Make a Living Riding the Long Tail - Part 2
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Make a Living Riding the Long Tail - Part 3

Bringing Value and Commitment to a Community

This is the third and final post on three major insights from the ACC Conference that seemed to be most relevant to make a viable livelihood from your art and craft.   The first two are:

1) The impact of the Internet and shifting marketing channels,

2) The role of "filters" from curatorial selection and peer review to online search.

3) The need to bring value and commitment to a community.
I am concerned that my readers will think this is a boring post, but in some ways, it is the most IMPORTANT! We need to think about how we can build our community and bring value and commitment for the future. Understanding and supporting your community is also a key to making a living from your art or craft. This was illustrated in multiple ways during the conference and several additional examples are shown below my signature.


RileyCritical Mass Necklace
Critical Mass Necklace  © 2009
Sterling silver, 14k. gold-filled, nylon-
coated stainless steel
Artist: Meghan Patrice Riley
Urban Renaissance Exhibition

Too many people think that their local or national craft and art groups don't have anything to offer them.  Or worse, they think that the group doesn't want them. Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  An individual CAN make a difference and each step in leadership creates a community and a network.


 Christine Dhein, Necklace
Rubber, sterling silver

Exhibited in Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA

JOIN at least one or two art groups either at the local or national level.  Along the lines of what JFK said in his 1961 inauguration speech, Don't ask what you will get out of it.....think about what you can do for your art/craft group.

Your joining means you are giving to the organization, linking yourself with a broader community. Giving not just membership dollars but another voice, an idea, an action plan, a range of expertise. You will likely find ways to participate or opportunities presented that you haven't considered. 


Chain Necklace,
Jennifer Smith-Righter
Exhibited in Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA

An example: On Friday, I went to the ACCI Gallery in Berkeley, CA where the local San Francisco Metal Arts Guild had a show for the members titled, Urban Renaissance. It was an opportunity for the ACCI Gallery to introduce its space and inventory to an entirely new group of people.


Metal Arts Guild members at the open-
ing for the show Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA.

For the Metal Arts Guild, every member could choose to participate and gain exposure for their work, exhibition experience, and another line on their resume, maybe even make a sale. Every participant was so inspired by the chance to be in this show -- it renewed their excitement for their work. But this show didn't happen without a lot of work behind the scenes by hardworking volunteers. These diligent individuals put in a lot of hours over the previous months to create opportunities and potential sales for the members, and visibility to a broader community.


Winter by Monica Schmid
Exhibited in Urban Renaissance
ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA

What are you doing to help create opportunities for your art community?

What can you do?  Offer your time and expertise to your local arts group, guild, or museum. Teach an art class for your children's school.  Help organize a show for your local guild. Even during hard economic times, we have something to share with our community to make it stronger. Below are truly inspiring examples of community and commitment that I saw at the ACC Conference.  Each example achieved success financially and enhanced respect and visibility for the arts. These examples didn't start with self-serving motives but resulted in rich rewards for the individual and the community.  This is the subject of philosophers and many poems and songs.  I think it was John Lennon, who misquoted Paul McCartney, who paraphrased Shakespeare, "the love you get is equal to the love you give."

Harriete Estel Berman
a member of Crafthaus, SNAG, San Francisco Metal Arts Guild & more.

EXAMPLES OF COMMUNITY FROM THE ACC Conference and more are below:

Harriete Estel Berman in front of
Eons of Exodus,
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Gift of Howard and Eloise Kaplan

During my visit to Minneapolis for the ACC Conference, I witnessed the importance of bringing value and commitment to a community on many levels.  Several examples range from well-known institutions to small businesses and individual efforts. 

On my first day, I visited the Minneapolis Museum of Art. This remarkable museum has achieved prominence through the support of the broader community including wealthy patrons to individual membership.  For instance, a new Judaica Collection room was sponsored by one donor, and my work at the museum was purchased through the generosity of another donor.  Almost the entire crafts collection is a result of generous donors and corporate collections donated to the museum.  I hazard a guess that what I witnessed in one afternoon reflects the basis for the success of the entire museum (and probably parallels the support of many other museums).

Sofa c.1820
Mahogany, maple, ash, pine,
polychrome, gilt, upholstery
Gift: William Hood Dunwoody Fund and
gift of funds from Harry M. Drake

In a conversation, I also heard about how the state and local governments and local corporations in the Minneapolis area collaborate to offer artist grants. The support for the arts in the area is really impressive....another pattern of a community fostering an environment for the arts to thrive and flourish. No wonder the ACC is moving to Minneapolis!

During the ACC Conference, I also heard from a number of speakers about the importance of their community in their livelihood.

Robin Petravic

Robin Petravic and his wife Catherine Bailey made a commitment to continue Heath Ceramics and to value the tradition and vision of the original company by building their company with a community of craftspeople.  They deliver not only beautifully designed products but a vision of artisan-made goods to the consumers who want to support the arts.


Natalie "Alabama" Chanin

Natalie "Alabama" Chanin developed her whole business around a community of unemployed sewing ladies of her native Alabama. Ultimately she has been able to offer employment to a cottage industry throughout several states in the southern U.S. Without thoroughly understanding and working personally with this community, she would not have the seamstresses she needed to produce her unique clothing and they would not have employment.


Faythe Levine

Faythe Levine found the artists featured in her film through her online indie community. While other filmmakers wonder how she networked her film into national notoriety, she only approached this as a natural way to get in touch with her community. This movement may be beyond simple definition, but I think everyone would agree that they are churning with energy and enthusiasm for each other and a shared passion.


Adam Lerner

Adam Lerner developed a supportive community, initially with an audience of only 20 (family and friends) to regularly sell out crowds of over 300 people.  He started with nothing more than a vision and ended up with a job at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Denver.

The commitment to a community was also illustrated by Susan Cummins and the other organizers of the Conference.  After months of planning and effort, they brought together a diverse group of speakers, tried to engage a new vision for the ACC Conference, and succeeded in creating a provocative and inspiring experience.

An individual can make a difference and each step in leadership creates a community and a network. There are many examples that I haven't included in this post, but you are welcome to suggest others in the comments area.


This post was updated on January 5, 2022.