NATCHEZ — By Terri Ferguson Smith
Turning creativity into cash can be a daunting task for artists, but it is possible through proper preparation. A free workshop designed to help artists market themselves and their creative works is set for this week in Meridian.
"Just Create It — Creative Strategies for Economic Development” will be held at 10 a.m. at the MSU Riley Center on Thursday. The conference will help creative people identify ways to turn their talents into business opportunities and show existing owners how they can use art, music, culture and heritage to grow their businesses, according to event organizers.
Karen Rooney, executive director of Meridian Main Street, said they got on board with the workshop as part of their ongoing entrepreneurship series.
"It's all about trying to get creatives — your artists, writers, musicians, potters — all those types of people to be able to give them the skills they need to grow their business, which helps all of us," Rooney said. "Meridian has so much in the arts already. We have such a rich creative economy now, we're just trying to capitalize on it."
Keynote speakers for the conference are Malcolm White, director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division, and Allison Winstead, community and economic director with the Mississippi Arts Commission.
“Mississippi’s creative economy is a direct source of economic growth and wealth, accounting for more than 60,000 jobs across the state. We look at museums right next to manufacturing plants, and creative enterprises next to industrial facilities,” White said. “From print shops and music venues to art galleries, restaurants and other innovative businesses, the creative economy provides sustainable economic contributions to the state.”
Richelle Putnam of the Montgomery Institute, is a freelance writer, an editor and a teaching artist with the Mississippi Arts Commission. She is also a speaker for the Mississippi Humanities Council. Putnam said panel discussions will provide helpful information for artists.
"We have four professional artists who are doing business as artists and have a proven record as being out there in the public and actually making a business out of their art," said Putnam, who is among panelists. "We will be sharing techniques of how we have become successful in our artists' role."
Rooney said another panel will be made up of business people who employ writers, musicians and designers.
Musician Wes Lee, painter Greg Cartmell, dance instructor Leslie Lee, and Putnam will discuss “Business Opportunities for Creative People.”
“Using Arts to Enhance Education” will be the topic of discussion by Dr. Charlotte Tabereaux, education director for The MSU Riley Center; Clair Huff, Whole Schools educator; Dr. Penny Wallin of Mississippi Alliance for Arts in Education and Terrence Roberts, storyteller and MAC Teaching Artist.
Rooney, along with Tony Pompelia, owner of Leading Edges Advertising; Whitney Grant, director of Midtown Partners; and Leigh Farrow, marketing director with Comcast Spotlight; will discuss “Using Creativity to Grow Businesses."
Another goal of the workshop is to find out what kind of help artists need and want, Putnam said. They want to know what they can do for artists to help them learn, for example, about using social media and building a website.
"When they hear successful artists giving examples of what has worked for them, that's giving them the tools they need," Rooney said. "This particular seminar is not about how to make your art better. It's about how to make your business better."
Putnam said the workshop could also be beneficial to parents whose children are budding artists.
There is no charge to attend the conference and lunch is included. To register for the event please contact Rooney at email@example.com or call 601-693-7480. The registration deadline is Monday.
Sponsors include Lauderdale County Tourism, Yates Construction, Structural Steel, AT&T, The Montgomery Institute, East Mississippi Business Development Corporation and Meridian Main Street.