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How to Start an Art School

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It is common for artists to find it difficult making a living by selling their artwork, causing many to explore other career options with steadier and more plentiful income. Some go to work in galleries and museums, while some are inspired to teach their knowledge to others. A few of these people go as far as starting their own art schools, where they can emphasize the specific artistic techniques and philosophies that they find important. Opening an art school, while very challenging, can be extremely rewarding.

Build your background. Most people who start art schools, or who teach art for a living, have completed coursework in some facet of fine art (painting, sculpture, photography, video art, etc.). To increase your chances of starting a successful art school, enroll as a fine arts major at a four-year university and take classes in all the subjects you want your school to offer. If possible, obtain a graduate degree in your specific field, which will enhance your credibility.

If obtaining a formal education in art is not an option for you, remember that any awards you receive, or famous clients you work for, can help in getting an art school started. Displaying your art in various galleries is also an effective way of conveying your artistic credibility to future students.

Choose your school type. Decide if you want your art school to be a nonprofit organization, a for-profit business or if you want to partner with an established entity such as a local community center. If gaining money is not your ultimate intention, you might open your school as a nonprofit, which could make it possible for you to receive grant money through the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations. Each state has arts councils that fund different art projects. Visit the groups' websites to view the types of grants they award.

If your ultimate goal for starting the school is financial gain, talk to a business consultant on how to proceed.

If working as part of a larger collective is your intention, try starting your school at a local community center. Talk to the center managers about your plan and curriculum. Opening your school through a community center is a quick way to gain exposure, as opposed to starting from scratch.

Create a financial plan including the costs of supplies, class space, student tuition, employee pay, advertising and monthly overhead costs. If you go the nonprofit route, write a proposal for a grant to help with funding. If the grant is approved, you must spend your grant money exactly as you proposed to spend it in your grant proposal letter, but you will not have to pay taxes for those expenses.

In a for-profit business, you might take out a business loan to cover the initial start-up costs.

If you run your school through a community center, some start-up costs such as supplies and advertising might be provided to you.

Find the right venue for your art school. Locate a single room or loft space that can accommodate about 20 students, and the appropriate art supplies, comfortably. Contact the city in which the venue is located to make sure the space meets all city codes and is zoned for your venture.

If you decide to teach through the community center, a space could be provided for you.

Start a website, make social networking web pages and place advertisements in newspapers and art magazines. Let your potential students know that you will teach them techniques and philosophies that they won't learn anywhere else.


Michael Mroz has more than five years of experience as a writer. He worked as a reporter for, a staff writer for "El Periodico Lo Nuestro" (a bilingual newspaper), and several other establishments. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Northern Illinois University.

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