ArtsGrowSC – Expanded Funding for Arts-Based Businesses
The South Carolina Arts Commission and CommunityWorks (CW), a community development finance institution based in Greenville, are collaborating on a pilot program designed to increase opportunities for artisans to develop and grow arts-based business ventures that contribute to the $9.2 billion generated by the state’s core creative industries. The ArtsGrowSC pilot will combine the strengths of both organizations to offer resources for qualifying artists, including a savings program, micro-loans, business venture loans, grants, personalized coaching and workshops.The project is the next logical step for the Arts Commission’s artist development work and its Artist Ventures Initiative Program, says Executive Director Ken May. “Our Artists Ventures Initiative grant provides funding to launch or revamp an arts-based venture, but the grant is a one-time opportunity. Many of those funded artists are now ready for the next level of growing their businesses, and that growth is key to the vitality of the state’s creative economy. This new collaboration provides CommunityWorks with a pool of artisans vetted through our grants process and helps connect those artisans to much-needed capital through their matched savings programs and loans. The collaboration also adds a funding resource for artists beyond the Arts Commission’s limited grant dollars.” CommunityWorks recognizes that artisans often operate as small business ventures. According to CW’s President/CEO Deborah McKetty, “We hear a lot about jobs created when large corporations set up shop in South Carolina. However, microbusiness development could become an important second-tier economic development strategy for fostering wealth and creating jobs within low-wealth communities.” McKetty is eager to offer CommunityWork’s resources in other parts of the state. “A successful pilot project will enable us to expand our portfolio. Our goal is leveraging funds to grow the creative industries statewide while also recognizing the role artisans and arts-based businesses play in community economic development. We anticipate reaching deeper into the arts community through the Arts Commission’s networks. ” The pilot was launched May 1 in Spartanburg, where creative businesses are fueling economic growth throughout the county. In 2014, Chapman Cultural Center’s “Culture Counts” project identified a growing cluster of creative industries in Spartanburg County. “We believe that this new financing mechanism will help others to jump start or expand their creative businesses to scale,” said Chapman Cultural Center CEO and President Jennifer Evins. “Creative industries and creative workers are very important to providing innovation and creativity to manufacturing, technology and research. We also hope that this new path to economic prosperity for artists will attract creatives from other states to relocate to Spartanburg and South Carolina.” Joy Young, the Arts Commission’s program director for Leadership and Organizational Development, as well as the Artists Ventures Initiative, added, “ArtsGrowSC is a perfect union of resources – arts, financial, personal and professional – to support arts-based business ventures." ArtsGrowSC is comprised of three components targeted to artists based upon their locale and business readiness: Individual Development Account (IDA) for Artisans – This matched savings program will initially focus on Spartanburg-area artisans. Those who qualify will commit to saving an agreed-upon amount of money over six months. CommunityWorks will then match the savings at a 3:1 rate; an artisan who saves $1,000 will receive a match of $3,000. Funds may be used to purchase long-term assets such as equipment or to open a small business. IDA to Artists Ventures Initiative (AVI) – Artisans who take part in the initial IDA program may then qualify for the IDA to AVI program. Artisans receive personalized coaching from the Arts Commission and may apply for an Arts Commission matching quarterly grant to receive business training from a recognized business development source. Additionally, the Arts Commission will help in preparing the Artists Ventures Initiative grant application. Artists Ventures Initiative Business Builder Loan Program – Artists are invited to expand their ventures with a business loan of up to $15,000 from CommunityWorks. The micro-loan could be leveraged with an IDA account. Previous AVI grantees receive priority; however, any artist may apply. Previous AVI grantees may apply for an Arts Commission AVI-Expansion matching grant of up to $1,500 to assist with application and closing fees. For more information about ArtsGrowSC, contact Joy Young, (803) 734-8203.