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Big Bad Business series educates local artists

As a local artist and small business owner, I am happy to live in a place like Oxford where the townspeople support their artists and appreciate fine literature, art, theatre and music. It is a creative community where people are invested in keeping our town a vibrant place to live, work and grow.

As many local artists work hard to make a living and expand their careers, several groups are stepping in to help keep artisans and craftspeople in the area by providing them with resources to create thriving livelihoods.

Andi Bedsworth

For a couple of years now, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council has been providing an Artist Incubator Series with the goal of helping artists find resources to expand their skill set so they can more efficiently sell their work, manage their resources and generally help them succeed.

Meghan Gallagher and Wayne Andrews of YAC have been coordinating and providing sessions regularly to help artists develop business plans, learn how to work with galleries and many other skills. The popularity of this program led Andrews and Gallagher to the realization that there were still some missing pieces. Artists struggle to find affordable studio space here, lack business knowledge, and the skills to really thrive, and many art students leave the area due to these issues.

Andrews and Gallagher reached out for guidance to Jon Maynard, President and CEO of Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and President and CEO of Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation.

From these collaborations, the Big Bad Business Series was born.

According to Allen Kurr, Vice President of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, the Big Bad Business Series began out of a motivation to accomplish two goals.

“The first, was to encourage entrepreneurs to share knowledge, connections, and skills with fellow business owners. The Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation (EDF) has long touted the idea of developing Oxford into a thriving entrepreneurship community. Building a program of business development workshops would provide these entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect and grow their ventures.   

“The second goal was to provide local arts based entrepreneurs opportunities to learn new business development skills.”

After speaking with Andrews, it was determined that collaborating on these sessions would be more efficient for both organizations and would yield greater value to the participants.

“The arts are a growing economic sector in Oxford and the Big Bad Business Series was built to aid in its development,” said Kurrl   

A lot of research has gone into the planning of the new series.

“The EDF began working on the program in early August 2016 following a conference in Kansas City, Missouri,” said Kurr.

The conference, hosted by the Southern Economic Development Council, centered around entrepreneurial development and one of the sessions specifically addressed the topic of arts based entrepreneurship.

“The panel shared how Kansas City had revitalized its arts community through business development programs and community development incentives,” said Kurr. “Upon our return, I immediately set up a meeting with Wayne and Meghan Gallagher and was surprised to hear they had the same vision for Oxford.  Then we got to work.”

The series debuted this January and has provided sessions on writing business plans, a venture launch weekend, speakers from the Mississippi Development Authority, local galleries and business experts from the university community.

There are still many sessions scheduled, and more information can be obtained from contacting Kurr at allen@oxfordms.com or Gallagher at outreachyac@gmail.com.

Andi Bedsworth is owner of Art To Go, which brings free art opportunities to children in the community.