Money Matters from AES

The world of arts and arts management is replete with stereotypes about artists and money; the starving artist image seems to imply that artists do not know how to manage money or do not care, because they live in their dreams and not in the ‘real’ world. The truth is that money matters, whether you are an artist solopreneur or the leader of a complex, cultural non-profit overseeing a large scale operational budget and multiple program budgets. The Arts Extension Service courses debunk these myths about arts professionals by providing artists and cultural workers with the tools to reframe money matters as an essential way to insure that the important, good work of the organization or artist is well-resourced. AES addresses the needs of a diverse range of artists, managers, leaders, and cultural workers. The Financial Management course can build budgeting, financing and analysis skills in a short time frame. The concise chapter, Financial Management in the Arts in AES’ Fundamentals of Arts Management, 6th edition, teaches an 8-step budgeting process and provides tools for tracking and evaluating one’s budget. The chapter is sandwiched within a comprehensive how-to guide addressing all aspects of arts management. Said co-editor Dee Boyle-Clapp, “While working on the book, we knew that this was one of the most important chapters for arts managers. The authors worked incredibly hard to make it readable, easily digestible, and useful to those who are not CPA’s but have finance or program budget responsibilities.”

Another organization who shares the goal of debunking the myth of the starving artist is Propel Nonprofits. Their collection of eight lessons learned from many years of partnering with arts nonprofits includes the case study of Juxtaposition Arts (Lesson 4) whose CEO, DeAnna Cummings, is particularly inspiring for artists. The article describes how the organization transformed from an after-school program into a community-hub that harnesses “creative power with a strong emphasis on economic self-sufficiency.” Not only has the organization grown, acquiring buildings and contributing to neighborhood development, but the CEO herself “demonstrated the profound evolution of an artist to the driving strategist of an Innovative and forward-looking Community Place maker and a force for positive change.”

For individual artist-solopreneurs with a visual learning style, Pi Luna, a business coach for creatives, writes books that offer an entry into money matters through stories and visuals. Pi has a background teaching math and an MFA from Goddard College. She combines her two loves--art and math--in her books, such as Life Savings: Navigate the Financial Course, which she co-authored with Edward Worden. Pi’s illustrations walk readers through real-life situations, such as getting financial aid, buying a car or a house, credit cards and compound interest, retirement and taxes. The authors write, “When math feels connected to real life, learning becomes a source of joy.” For another book, Budget Basics, Pi created a character named Penny, an artist who has inconsistent income, like so many artists who don’t have the luxury of 9-5 jobs. Penny learns to plan ahead for periods of unexpectedly low income and change her spending habits so that she is able to save up and maintain a steadier pool of resources for her life and art.

Pi’s books also make a great supplement to the Artist in Business trainings that AES has taught throughout its 46 year history. Boyle-Clapp notes that “in our current two-day training, we devote a full day on the role of finance, including teaching how to create a budget, how to price work and how to look at money as a tool. Artists learn how to shift their expectations that they must be a ‘starving artist’ to make good work, to a model that fits this era, where to be a successful artist, one must be able to fund and financially sustain their work and ironically, then get to devote MORE time in the studio or lab.”

With the rise (some would say explosion) of social entrepreneurship, the skills of financial management are an essential companion to creative and strategic thinking. If you have great ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit, but feel intimidated by money matters, AES can support arts entrepreneurs and managers to build those financial management muscles. Artists and Arts managers need to understand how to run a sustainable business/non-profit, how to implement great ideas and secure the financial backing it takes to make them real. AES offers a variety of opportunities to build your financial toolbox. Arts Entrepreneurship and Financial Management classes, and a host of internship opportunities that provide hands-on learning opportunities. Join us today to become an internship provider, or enroll in the Financial Management class.