North Adams is a city deeply invested in the arts and hosts a thriving artistic community. Getting that artistic community connected to the business community in the area is a project recently undertaken by the North Adams Artist Impact Coalition, in part thanks to a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  

The Coalition is creating two directories to bolster artists’ access to resources and each other, as well as to local businesses. Zydalis Bauer spoke with Michelle Daly of Daly Arts Consulting, who is spearheading the project, to find out more. 


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: North Adams is a city that is deeply invested in the arts and hosts a thriving artistic community.

Getting that artistic community connected to the business community and the area is a project that’s recently been undertaken by the North Adams Artists Impact Coalition, in part thanks to a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Coalition is working on creating two directories to bolster artists; access to resources and each other, as well as to local businesses, and I spoke with Michelle Daly of Daly Arts Consulting, who is spearheading the project, to find out more.

Michelle Daly, Daly Arts Consulting: It is to kind of put a list of all of the artists in the community in one place, so that everyone — so that’s visible to everyone. And then sort of, I think the sub-goal of that is really for artists to understand who else is in the creative community, because it tends to be very siloed in some ways. Like, if you’ve come in in a certain generation or through a certain program, you kind of have that network, but maybe you’re not so aware of what the other creative networks are in the community.

So, it’s really a chance just to kind of see who’s here and maybe find some collaborators, maybe find a critique group, maybe pair together or group together on a larger project, that sort of thing.

Zydalis Bauer: The artist directory is being accompanied by a business directory as well. While art can be a huge economic engine, historically, artists tend to struggle with the business side of things.

Why do you think that is and how important is it to educate artists about business?

Michelle Daly: Yeah, so I think there’s kind of two pieces to that question. The first is a larger cultural perception of that myth of a starving artist and, you know, some pressure to not care about money or to not have it be about money or earning a living in some way. And I think the reality of that is really changing. And I think the reality of that has been changing for quite a long time. I think it’s just hard to really talk about it sometimes.

Every artist who considers themself an artist, even if they have other employment, is a business owner. They’re a sole proprietorship or a DBA, or maybe they don’t have that legal structure in place, but they are a business. So, helping them understand what that means and also how to think about your creative practice in a way that supports your expenses.

And then hopefully your life, not just not just your immediate like what it costs me to make a painting, but all of the thought that goes into that, all the time that goes into that, all of the having a life around that, that goes into making the space and time to do that, and how to support all of that.

But the second piece of the the business directory specifically is helping artists understand who the local businesses are that can help support them. Also, where they might be customers of other small businesses, where maybe they’re shopping online now or going to a larger city, you know, maybe there’s a hidden gem for them locally where they could source that and then they can build that relationship, which is important I think to almost every artist, right?

Those relationships goes and myself and almost every artist I know like that weighs into where we shop. So, maybe some place a little more expensive, but we want to be able to have that conversation. We want someone who knows what we do, and it is on our side in a way that shopping online somewhere maybe isn’t

Zydalis Bauer: So how have you been working to build both of these directories and how do you see it benefiting the community?

Michelle Daly: We have been working with the Creative Ground platform, which is — was created and is administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts, kind of as our backbone, specifically for the artists’ directory.

And then, the business piece is really being compiled sort of through my knowledge as a longtime North Adams resident, through those knowledge –those suggestions that are coming into me, and just through outreach to the local community.

But really it’s just a chance to point everyone to kind of one resource, and to make sure that we then — we’re also kind of equalizing that playing field in a way.

So, it’s not based on just a recommendation, which tends to be the same folks over and over again, because either they have the highest, you know, most successful careers or best known or they’re just still kind of the go-to. So, how do we sort of democratize those relationships as well?

Zydalis Bauer: These directories are being exclusively built for North Adams- area artists.

Why the focus on North Adams specifically and what makes the city such an attractive place to work and live?

Michelle Daly: North Adams has been an increasingly-growing creative community for 30 years or so. You know, MassMoCA has been kind of the anchor of that.

I think there’s been attempts in the past to do this with different organizations, different venues. And I think what’s special about this project is, the Artists Impact Coalition really is this ad-hoc committee with representation from all of those groups.

So, it’s instead of, you know, Mass MoCA leading the charge or MCLA leading the charge or common folk leading the charge, they’re all working together. So, we’re kind of — it’s that collective impact model, right, where we can gather all of that information and layer one atop itself.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, being an artist, a business owner, and a resident of North Adams yourself, you have built your own relationship with the community.

How are you able to draw on that experience with this project?

Michelle Daly: I have probably been most visible as an arts administrator in this community versus an artist, although I’ve shown my work a few times. So, you know, that has given me access to all of these spaces and gives me familiarity with probably at least a couple of folks in those spaces.

So, I think it’s really helpful because they know who I am, they know how I work, they know what my intentions are, so there’s kind of a foundation of trust already there.

And I really, like, my personal kind of cheerleader spirit for North Adams is that, like, there are so many incredible artists here, and I want to make sure that they get seen and they get as many opportunities as possible.

And I think if you kind of look at the arc of my work, both sort of personally, professionally, that’s that’s the driving force.