Bev Shephard is a co-founder and Director of Haarlem Artspace CIC and a specialist creative industries consultant. Haarlem Artspace champions rural contemporary creative arts practice from its beautiful setting in Derbyshire, and supports 35 creatives with inspiring and affordable studios, continuing professional development, and a public programme of exhibitions and talks. In December 2018, Haarlem Artspace was supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Funding Network Projects to deliver a one-day fundraising conference specifically for individual artists.
It’s early on a cold and rainy Saturday morning and 15 artists are gathered over a warming cup of tea in rural Wirksworth, Derbyshire. They’re discussing their diverse artistic practices, and the challenges of making a living as a practicing artist. The group work in different disciplines: print making, large-scale sculpture, painting, glass, design, music, writing and contemporary craft to name just a few. Fundraising is high on the agenda, but this is no surprise as this is a one day conference on fundraising specifically for artists creating artistic product. They tell us that arts fundraising is much more often discussed with arts organisations in mind, rather than individual artists, so the group are keen to learn how they might diversify their income.
Anna Clyne, an independent professional fundraising consultant and my co-facilitator for the conference, is determined to demystify fundraising, and support the group with some very practical skills and techniques and prepared resources.“I want to empower artists and creatives to feel confident to put what they learn into practice” she says, kicking offa conversation about building a case for support with an artist’s statement. We compare some well-crafted, clear examples with others that make us laugh out loud, before attempting our own with the help of her top tips.
The group learn how to find the trusts and foundations that support individual artists, and we take a look at one or two in detail. The conversation broadens out to a discussion about collaborating with arts and community organisations, other artists and commissioners, about the impact art can have with particular disadvantaged groups and how artists can demonstrate this in funding applications. We take stock of the numerous sources of government support available too, including, of course, Arts Council England. The conversation then turns to residencies and awards, and our first speaker, artist Olivia Penrose Punnett, shares her experience of spending a year pursuing multiple residencies and how the experience helped develop her practice and grow her network.
I lead an interactive session helping the group think about how fundraising fits with their long-term aspirations. I’m keen to open up new fundraising possibilities for a group who tend to rely heavily on Arts Council funding and looking at the bigger picture is important.We have a go at creating a strategy, using tools more often associated with business planning to understand our values, mission and purpose, themes, motivations, and talents. What is the factor that will have the single biggest impact on increasing revenue? Revenue per project/product line/customer perhaps..? We look at what types of fundraising this suggests each artist might prioritize and take a fresh look at who this suggests our customers are and how we’ll reach them.
Jiten Anand, Director of Inspirate and our second speaker, shares his experience of fundraising from corporates in a wide-ranging interview that discusses the importance of building relationships, networking, the right sponsorship packages and public reach. We look at artist Anna Mawby’s beautifully-crafted and subtle initial approach to Soda Stream too. We look at individual giving and crowdfunding technology, noting how writer Lucy AitkenRead built a community around her blog and turned this into a monthly ‘wage’ using Patreon, and how photographer Jack Lowe supports his Lifeboat Station Project with individual giving. Hearing from others’ directly relevant experience sparks the imagination, so each artist drafts an outline of their own crowdfunding project, considering its fit with their long-term plan. Our final speaker, Gavin Munroe at Full Grown, inspires us with the story of his first successful Kickstarter campaign and the community it helped build, and ‘Shares for Chairs’ campaign, his current bespoke individual giving campaign created to drive investment.
We wrap up. The day is done and the room is buzzing. All 15 artists give the day an excellent rating. My favourite feedback: “Brilliant day! My brain feels like is it about to explode!”
For Haarlem Artspace, the day helps build our rural artistic community and rural support networks. The edited podcast will be available on our Soundcloud channel https://soundcloud.com/haarlemartspace and we’ll run the conference again, but the real legacy is the friendships built during a day nurturing a peer group who will go on to support each other’s fundraising work and artistic practice in the much longer term.