Turning Art Into Business
ArtServe Helps Artists Make a Living at What They Do Best
by Holly Strawbridge
The small staff at ArtServe is putting the final touches on (InSIDE)/Out! Art as Healing Therapy, a reprise of last year's smashing exhibit of artwork by children, adolescents and adults living with disabilities. This year's event offers several creative new twists, including more dialogue between artists, art therapists and viewers, as well as participation by South Florida artists who recognize the healing effects of art. After the show closes at ArtServe, it will travel to the Miramar Cultural Center and Hollywood Arts Park, where it can reach new audiences.
“The quality of work and the stories the artists tell about how art has helped them are powerful and extremely moving. People walk out with tears in their eyes,” says ArtServe President Earl F. Bosworth.
(InSIDE)/Out! is a good example of how art enhances communication...and how ArtServe underscores the need for art in our lives.
ArtServe as arts incubator
(InSIDE)OUT! is one of more than a dozen major exhibits held yearly at ArtServe, located at 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd on the northeast corner of Holiday Park. The works of more than 100 artists are displayed at ArtServe year around.
In addition to gallery space, the facility has meeting rooms and an auditorium and provides affordable office space for the ArtServe staff and 14 other nonprofit organizations, including the Gold Coast Jazz Society, Fort Lauderdale Girl Choir, ArtsUnited, Broward Art Guild, Gold Coast Watercolor Society and Stonewall Library.
Giving visual artists a place to showcase their work is perhaps the aspect of ArtServe most familiar to the public. However, it is only one service the nonprofit provides.
ArtServe was founded in 1989 as one of six original arts incubators in the U.S. Its mission is to develop progressive events, programs and services that help artists turn art into business, while providing a positive impact on the lives of diverse communities.
“Our goal is to be a leading source of programs, resources and facilities for artists and cultural organizations, and in the process, enrich the cultural landscape of South Florida,” Bosworth explains.
After serving six years as assistant director of the Broward Cultural Division, where he handled division operations, Bosworth took the head job at ArtServe in 2009. It was an ideal match for a go-getter with an MBA who had worked in for private, government and nonprofit organizations and is a musician and published songwriter. “ArtServe was to me that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to combine the business and the creative,” he says.
Upon his arrival at ArtServe, Bosworth and the ArtServe board reexamined the direction in which the organization was headed. They reaffirmed their mission to support the business side of art. Bosworth immediately set about developing creative programs that would cater to the community, make art created by ArtServe's artist members more widely available to the public and provide jobs for artists.
“With the School Board and government making cuts to the arts, we need to show that public education is falling short—that arts matter. At the same time, we want to create revenue streams that can withstand these tough economic times,” he says.
“Our members show, exhibit and sell. We teach them how to develop business plans, help them find jobs, and in turn, they give back to a segment of the community who otherwise would not have an opportunity to see or participate in arts or arts education,” he explains.
It's a big job that Bosworth does well with only five full-time and a few part-time staff members. In addition to hosting major exhibits, ArtServe administers Broward County’s Cooperative Advertising Program, which lowers the cost of advertising for arts organizations; presents a comprehensive technical assistance program with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and Broward County; manages ArtsCalendar.com, South Florida’s online guide to arts and culture; and dreams up a growing stream of clever ways to make sure artists can make a living doing what they do best.
These programs are making an impact. In 2010, ArtServe hosted 13 exhibits, 951 classes, 68 seminars, 51 performances and 1,121 other events such as rehearsals, meetings and fundraisers—services that reached 75,458 individuals.
Partnerships are key
Bosworth knows the key to fulfilling ArtServe's mission is finding corporate sponsorship for the creative and educational programs of its members, which currently number 361. He recently persuaded AutoNation to sponsor the auditorium, which will be known as AutoNation Hall when it reopens after renovations are completed. Other partners who have stepped up to the plate include BankAtlantic, Bank of America, the Dan Marino Foundation, After-Hours Pediatrics, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Orzel Vodka, Chima, Red Bull, 89.7 Classical South Florida, BJ's Wholesaler and a variety of local organizations and nonprofits. Some of these partnerships may have less visibility, but mean the world to the people they impact.
In 2006, ArtServe started an Eco-Art Therapy Program to provide “at-promise” children and young adults with an opportunity to learn about the environment through the arts. Thanks to support by the Sun-Sentinel Children's Fund and Precision Paddleboards of Fort Lauderdale, five artists were given part-time jobs teaching the program at the Sunset School in Davie. Precision Paddleboards also puts ArtServe members' art on display in their shop for purchase by patrons and visitors, and keeps members’ digital portfolios on hand to use in custom board designs.
A partnership with the Broward Center for the Performing Arts enables jewelry created by ArtServe members to be sold year-round in the center's boutique.
Other partnerships enable ArtServe members' works to be exhibited regularly throughout Broward County, and Bosworth is always on the lookout for “pop-up gallery space,” where the artists can be featured.
“Everything I do is designed to get members' work out there,” he says.
Prior to Bosworth's arrival, ArtServe focused predominantly on the visual arts. Bosworth set about ensuring that musical arts get equal exposure. Fortunately, Bosworth mentioned the idea in a WLRN interview, and before he was back in his office, Elsten Torres had called. The Cuban pop-rock musician and Grammy nominee liked the idea and offered to host a songwriting workshop and perform an acoustic show at an ArtServe gallery opening.
“Elsten liked the idea that we were trying to do more for local musicians, so he offered to donate his time and talent,” says Bosworth.
The idea fit perfectly with a program called Play Your Stuff, now being unrolled. Play Your Stuff provides an outlet for music afficionados to hone their performance skills and learn about the music industry. People in the music industry are donating workshops in songwriting, publishing, performing and the business of music. Weekend camps and seminars for target markets are on the horizon.
A long-term goal of Play Your Stuff is to provide musical instruments to young musicians in underserved areas, as well as an auditorium to practice and jam in. Musicians involved in every genre of music are invited to participate.
“The program is not limited to kids. They are the primary target, but the program is open to every age group,” says Bosworth.
Reaching new markets
As ArtServe expands its reach into new communities and art forms, the concept of art becomes less traditional and predictable. Sure, classes in drawing, watercolor and photography are still available on a regular basis (see www.ArtServe.org/Calendar/Classes&Workshops) and likely always will be. But in striving to serve new audiences, ArtServe is serving up some highly creative programming.
Take, for example, The Red Eye, running through the month of July. A highly inventive combination of urban street art with music, fashion and dance, it spotlights the eccentric.
Visitors love it, as does Bosworth.
“It's pure energy. When you leave, you are tired, because there is so much going on under one roof,” he says. “The only negative comments we hear are from visitors who say they can't see everything and have to miss some portion of it.”
From jewelry to jazz, ArtServe programs appeal to a wide range of people from the urban to the urbane, fostering creative expression by and for diverse communities. In the process, the programs enrich the lives of creators and visitors alike, illustrating that art has no bounds. There's something for everyone.