artist Portfolio & Statement.

“When (my husband) has time for his art, he has to decide whether to paint or work on his website or research opportunities to sell his work,” Moe said. “The workshops not only teach about these topics, but participants also leave with concrete plans and tools to help them meet their career goals.”

A growing presence

Erin Klaus, co-owner of the art collective and downtown shop Tangled Up in Hue, 505 S. Barstow St., said the city of Eau Claire, UW-Eau Claire, business improvement districts and other organizations have made for an “art-centric, art-forward community.”

“Eau Claire has always had a creative culture, but over the last 10 years that culture has been embraced and developed on a broad scale,” she said. “We have a lot to be proud of and, with continued partnerships of this caliber, Eau Claire will, if it hasn’t already, establish itself as a destination for the arts.”

Local artist CV Peterson, an instructor in the Artrepreneur program, agreed.

“The cultural scene in Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley is thriving,” she said. “There’s definitely a desire from both creatives and the community to have it keep growing. ... I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

She said the core goal of the Artrepreneur program is to provide the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the business side of a creative career.

“It’s the side of art and other creative endeavors that is often not seen or perceived by beginning artists or by the public,” she said. “I probably spend a third of my time in the office — working on proposals, writing emails, making press releases, sending out newsletters, applying for grants and such.”

Need for business skills

Galaudet Gallery has locations in Chicago and at 618 S. Farwell St. in downtown Eau Claire. Vicki Milewski and her brother, Mike Milewski, own the business.

“There were many learning curves but scheduling has been the largest,” Vicki said. “Scheduling ... four annual art exhibits, scheduling the shipping of my own art out to worldwide exhibits and making time to attend openings, give lectures and be present for collectors is all still a work in progress, and I haven’t even mentioned making art, which happens every day — and long into the night.”

In addressing such concerns, the Artrepeneur program has drawn an eclectic crowd to date.

“Our attendees are very diverse, which creates an extremely rich adult learning environment,” Moe said. “(They) have ranged from young artrepreneurs who have just graduated college to well-established local artists who have made a career of their art to recently retired folks pursuing a ‘second act’ in the arts.”

And some of those in the “well-established” group had some words of advice for others considering a career in the field:

• “Marketing, branding, display and packaging are just as important as the art you make or the product you are trying to sell,” Klaus said. “Partnerships with other artists or businesses can help you achieve greater success. Ask for help, advice and mentorship from other people who have experience in your field. Teamwork really does make the dream work.”

• “Budget and break down your material expenses,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to be creative when you’ve spent all your grocery money on art supplies and your stomach is grumbling.”

• Mike Milewski, Vicki’s older brother in a family with a long history in the arts, said: “Define for yourself what success means. Don’t compare yourself to others but learn from them. Be professional: A career in the arts is not a hobby or playtime, it’s your business.”

Contact: 715-833-9215, liam.marlaire@ecpc.com.