Artists And Creatives Can Learn How To Launch A Business At Woodlawn Academy

WOODLAWN — Artists and creatives interested in building a business or growing their career can join the newest session of an arts-focused Community Business Academy in Woodlawn.

Woodlawn-based Sunshine Enterprises will host 21 participants in its arts and makers academy, which begins Wednesday. Topics covered include budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and pricing strategies.

Applications will be accepted online through Wednesday, Sept. 16 or until the course is full. Interested artists can apply for the upcoming course here.

The fee for the course ranges from $175–$325 based on a person’s ability to pay, and applicants can request financial assistance to bring the fee as low as $50. Fee waivers are available for returning citizens and refugees. The program’s sliding-scale registration fee is intended to “make this type of education accessible and affordable,” managing director Laura Lane said.

The time commitment is three hours of class a week plus homework, which includes developing an individualized business plan. The academy will be held virtually, and limited hotspots and devices are available to participants in need.

The arts and makers academy is run in partnership with the South Shore-based Rebuild Foundation. Rebuild members serve as guest speakers in the academy, help graduates find marketing opportunities and help fundraise for the program.

The academy will be held in the Rebuild Foundation’s planned incubator space in Grand Crossing once it’s completed, Lane said.

Naimah Thomas, an art therapist who participated in the previous arts and makers cohort, credits the academy for building her confidence in negotiating with larger companies.

“I have been creative and putting things out there, but I wanted to learn more about the business aspect — the stuff artists don’t always get to learn about,” Thomas said. “I wanted to go from making art independently to work toward more franchising and boosting my business.”

Since graduating from the academy, she’s partnered with La Colombe Coffee on packaging for a special-edition coffee; $2 of each box sold is donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Naimah Thomas’ 2016 piece “I Matter,” which is featured on a special-edition coffee box from La Colombe.
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Thomas’ cohort started off in-person, but within a couple weeks, the coronavirus pandemic forced the academy online.

She said it was hard to remain as engaged as she was for in-person courses, but participants can expect the instructors to be patient and understanding.

The most important aspect of the academy is the sense of community it builds among artists who — given the individual nature of their profession — tend to isolate themselves, Thomas said.

“In the art scene, people aren’t always open to sharing information about profits and how they’re running their business,” she said. “But the creatives [at the academy] are open and willing to share ideas about how to get support. Sunshine talks a lot about providing resources even after you graduate.”

Participants continue receiving guidance from an instructor for three months upon finishing the academy, Lane said. Sunshine is also fundraising for an online marketplace to feature its alumni’s work.

If the arts and makers program fills up, artists can apply to Sunshine’s general North, South and West side academies. The general courses still help students learn effective business practices, just without the specialized focus on arts, Lane said.


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