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story.lead_photo.caption Miroslava Panayotova, a pianist from Fayetteville, is one of 22 Northwest Arkansas artists who participated in Artist Inc. from July 21 to Sept. 8, 2020.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Artist Inc. concluded its first online program last week to help Northwest Arkansas artists find greater success as business people.

Artists and program facilitators discussed planning, communications, branding, budgeting and creating an online presence, said Lisa Marie Evans, regional program administrator. The three-hour sessions were held weekly using Zoom because of the covid-19 pandemic. The eight-week program had 22 participants.

"During this unprecedented time, we must learn to adapt, reinvent ourselves and be resilient, but it is hard to know where to start and how to do it," said Juliana Duque. "Artist Inc. provides all the tools and resources for us to be creative and move forward."

Duque, 38, of Bella Vista is a visual artist who uses mixed media such as oils, pastels and acrylics on canvas. She said her work explores the state of existence and the complexity of psyches, emotions, memories and perceptions.

About 90 artists have participated in the program over the four years it has been offered in Northwest Arkansas, Evans said.

The program is supported locally by nonprofit Creative Arkansas Community Hub and Exchange through grants from the Walton Family Foundation and the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

"This funding allowed [the exchange] to bring the program to Northwest Arkansas and primarily was used to pay for program facilitators," said Nate Green, Northwest Arkansas Council communications director.

The council won't disclose the amount of grant money received from each entity, he said.

The exchange was formed in 2019 and wants to expand the Northwest Arkansas cultural sector with a focus on building an inclusive, innovative and inspiring creative community. The alliance supports artists, cultural organizations and communities throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas through national traveling exhibition programs, leadership development and strategic grant making.

Artist Inc. normally costs $150 to attend, but the fee was waived this year to make it more accessible for artists who may be struggling financially during the pandemic, said Lia Uribe, local Artist Inc. facilitator.

Lessons Learned

Vicente Yepez, 30, of Fayetteville said the program taught him the importance of diversifying his income sources and it's OK to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Artists often require multiple forms of revenue to make a living, Evans said.

"As certain things are falling away due to the pandemic, they can understand that they can rely on other streams of revenue during this time," she said, noting she at times works as a documentary filmmaker, web designer, animator, mentor and teacher.

Yepez is a writer and video and audio producer of the "Fútbol For The People" podcast and media channel, which he said engages participants in discussions about the role of soccer clubs as community institutions in an era of sports business franchises.

"Now, I am a lot more confident about the role of my podcast and media channel as a part of my artist portfolio and will continue searching for ways to create business opportunities through my writing," Yepez said.

Artist Inc. concluded Tuesday with each artist sharing a five-minute PowerPoint presentation of 15 slides about his work and himself, Evans said.

About 65 people viewed the presentations, she said, which members of the public signed up to watch free through Facebook. The presentations can introduce the artists' work to the public, financial backers and other artists, Evans said.

Yepez said he plans to use his presentation to build awareness of his podcast and media channel.

"The presentation will be an invitation for folks who might not be avid soccer fans, but are interested in learning about sport's potential as a community building and organizing tool," he said.

Future Programming

Dates for next year's Artist Inc. event in Northwest Arkansas haven't been set, and Evans isn't confident aspects of the program will be held online after the pandemic.

The online training went smoothly, she said, but created challenges for making personal connections and collaborating. Artists and facilitators usually go out to eat or to happy hour following the weekly sessions, which wasn't feasible this year.

"If the program was taking place in person, I think it would have been completely different," said Miroslava Panayotova, a participating artist and piano instructor with the Department of Music at the University of Arkansas.

Panayotova teaches and performs as a soloist and a collaborative pianist with instrumentalists, singers and large ensembles.

She said the personal connections she experienced through Artist Inc. this year came from weekly one-hour online small group discussions of specific topics.

"In these small groups, I believe we got an experience that was closer to the in-person experience because we could spend more time together," she said. "I believe that the most important role of Artist Inc. is the connection of artists within the community."

The alliance will be offering the program virtually during the pandemic in other communities based on the lessons learned in Northwest Arkansas, Evans said.

"Even online, I believe they achieved their goal to change our lives in many ways," Panayotova said, explaining the program taught her new skills, provided career advice and connected her with artists for future collaboration and projects.

"It is an invaluable program for the community," she said.

Juliana Duque works on one of her painting  Monday Sept. 7 , 2020, at her home in Bella Vista. Duque did an online work share about her career Sept. 8 as part of the conclusion of a six week program put on by Artist INC that works with artists to help them be more successful as business people.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Juliana Duque works on one of her painting Monday Sept. 7 , 2020, at her home in Bella Vista. Duque did an online work share about her career Sept. 8 as part of the conclusion of a six week program put on by Artist INC that works with artists to help them be more successful as business people. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Juliana Duque works on one of her painting  Monday Sept. 7 , 2020, at her home in Bella Vista. Duque did an online work share about her career Sept. 8 as part of the conclusion of a six week program put on by Artist INC that works with artists to help them be more successful as business people.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Juliana Duque works on one of her painting Monday Sept. 7 , 2020, at her home in Bella Vista. Duque did an online work share about her career Sept. 8 as part of the conclusion of a six week program put on by Artist INC that works with artists to help them be more successful as business people. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Juliana Duque works on one of her painting  Monday Sept. 7 , 2020, at her home in Bella Vista. Duque did an online work share about her career Sept. 8 as part of the conclusion of a six week program put on by Artist INC that works with artists to help them be more successful as business people.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Juliana Duque works on one of her painting Monday Sept. 7 , 2020, at her home in Bella Vista. Duque did an online work share about her career Sept. 8 as part of the conclusion of a six week program put on by Artist INC that works with artists to help them be more successful as business people. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
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Build creative business skills

Learn more about becoming involved with future Artist Inc. experiences online at www.maaa.org/professional-development/artist-inc/ .

Source: Mid-America Arts Alliance

Mary Jordan can be reached by email at mjordan@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWAMaryJ.

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