OCRI focuses on 'artpreneurs' in conference

Elizabeth Howell
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Leah Myer wants to change the mind of artists walking into OCRI's Entrepreneurship Centre, focused on raising money from grants.

OCRI's Leah Myer. (Provided)

Given a little push in the right direction, artists have just as much of an opportunity to make a business out of their work as any other field, said OCRI's client services and marketing co-ordinator.

That's the focus behind the Art Works Conference, which from a 35-person half-day session in city hall two years ago, is now targeting an audience of 250 at the Shenkman Arts Centre for all of Nov. 22.

Ms. Myer dubs these people "artpreneurs."

"(Arts) is a growing, important industry and we need to start looking at it more as a business of the arts," said Ms. Myer, who added arts is among the fastest-economies in Canada.

Ottawa already has at least one success story in this field, she added: DNA 11 and sister company CanvasPop, which create custom consumer art. The firms are planning to expand to Las Vegas for production and distribution.

Keynote speakers this year include prominent Canadian photographic artist Jennifer Dickson and Paul Portelli, a retail design specialist who ran a gallery and studio near Trenton, Ont. for 22 years.

The conference has more resonance following the Open Ottawa Libre session at city hall in September, Ms. Myer said. The event saw 100 digital media and cultural industry personnel gather to discuss how to enhance creative thinking opportunities in Ottawa.

Among their recommendations, the group advocated a business mentorship program for the arts.

"We can go to fine arts schools and can learn the technical skills, but we don't come out with any entrepreneurial skills," Ms. Myer said.

"We don't learn ethics and we don't learn the things that are really important to make yourself survive. You come out with all these great skills to paint a painting, but nothing to run a business."

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