Artists Catalyze their Businesses at Summit Artspace

Photo by Talia Hodge, courtesy of Summit Artspace

To the casual observer, it might seem as though artists spend their days locked in a studio, absorbed in creating their latest masterpiece. Peer closer and one discovers a hidden truth about successful professional artists: that in addition to artmaking, they engage in a high-level combination of managing finances, marketing their work, and networking with peers and the community.

Summit Artspace strives to support local artists in their artistic practice. The Artist Entrepreneurship Institute (AEI) encourages artists of all disciplines to learn from experts across many fields and gain new tools for their professional development. This past May, 27 artists participated in AEI, including five Black female artists. Since completing the program, they have been incorporating new knowledge and skills to propel their arts businesses forward. “Representation of Black female artists is necessary and integral in the acknowledgment of African Americans within Akron. These Black female entrepreneurs provide a positive economic impact for the arts and culture industry,” said Dara Harper, director of programming at ArtsNow.

Talia Hodge is a photographer who stretches her creativity through every photo she takes. Her first camera was a Barbie film camera, and she loved having the ability to capture the world around her. Her career is just beginning, and she decided to enroll in AEI to build a foundation for her ideas and meet other artists in the area. “Through AEI, I learned that it’s important to find the resources that are available in your community and use them as much as possible,” Hodge said.

Teresa Scott, Peace and Tranquility vs. War and Turbulence.

Teresa Scott’s work (primarily oils) is centered around love and its many aspects. Her creative career began at a young age, taught by her father, master painter James Wright Sr. Scott enrolled in AEI because she sought direction in business, marketing, and finance as well as sales. “What helped me the most in AEI were the topics that covered diversifying my art so that I can expand my reach and have something available for all income levels,” she explained. Scott’s studio is on the first floor of Summit Artspace.

Jessica Skinner, owner of JBurgess Designs, creates and restores furniture. “I took the leap into JBurgess Designs based on my love of creating. I’ve learned a lot throughout the years, but I wanted to learn more about the business aspect of entrepreneurship: finance, bookkeeping, and insurance,” Skinner said of her AEI experience. Her woodwork, fabric, and upholstery career began when she received hand-me-down furniture after getting married and wanted to make her house feel more like home. Her work incorporates different textures, monochromatic layers, and geometric shapes, reminiscent of her personal sense of style. Skinner’s studio is on the third floor of Summit Artspace.

Stephanie Stewart’s art is inspired by her own trials and triumphs with a focus on the contemporary modern genre, representing Black Art. Her artistic career took off during the pandemic when her five children were at home looking for things to do. As a family, they sat down and created a mock business. Once the schools reopened, Stewart’s eldest child asked that they transform it into a real venture called P31 Art & Design. “It was the affirmation of success from other panelists and artists that had the biggest effect on my mindset regarding how I’d like my business to run. I gained confidence that I am on the right track,” Stewart noted.

Jessica Travis’ work celebrates Black greatness and brings awareness. “When I say awareness, I mean to remind us of our royal heritage,” she explains. She grew up in a single-parent household and her mother worked many jobs. Their quality time consisted of coloring and drawing. Travis’ art teachers at Akron Public Schools recognized her natural talents. Travis appreciated meeting other artists through the peer panels in AEI. “Your art isn’t for everyone and that sometimes is hard to digest. The panelists assured me that there will be ups and downs, but to continue to stay true to myself and my craft,” Travis said.

No two artists’ journeys are the same. That can make the evolution of an arts business especially exciting—and especially challenging. “Local artists deserve access to the resources and relationships they need to advance their businesses,” said Natalie Grieshammer Patrick, Summit Artspace’s director of artist resources. “Through AEI, we hope artists can build a supportive community around their work and build new bridges to success, whatever their definition of success may be.”





140 East Market Street
Akron, Ohio 44308