ArtsMHK Meetup: ‘Community, education, and resources for artists as entrepreneurs’

Kelly Yarbrough, regional representative for the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, presents on Artist INC Express. The presentation was crafted to bring financial and educational resources to artists. (Kaitlynn Faber | Collegian Media Group)

At 4 p.m. on April 19, over one hundred local artists, entrepreneurs and art supporters gathered at Wareham Hall on Poyntz Avenue in Manhattan. Their mission: to end the starving artist trope.

ArtsMHK, who held the event, is a group of local artists and art supporters working to connect Manhattan artists with resources, education and other tools to find success in their creative work. The group was started by Sarah Siders, executive director of Spark, Kendra Kuhlman, executive director at the Manhattan Arts Center, and Kelly Yarbrough, regional representative for the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.

“We want artists to start seeing themselves as entrepreneurs,” Siders said. “But to really help we needed to hear from people who are doing the work.”

At the end of the April event, ArtsMHK surveyed attendees, asking what resources they needed to be successful. Yarbrough presented the survey results, which showed local artists need resources, education, community, advocacy and funding. ArtsMHK set out to provide just that.

The group hosted a follow-up event at the MAC on Wednesday — the ArtsMHK Meetup. The event was a networking and community-building event designed to bring people together in response to the survey results. Artists and art enthusiasts found themselves once again in a place of community, but this time with a cocktail hour, live clay wheel demonstration, art showcase, resource presentation and more. Traci Brimhall, poet laureate of Kansas and professor in creative writing, also attended.

“A lot of artists get stuck in survival mode,” Siders said. “As an artist, you know your product better than anyone. We just take things like contracts and negotiations and help you get good at that.”

Siders helps connect people to entrepreneurship resources through Spark, a local non-profit that works to get entrepreneurs up on their feet. Spark hosts a variety of tool-building events such as classes and networking events.

ArtsMHK also connects artists to resources through grant application information. Kuhlman, who has experience in grant writing with the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, advised attendants about the application process and upcoming opportunities.

“Some of these grants are for at least $10,000,” Kuhlman said. “So if you have an idea, we can make it happen.”

ArtsMHK also created a Facebook group called “ArtsMHK: community for creatives and people who support them,” which is an online community for locals to share resource information, event planning and inspiration. The group has 273 members and is the best place to find more information on upcoming events regarding the group, Siders said.

The MAC is working hard to provide the community with opportunities to learn new creative skills along with cultivating old ones. Justice Catron, senior in fine arts, teaches ceramics classes at the MAC and presented the clay wheel demonstration for the event. 

“We have eight [pottery] wheels … and offer both classes with instructors and open studio hours run by volunteers,” Catron said.

The eight-week courses are usually about $200, but there is an abundance of flexible scholarships to help students work around the cost, Catron said.

Between MAC class demonstrations, grant opportunities and support resources, the ArtsMHK Meetup empowered artists to take the next big steps in their careers.

“We’re bringing together community, education and resources for artists as entrepreneurs,” Siders said. “The resources are out there. … Think bigger.”