A “Pop-up” of business-minded art
Every artist has a story to tell. For some, it’s a product to sell. For many, there’s a never-ending conflict at play: How do you create something that fills your heart, feeds your passions and helps you pay the bills?
That’s where Skidmore’s Entrepreneurial Artist Initiative and one of its showcase events, the annual Handmade Pop-up shop, comes in.
The Entrepreneurial Artist Initiative aims to provide studio art students with the business skills needed to build a successful career around their passion for art making. Created and supported by Molly Haley ’64 and her husband, Ed Freitag, the program offers a roadmap for students to integrate coursework with live business experiences.
The Handmade Pop-up, held this year on April 27, was one of these “live” experiences. The Pop-up is a one-day sale of art and handmade items created by Skidmore’s emerging visual artists. Students transform the foyer of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery and welcome the entire community into a lively “pop-up” marketplace showcasing their original works.
“A very important aspect of the Entrepreneurial Artist Initiative is to create professional experiences for emerging artists beyond the classroom,” says Elizabeth Dubben, arts administration lecturer and coordinator of Skidmore’s Entrepreneurial Artist Initiative.
Dubben continues, “We accomplish this through professional exhibits in local galleries and the Handmade Pop-up, as well as other opportunities. For many students, the Pop-up is one of their first experiences displaying and selling works in public.”
The course, “Marketplace for Artists,” taught by Dubben as part of the Arts Administration program, prepared students for the Pop-up.
“Students learn about topics such as packaging, pricing, marketing, promoting and selling,” says Dubben. “Ultimately, they begin to understand that it’s about building a connection with their customer. Then, like a laboratory, the Pop-up gives them a space to test their theories and get a taste of what it’s like to do this for a living.”
The 2018 Handmade Pop-up broke a record with the largest sales day ever and 22 students participating.
Meet three of the Pop-up artists
Julia Rinaolo is a junior art major concentrating in communication design, but her “passion is hand lettering and calligraphy.” Also interested in fiber arts, she’s using her time at Skidmore to explore combinations of her talents and maybe become a surface-pattern designer.
“The Initiative is the best thing, by far, that I’ve been involved with at Skidmore,” says Rinaolo. “If it wasn’t for the course and Elizabeth Dubben, I never would have found the motivation or tools to start my own business.”
Riley Walzer, a junior studio art major with a business minor, is influenced by his life growing up on the water in Annapolis, Maryland.
“My wish is that my pieces will transport people into their own memories of the outdoors as they take in the natural forms, color, and textures of each piece,” says Walzer. “I often encourage people to pick up and handle my items to gain a full experience.”
Shaw Lenox, a sophomore, was a math major until he realized he was more of “an artist who likes math than a mathematician who likes art.” Now he’s a studio art major with a goal of someday having his own studio. For now, he’s exploring various mediums until he declares a concentration and refines the next steps of his career.
“I got involved with the Pop-up when I realized that I couldn’t just be an artist who makes art, that I needed to actually pay rent and buy food,” says Shaw. “After taking the Marketplace for Artists course, I was prepared for the Pop-up to sell prints I’d made over the year as well as on-the-spot drawings I made there.”
Nineteen other students also participated in the Pop-up:
Blynda Chen ‘19
Nola Donkin ‘18
Emma Fritschel ‘19
Simone Hadebe ‘20
Bri Hooijberg ‘20
Mackey Howe ‘18
Troy Kim ‘19
George Kikoria ‘20
Anna Loginov ‘21
Annie Morford ‘18
Carly Patkin ‘21
Hannah Peck ‘20
Katie Salk ‘19
Natalie Sternberg ‘18
Louise Sullivan ‘18
Phoebe Tohl ‘18
Cara Vogel ‘18
Emma Waldman ‘18
Bryce Wall ‘20
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk