We don’t always think of marketing and commerce when referring to art. But in addition to the creative process, those critical components help transform the creation of art into the art of making a living as an artist. In this episode I chat with Umberto Crenca, or Bert as many know him. He’s a prolific artist, the founder of AS220, a powerfully self sustaining arts organization that has made it, it’s mission to provide unjuried, uncensored space for 1000’s of artist to create, exhibit and perform. We chat about the power of collaboration, how personal branding is crucial to gaining an audience for your work and why a business mindset and strategic planning is required for long term vitality of the arts community.
Artists and Makers that create in any capacity are all faced with the same dilemma, once you decide to show your work, how to feed the creative endeavor and possibly make a career from their passion or give up their art altogether: from the abstract painter in California, like my father to the aspiring musicians all over the world. One thing seemingly all artists, “successful” or not, share in common is having to travel the long, hard road to achieving their goals and becoming the artists they envision themselves evolving into.
Umberto Crenca, Founder and Artistic Director of the Providence, Rhode Island-based arts organization, understands the plight of the artists. “Making it” requires so much more today than it did in the 1980s and 90s, when artists were paid handsomely for their works more so than any other era, Crenca notes. Having said that, he believes organizations like his, which help disadvantaged youth and those without the resources to take part in artistic endeavors do so in a judgment-free, encouraging environment.
It’s taken a lot of work over the years to amass the amount of money to start and advance AS200, according to Crenca. But seeing the work he’s accomplished in helping those who clearly have artistic goals, passions, and talent get the chance to showcase themselves to others with likeminded interests goes to show his unique venture has been more than worth it.
Besides aiding kids in getting their foot in the door regarding their artistic dreams, Crenca and his roughly 60-person ensemble of ensure the day-to-day operations, including healthy promotion of the organization, run smoothly. Building a community that could act as an uncensored forum for the arts has remained the primary function of AS220 since its inception, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any marketing efforts going on behind the scenes to make it all possible. Crenca’s proud claim that he “had a website before Google did” shows the tech savvy mindset doesn’t evade even artists.
Crenca was nice enough to chat with me to discuss all things AS220, how he and his colleagues sustain the organization’s well-being, what the hiring process entails for such a distinct group, sage advice for hopeful young artists who want to make a living off their passion, and other intriguing tidbits.
Listen in for an honest account of what marketing is all about. The tips, hacks and strategies that professionals share with each other but rarely talk about in public.
- Myth debunked: Artists aren’t solitary — they love, need, and crave their communities and being social
- Artists aren’t the commodities they used to be in the 80s and 90s, but they still need to make a living
- Umberto’s crew may look like funky, alternative artists, but they all have business and marketing savvy
- Given many of those helping to run AS220 could make more money elsewhere, they’re drawn to helping others
- Finding the right fits for hiring at an organization like AS220 means carefully teaching and mentoring employees
- Umberto’s advice for aspiring kids who want to make a living off their art? “Talk to a marketing expert”
- “Follow your passion” isn’t a T-shirt slogan — it’s what Umberto notes people need to do personally and professionally
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Music & Production
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This is a labor of love, something I’ve done offline for decades and now get to share my curiosity with you. Thanks for listening to the show and to Umberto for being an amazing guest! Oh yeah, thank Umberto on Twitter, I know he’d appreciate it.
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