YAC aims to support local artists, entrepreneurs through the Big Bad Business series

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council is currently taking applications for two incubators targeted to entrepreneurs in the region: The Big Bad Business Lab and Community Supported Arts.

The Big Bad Business series is a partnership between YAC and the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation that provides free, monthly workshops and sessions to entrepreneurs, inventors and start-up enthusiasts in North Mississippi. Along with being mentored and coached by experienced and successful entrepreneurs and artists in the region, participants will have the chance to network and build connections.

The National Endowment for the Arts issued YAC a grant for their Arts Project program and a Creative Placemaking grant. Creative Placemaking gives the community time and resources to foster development and growth.

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“The grants will help the creative economy and small businesses get more intensive support so they can stay [in Oxford],” said Meghan Gallagher, YAC Outreach & Education Coordinator. “A lot of people perceive that there are more resources in Nashville or Memphis or don’t think there are any resources here, but that isn’t true.

“Between the University [of Mississippi], the EDF and what we try to do at the arts council, if you really want to stay in the area, we’re trying to provide the resources you find in larger cities and help make Lafayette County your home.”

YAC has received a two-year grant to pilot the Big Bad Business Lab, a creative arts industry space to grow nascent arts-centered businesses to sustainable size and long-term presence, and has opened applications for their second round.

The Lab will provide nine months of studio, performance/exhibition/retail, and interactive work spaces for two cohorts of 4 to 6 supported entrepreneurial artists in all media. They will be linked with the community, including potential clients and customers, through open studio hours, knowledge exchange sessions, community gatherings, and arts-focused events — all within the safety constraints of Covid-19.

Lee Ingram, owner of Collegiate Tutoring and Lee Ingram Books, is the Creative in Residence of the first cohort and assists the small business owners connect with resources in the community and as far away as Jackson.

The Lab not only reaches out far beyond the community, but it also draws people in.

“We have people participating from Tupelo and driving up from Jackson to attend some of the workshops related to the Lab,” said Gallagher. “I love that. The more people you can get in a room, the more shared experiences, learning and cross-pollinating of ideas you can have.”

YAC focuses on challenging their artist and taking their creativity to new heights through the Lab and the Community Supported Arts incubator, as well.

The CSA incubator allows participants to create products through their talent and artistry that will generate a source of income. Creatives in the CSA program can use their funds to achieve a business goal, such as pursuing technical expertise in the areas of website development.

Also, the program accepts investors who seek to support the CSA artists and can buy the projects in advance.

According to Gallagher, the community’s input is key to the growth and YAC is currently gathering opinions through a survey on what the public might want to see in the new building wing. The wing will hold more classes and more artists and facilitate more connections in the community.

“Artists, not only do they make beautiful art, but they are economic drivers and they shape the community and conversations,” said Gallagher. “The more people you have in a room, the more Hopefully, the new building will bring out more of the arts and small businesses across North Mississippi.”

For more information on The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s Big Bad Business series, their programs and how to apply, visit www.oxfordarts.com/programs/arts-incubator or contact YAC Outreach and Education Coordinator Meghan Gallagher at outreachyac@gmail.com.