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SMC program promotes art

Alex Winegar | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Applications are now open for Spark for Women Visual Arts (SPARK-Art), a 12-week program sponsored by the Saint Mary’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) that helps South Bend-area women looking to turn their artistic skills into a business.

This program supplements WEI’s SPARK program, which is in its fifth year, WEI director Martha Smith said.

Smith said most artists end up pursuing art as a side job and do not treat their talent as a full-fledged business.

“SPARK-Art intends to change this situation by guiding these women in creating a business plan, implementing marketing [and] promotional materials, and providing them with general success strategies designed specifically for visual artists,” she said.

Smith said SPARK was originally a pilot program formerprofessor Susan Vance based on the San Francisco’s Women Initiative (WI). After meeting with the CEO of WI, Staci Lugar Brettin, an entrepreneurship expert, Smith said Vance tweaked the San Francisco curriculum to create a version that was applicable to the South Bend community.

“Susan did not want to reinvent the wheel and searched for the best model in the country,” Smith said. “She found it in San Francisco’s Women Initiative (WI). Thereafter, several community members joined Professor Vance’s vision and brought the program to life.”

Sheryl Kosovki, a mentor with Artful Work, will be the one facilitators of this new program, Smith said.

Kosovki coaches creative entrepreneurs, artists and designers on becoming successful commercial artists.

“I have been teaching entrepreneurs how to make a living for the past 20 years and recently started my own consulting business, so it was a perfect fit,” Kosovki said.

Students of SPARK-Art will gain all the skills needed to succesfully run their businesses, Kosovki said. That will include not only the hard skills, such as bookkeeping, but also how to manage their fears and how to visualize success, she said.

“Some of these women have run on hard times, so imagining success is quite challenging,” Kosovki said. “And if they can’t see that they can succeed, they won’t.”
SPARK-Art is open to all artists and designers, Kosovki said. This includes graphic designers, interior designers and fine artists. It will also include some people who intend to start for-profit art galleries, Kosovki said.

The program’s average age is 42, Smith said, but participants range in age from 24 to 70.

By focusing on this new branch of the SPARK program, WEI will focus on women artists and help them to become successful independent business owners, Smith said.

There was a need for a course that approaches the business aspect

in a more creative, visual manner, similar to these talented artists’ thinking processes, Smith said.
Kosovki said mentors and the “Rekindle the Flame” program support the artists.

“Rekindle the Flame” is a program that continues the support the entrepreneurs need after the 12 weeks are over, Kosovki said. Women meet once a month to support one another and to gainwhatever technical skills they still lack.

After looking closely at South Bend in particular, Kosovki said she noticed the community was having a hard time supporting local artists.

“If we can get a lot more artists around in the community … then [the] community can succeed in regards to arts because they’ll be out there and people can begin to understand art a little bit better and its role in the community,” she said.

Contact Alex Winegar at awineg01@saintmarys.edu