March 22, 2018 Nine Dot Arts

Beyond the Studio: Teaching the Business of Art


Congratulations! You’ve made it through a rigorous MFA program, pouring countless hours into perfecting your skills as an artist. You graduate and suddenly find yourself among the most talented creatives in the world.

Or perhaps you didn’t pursue formal training, yet you’ve worked tirelessly to become a respected artist that produces some of the most dynamic work anyone has ever seen.

Either way, the good news is you have the foundation for a great career. The next question is what does your business acumen look like? Are you able to create a sustainable business to continue to share your artwork with the world?

If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. Everyone at NINE dot ARTS was formally trained in the arts, and we’ve taken many different paths to get where we are as art curators. Something we realized along the way is that many of us were not prepared for the business side of art.

That’s why we helped create Beyond the Studio, an eighteen-month-long art mentorship program developed in partnership between NINE dot ARTS, Sage Hospitality and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU).

Designed to teach real-world experience in the arts, Beyond the Studio provided funding and guidance for an emerging artist to learn the business of being a professional artist from someone currently working and succeeding in the field.

The program included a formal mentorship between mentor Lisa Solberg, internationally renowned artist and CU alum, and CU MFA in Painting candidate Johnny DeFeo, resulting in a mural-like concept that was reproduced in all 172 guestrooms of the recently-opened Hilton Garden Inn in Boulder, Colorado.

As Defo said during the process, “I’m a business artist; I’m not interested in being a starving artist.”

The program was based on an apprenticeship model that teaches how to build skills on the business side of the arts, including how to propose your work for a large-scale project, how to develop a budget, and how to get bids and quotes.

Over the course of 18 months, DeFeo, under Solberg’s guidance, developed a proposal for the guestrooms, presented the concept to NINE dot ARTS and Sage Hospitality, oversaw production and supervised the installation. The process allowed him to gain experience in conceptualization, research, communication, fabrication and project management.

Solberg is the quintessential practicing artist: she lives in Los Angeles, exhibits internationally and continually challenges herself with new creative projects. DeFeo said the opportunity to work with Solberg was a key draw for him to apply.

“Her work is exorbitant in a really good way,” added DeFeo. “She knows how to execute a large project, and to get to work with and learn from someone who’s already doing that is huge.”

DeFeo’s success is a unique showcase of the potential of these artist connections. We’re looking forward to creating more opportunities for emerging artists to launch their careers as professionals.

For a little more background on both DeFeo and Solberg, here are their bios:

Johnny DeFeo

Originally from Connecticut, Johnny DeFeo graduated from Western State Colorado University in 2007 and is currently an MFA candidate in Painting at the University of Colorado Boulder set to graduate in May 2017. He explores the natural world, especially its connection to light and memory, in his paintings. His work is in several collections including the City of Hartford, Connecticut and CIGNA Corporation. He has served as Exhibition Manager at the New Britain Museum of Art, Exhibition Coordinator at Gildar Gallery, an art handler with JDP Art Services and a freelance landscape designer in addition to teaching positions at both the University of Colorado Denver and Boulder campuses.

Lisa Solberg

Lisa Solberg graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2005 with a BFA. A multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional artist producing paintings and installations that reveal inner emotions and moods, Lisa Solberg creates art that is honest, raw and resonant. While she finds direct inspiration in everyday life, Solberg is particularly drawn to immersive experiences for their capacity to produce discomfort, and seeks to create all-encompassing artworks and powerful memories that allow viewers to discover something about themselves. Solberg exhibits widely with solo and group shows internationally.

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