Connecting the Arts | UA students learn the art of business at Boston Mills Art Festival

by Katelyn Gainer

Artists don’t have to starve or at least that is what the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art is teaching their students. A new class offered through the school teaches students the business side of being an artist, which is often overlooked in typical art classes.

IMG_1514Artists who take the art school route often forget there are two sides of being an artist—creating and then selling what you’ve made. Art students often get thrown into the real world not knowing how to promote or market their selves or their art.

The Myers School of Art now offers what they call the Boston Mills Experience with the help of professor and artist Sherry Simms, who received her undergraduate degree in metalsmithing from the University of Akron.

“When I was in school there was no business tie,” she says. “The idea of selling your work was never really mentioned. …the emphasis was on making the work.” After graduating from the University of Akron she moved to Memphis where she started making jewelry and had to start teaching herself the business side of being an artist. What she found might surprise most. She says she discovered, “I could make a good living.”

Later Simms returned to Akron, where she pursued her graduate degree then later became a faculty member at the university.

IMG_1520Last year, someone from the Boston Mills Art Festival approached Simms and asked if she wanted to take on an Emerging Artist tent with her students. Students of the class were invited to participate in the Annual Boston Mills Art Festival at the Brandywine Resort in Peninsula, Ohio for the weekends of June 26-28 and the dates of July 2–5.

“A lot of students don’t even know this is an option; usually the gallery is the option that they have,” Simm explains.

For the project, students were expected to produce a collection of work and showcase to sell it at the art festival. They had the semester to create the work. They were expected to make business cards, help put the Emerging Artists booth together and set-up displays for their work.

I visited the Boston Mills Arts Festival during the July 4 weekend to visit the Emerging Artists booth. Before making it over to the Emerging Artists booth I walked around to see what other artists had to offer. When I arrived at the Myers School of Art booth I was pleasantly surprised and impressed to say the least.

It obvious that the class had taught the students what they needed to know about the business side of being an artist. I spoke to students Jaclyn Hale and Bridget Hoosic to hear what they learned from the class and the experience.

“We learn a lot about making art but not the business side like making a website and business cards. It was really helpful how to learn how to do that kind of thing. When you do graduate you really are trying to start your own business,” Hale tells me.

IMG_1523The Boston Mills Arts Festival gives us real world experience. We’ve learned how to make products targeted for specific audiences, branding, packing, price points and how important those aspects are too,” Hoosic says.

The work and booth was well presented. The students were charming and engaging with their customers. The quality of work was on par if not better than the other professional artists presenting at the festival. I personally left with a few purchases of Mary Clark’s work, which I adore. I can say I’ve found new artists I’ll definitely be supporting in the future and I hope Akron does too.