Art World Conference at Skirball Cultural Center
Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
Written by Genie Davis
A financial literacy and professional development conference for artists, Art World Conference is coming to Skirball Cultural Center February 15th and 16th. Designed to address business and financial health in arts-related disciplines, the conference is expanding from its 2019 New York City launch, with dates here in LA, Chicago, and New York this year.
According to Heather Bhandari, who launched Art World Conference with Dexter Wimberly in 2019, the freshman outing welcomed over 350 artists and arts professionals to meet in New York around common goals of financial empowerment and sustainability. The goal: to shift the way artists are valued.
Co-curator Wimberly is an independent curator and entrepreneur who has a background in PR and marketing. Bhandari is an independent curator and educator who co-authored the book, Art/Work. Both are involved with multiple nonprofits and artists, and met when Wimberly served as guest curator at Mixed Greens, a gallery in NYC that Bhandari co-directed.
“The conference is an opportunity for artists and arts administrators to gather–in person–to really focus on business and financial health. All the presenters have agreed to speak because they are fierce advocates for artists and excited to share their knowledge in honest and actionable ways. It’s a day to focus on your own needs and personal goals while acknowledging the interdependence essential to our work and shared success in the arts. And it will be fun,” she attests.
This year, programming will include panel discussions, conversations, and in-depth workshops addressing many of the opportunities and challenges faced by visual artists and arts professionals who work closely with artists. The topics will include sales, marketing, grants, taxes, managing debt, building credit, and investing, to defining value, new technologies, legacy planning, growing and sustaining community, and beyond, with an emphasis on personal and professional development and empowerment. Program topics include “Financial Literacy for Artists: Debt & Credit Building” and “Can Artists Support Themselves While Remaining True to Their Values,” among many others.
Presenters include Edgar Arcenaux, Sara Daleiden, Lorene Dixon, Gianna Drake-Kerrison, Miata Edoga, Leah Hokenson, Kiibum Kim, Jessica Lee, Arthur Lewis, Marina Magalhães, Camerson Shaw, Megan Steinman, Mary Clare Stevens, Anuradha Vikram, James Walters, Sarah Wendell Sherrill, Amy Whitaker, Allison Wyper, and Mario Ybarra Jr.
The initial launch and subsequent expansion from New York City was an experiment to see if several hundred people would gather in one place to talk about business and financial health, Bhandari notes. “When it was over, we were thrilled with the transparency of the discussions and the reaction of the attendees. We knew we had to do it again in another city we know and love to reach more people and expand the conversation that’s already happening on the ground at places like Shoebox PR. The more we all talk about money and sustainability, the easier it will be for us to advocate for ourselves and each other.”
Bhandari says “Attendees will experience panels focused on big-picture themes of value, values, community, and sustainability along with a choice of smaller sessions focused on the details of financial literacy. There will also be some movement, honest conversation, and an opportunity to connect with artists and arts professionals from across the art world. There’s also a party the night before for people to get to know each other in advance.”
Her future plans for the conference are to expand its reach to other cities. She says she wants to “create ways for former, current, and future attendees to connect. We would love to continue attendee learning after the conference ends, and disseminate information to a larger audience than those who are able to participate in person. We would also love to create a sustainable business model for ourselves while eradicating the barrier for entry for all those who want to come.”
According to Bhandari, the conference is all about combining professional development within a conference setting, with a focus on artist attendees. “The conference is sensitive to the unique and often volatile lives of artists and recognizes the financial lives of arts administrators are often quite similar,” she explains. “The conference believes in community and transparency, so all presenters have been told that honesty, transparency, and actionable information and resources are required.”