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Texas State participates in pilot sale of ArtStartArt

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Marcia Fox, exercise and sports science post baccalaureate, sits in the Joann Cole Mitte Building practicing still-life drawings.
Photo by: Nathalie Cohetero | Staff Photographer

Texas State is one of three institutions participating in the pilot sale of ArtStartArt—an online service, which helps university-level students market their artwork.

Erik Culver, a graduate from University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, initiated the platform after realizing the challenging obstacles art students face after college.

“I think universities are a great source of some of the best artwork, and I think there’s very little opportunity for students to put their work out there and sell it,” Culver said.

The idea for ArtStartArt stemmed from the talented work Culver saw his friends create that didn’t get to be recognized or celebrated for its originality. He combined the passion to display high quality artwork with the determination to educate students on how to be practicing professionals.

“You spend most of your time trying to figure out how to make your work, how to refine your craft and how to figure out your voice as an artist,” Culver said. “But art, like everything else, if you want to continue to practice it, you’ve got to figure out how to make a living doing it.”

ArtStartArt curators review submitted artwork from students. Selected pieces will go live so university alumni, art enthusiasts and others can make purchases. A percentage of each sale will go back to the artist and the participating university as a donation for its fine arts program.

“For example, with Texas State, if we were to sell $20,000 worth of artwork across 100 different students, we would donate $1,000 of that back to Texas State’s fine arts program,” Culver said.  “But, the students get the largest commission of the work.”

A student whose work is purchased will receive 60 percent of the commission. Most galleries offer students 50 percent at best, Culver said.

The platform aims to help students navigate the concept of marketing through understanding how to connect their art with the audience and determining how to price authentic work.

“Not only are we trying to help students, but we are trying to help them learn components of the professional practice,” Culver said. “Our curators actually give students a suggested price range, but students are allowed to price their own work within limits.”

This process aligns with the importance of building relationships between student artists and patrons, Culver said.

Culver was a former student of Jessica Mallios, assistant professor of Art and Design. He said Mallios was the driving force helping him connect with Texas State students and faculty.

“I felt this was such a great idea and opportunity for our students in The School of Art and Design,” Mallios said. “We had a great turnout of interested Texas State students.”

The curator chose 38 students for the platform’s first online sale, which launched April 10. Marlene Nunez, photography senior, was one of the students whose work was purchased from a buyer.

“I’ve never had anyone buy a piece of mine before,” Nunez said. “It felt as if someone was not only funding my wallet for more art in the future, but they were also funding my dream.”

Nunez believes ArtStartArt reveals some of the processes professionals go through, especially during the packages process while giving artists confidence in their work and creativity.

“The biggest impact is that our students have real professional experience in a fine arts context— selling their artwork as well as the exposure to be seen by professional curators,” Mallios said. “This is something I think is very rare in any undergraduate fine arts program.”

Culver said he hopes ArtStartArt gives students a sense of pride when showing off their talent. He ultimately wants the platform to fuel a students’ creative experience and encourage artists to continue to make work even in times where creativity lacks prolificacy.

“Recognize that it is going to be hard, but continue to hustle and continue to put yourself out there,” Culver said. “If being a practicing artist is something you want to continue to pursue, it’s always going to be a challenge. Try to focus on harnessing that energy to encourage you and to motivate you.”

The first live sale for ArtStartArt ends May 1.

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