PHILADELPHIA - You can be an artist without starving.
That's essentially the message of a new Web site unveiled this week that aims to help painters, sculptors, designers and artists of all disciplines become more business savvy.
The site, www.paartistentrepreneur.com, features interviews with lawyers, accountants, bankers and gallery owners as well as links to job sites and advice on opening a studio to create and show one's own work.
"We want to make sure our artists aren't starving," said Marc Kramer, president of Kramer Communications, which developed the site. "We want to make sure that artists in Pennsylvania are financially successful."
The Web site, funded with a $50,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, will have more interviews added as it develops. It is geared toward Pennsylvania but Kramer said the hope is that artists from elsewhere will discover it too.
Other sites, like the New York-based Emerge Project, also provide resources for young artists. But the Pennsylvania site's business focus is valuable because recent art school graduates often are short on financial resources, business expertise and marketing skills, said Matt Brown of the nonprofit Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
"A lot of artists tend to be really, really focused on their work - and they get so focused on their product that they don't pay attention to marketing themselves," Brown said. "Artists who are successful have to learn how to be business people and we've found they're not getting that in art school."
There are 250,000 professionally trained artists in the Mid-Atlantic region that Brown's organization serves - so it makes good economic sense to seek out and foster arts businesses just like any other small business, he said.
"Artists can really be major contributors on the local economic level, though they're really overlooked," Brown said.
Steve Bujno, 38, of Adamstown, an artist and entrepreneur who was interviewed for the site, said he had a lot to learn after graduating from college in 1987. He came up with a business plan, secured a bank loan and opened shop in 1991; today he has eight employees and a company that produces handmade stoneware pottery.
"In art school you spend four years learning how to hone your creative eye, but not how to use that after you graduate," he said. "I couldn't even get a minor in business - and I tried."
His advice to young artists: start out with an open view, visit trade shows and galleries to see what's out there, then find a niche within your craft that needs to be filled. And be prepared to work long hours, understand your market and believe in your work.
"So many people just get disillusioned," Bujno said. "Had I known in 1991 how much work I had ahead of me, I probably would have hesitated. But I can't imagine myself doing anything else."