Before Create Tuscaloosa, there was no program to help local artists run the “business” side of their business. Seeing a need, local businesses, organizations, and individuals have partnered to deliver those resources for anyone who needs them.
Nicole Hampton, a Tuscaloosa lawyer working in intellectual property, and Ruth O’Connor, owner of O’Connor Art Studios, both saw an informational gap that needed filling. They agreed that artists could benefit from the type of legal knowledge Hampton had to offer. For individuals specializing in the arts, easy access to this knowledge would be valuable.
O’Connor knew that adding more presenters who had Hampton’s level of expertise in different fields would increase the amount of topics covered by this new initiative. Katherine Zobre of the Small Business Development Council entered the picture as someone with the knowledge to educate artists on marketing and business development. Zobre has led the creation of many of Create Tuscaloosa’s events, pulling in more presenters and putting on several events per year. The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama came on board as an entity with a vast array of members who could present on a range of business topics.
Sandra Wolfe, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s Arts & Humanities Council, helped to plan out the start of Create Tuscaloosa and provided a place to present: the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. Hampton, O’Connor, Zobre, and Wolfe worked together to get Create Tuscaloosa up and running, and each have brought their own talents to the table, leading the program to blossom into a highly valuable resource for Tuscaloosa’s artists.
Create Tuscaloosa aims to educate artists in areas in which they may have questions. Local artists attend events where they can gain information, ask questions, and network with other attendees. When asked about the impact Create Tuscaloosa leaves, Wolfe said, “I hope they walk away with answers to their questions, but also maybe leave each event with questions that they didn’t know they should be asking.”
Through the presentations and events Create Tuscaloosa holds, Hampton said that a project goal is to unite the art and business communities in Tuscaloosa. Create Tuscaloosa isn’t just about teaching art professionals skills they may not have already; it’s about connecting people who otherwise may not cross paths. The project facilitates the meeting of individuals with diverse skills and specialties. These people can share knowledge and make valuable connections as they go.
An added perk of Create Tuscaloosa is its ability to draw in more business for the presenters. It’s truly a win-win: artists learn about business tactics and information that allows them to be more successful, and non-artist business owners get their name out and make more connections. O’Connor emphasized this potential for both parties to benefit. “There is so much information out in the world, and the internet can sometimes leave us spinning in circles,” she said. “Having the help of someone you can talk to about your specific situation; that’s priceless.”
As Create Tuscaloosa continues holding events for artists, O’Connor mentioned that this initiative must stay aware of what the community needs. As more connections between artists and local businesses are made, more individuals, businesses, and disciplines of art stand to benefit from the wealth of knowledge Create Tuscaloosa’s presentations offer.
To date, presentations have been held addressing topics including intellectual property, marketing, legal and tax issues, and festival preparation. Additional events will be held throughout 2019, with a one-day event scheduled for the beginning of 2020.