We talked to Elizabeth Hulings—Founder and Executive Director of the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Elizabeth Hulings: We are doing well, thank you! It’s actually been a very busy time, which has been good.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded The Clark Hulings.
Elizabeth Hulings: My father is an American master painter, Clark Hulings; I grew up living the reality of a working artist earning a living from the creation of his art. In 2011, my mother, Mary Hulings, and I founded the Clark Hulings Fund For Visual Artists, an art and business non-profit that equips visual artists with the tools and knowledge that helped my father successfully manage his art business.
My expertise as a business strategist lies in alignment, blueprinting, and agile management at pivotal moments in a company’s trajectory.
How does The Clark Hulings innovate?
Elizabeth Hulings: CHF has always been a virtual organization with a remote team, so we were well-positioned for the pandemic. We were able to offer our expertise in this area, not just to artists but as consulting project managers for other arts organizations.
Our mission embraces the revolutionary concept that artists are some of the best-prepared individuals to be successful in business— an idea that the world is finally catching on to. We equip artists with the specific business tools they need to be successful as entrepreneurs and business owners. Our motto is: “Art is a business and should be run by artists!”
We meet artists worldwide and deliver content using the most effective and innovative methods available. We have embraced innovations like Virtual Reality: creating 3D virtual meeting spaces and avatars for clients on the open-source platform Vircadia.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Elizabeth Hulings: We had a great year financially in 2020 because we quickly adapted to the new business landscape and provided expertise to other art organizations wanting to pivot to an online environment. One of our organization’s core competencies is e-commerce and online sales— which, for clients who are used to selling in-person, is a huge innovation.
Moving into 2021, the financial picture is different and more difficult. The needs for arts organizations are huge, and the resources are limited. 2021 calls for even more creativity and financial innovation.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Elizabeth Hulings: We are lucky to have a wonderful board and advisory board and, to that end, have a lot of experienced people who volunteer their time and skills to the organization. Our remote team of experts around the world is also very nimble and works on a modest budget.
We learned that you can get a lot done with the right group of committed staff members, no matter how small. We also remembered that our organization’s board members are in a position to volunteer their resources and expertise if we remember to ask.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Elizabeth Hulings: CHF has grown its numbers and engagement during the pandemic through our Thriving Artist ™ groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, where we conduct virtual business training and meetups. Our Thriving Artist ™podcast, whose listenership spans 137 countries, has also been a key component of our customer outreach.
We use Little Green Light as our CRM; it helps the organization track and sort where customers were acquired, their interests, and identify donors.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Elizabeth Hulings: Our 2020 conference, Virtualize Your Art Career, received funding from the Albuquerque Community Foundation and the Santa Fe Community Foundation.
Your final thoughts?
Elizabeth Hulings: The virus will be vanquished soon, but virtual is here to stay. NFTs, blockchain, and cloud-based inventory systems are just the beginning of this next revolution in how we do business. We are continuing to innovate and educate and support our constituents and customers so they can integrate their online and in-person activities and continue to thrive.
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