Doing Business 

A few years ago, Alaina Clarke and I started a conversation about creating a new series of business classes for Artists. The Avenue program has always included an emphasis on educational classes, workshops and conversations. Over the years the programing and partnerships have been pretty diverse, pairing with the now defunct Great Grand Rapids Arts Council, ArtPeers and most recently ArtPrize and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

And classes have taken all shapes and sizes. A few years ago we launched a day long event at the UICA called Break it Down. Make it Better. to talk about what it is like to be an artist and maker in west Michigan, the series has grown in popularity and is a great program. In addition, we have continued to host between 3-6 Break it Down. conversations annually.

But I am the most excited about the evolution of our small business classes into what is now called the Doing Business Class. Curriculum development was lead by Alaina while she was in graduate school at GVSU and a Graduate Assistant a the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. There are a few basic assumptions we approach the development of the class curriculum with.

  1. Artists who don’t directly address business planning are less likely to be strategic when evaluating growth and sales opportunities.
  2. For many artists, maintaining healthy networks of contacts and supporters is vital, as is developing a method to calculate the financial cost of creating artwork.
  3. Building community among the participants is just as important as the class content.
  4. Workshop style classes mean artists work out with usable take aways.

    Megan Roach of Adventure Textiles shares her work with the cohort

When we launched the first 6 week series it was labeled a cohort and got a great response from the community. The second time we increased the number of meetings to classes to 8 but reduced the time spent in each class to 2 hours. Classes are lead by Alaina with support by myself and one Learning Lab member. Our second cohort of artists just finished their series and I think the results are pretty impressive.  Check out what artists are saying about the program in a recent Neu Article. Megan Roach of Adventure Textiles shares her work with the cohort.

Based on the success of the program we launched a 3 week Marketing 101 series which I will teach and will act as a supplemental class for the Doing Business Cohort.

We have currently hosted 21 artists in the program which was supported by two Learning Lab crew members. Here are some images from the recent classes.


Class discussion



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: