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Arts Channel Kicks Off Semester With Arts Entrepreneurship Event

The Arts Channel is back! The first event of the semester hosted by the channel focused on arts entrepreneurship. On Feb. 6, students were invited to the Carson Club Hub in the Powerhouse for an event entitled “Arts Organization and the Business of Arts Spaces.” Organized by adjunct Dance professor, Gina T’ai, the event featured two speakers and a dinner catered by Qdoba. Students from all classes were encouraged to attend, but the event also served as an AMP Connections opportunity for freshmen. The event featured presentations from arts entrepreneurs Jennifer Bastian and Erin Rehberg.

Jennifer Bastian presented first. The founder of Communication, an arts nonprofit in Madison, WI, Bastian attended high school with Gina T’ai. A photographer and self-taught textile artist, Bastian told students that she has used art as a release. Through Communication, she hopes to encourage her community to do the same. The organization is four years old and offers a number of opportunities. Pre-pandemic, Communication was known for having live music; often, these performances would be held in conjunction with the openings of galleries by new artists. One of Bastian’s biggest goals is to allow artists who may not otherwise have opportunities to do galleries to exhibit their work at her nonprofit. 

Arts education is one of Communication’s core values. Currently, the organization is working under a grant that allows their youth arts education to be free for the next three years. Bastian also mentioned that she has gotten a number of volunteers who learn lots about running arts organizations through their experiences at Communication. Charity is another value of the organization. Last year, Communication facilitated an art auction to benefit criminalized survivors. Most notably, the proceeds of the auction were put toward a fund for Chrystal Kaizer, a Kenosha woman who was arrested on the charge of killing her trafficker. In this same vein, Communication operates a justice club. The justice club was started by a volunteer in order to connect families through social justice issues.

Bastian hopes to continue expanding her organization. One of her hopes is to have fewer volunteers and more paid positions at Communications. Furthermore, she strives to be an anti-racist organization and to be environmentally friendly with printing and artistic production.

The second presenter: Erin Rehberg, is the founder of Side Street Studio Arts. Based in Elgin, IL, Side Street is an organization that truly encompasses all forms of creative arts. A lifelong dancer, Erin was determined to create a nonprofit space not only for the exhibition of visual art, but for the performing arts as well. Like Communication, Side Street values live music and invites musicians to perform regularly. Rehberg shared that the band Beach Bunny started out performing at Side Street. She told students that after watching the members of Beach Bunny grow up at Side Street, it is rewarding to watch them embark on their first tour. 

Operating for nine years, Side Street’s primary goal has been to make quality art accessible to those outside of Chicago. Rehberg said that for so long, she believed that in order to be exposed to quality art, she needed to venture into the city. This, she told students, is completely untrue. Rehberg emphasized the fact that quality artists are everywhere and that they simply need a platform to display their art. She hopes that for artists in Elgin, Side Street can be that platform. Shows and performances rotate on a regular basis at the organization.

Rehberg began her arts career as a dance instructor for people of all ages. Some of her former students have come to help Side Street grow into the entity it is today. The organization is both a teaching and learning space; classes are offered for free. Currently, Side Street has three operating spaces. Rehberg has observed that in all of the organization’s spaces, it is beautiful to observe the youth learning the tricks of the trade from professional artists. In 2021, Side Street provided 3,000 students with free arts education.

Side Street’s activities are not limited to their lessons. They host a number of arts festivals each year. For instance, Side Street hosts the Going Dutch Festival each summer. Going Dutch is a festival for female-identifying artists to come and display their work or perform. When artists come to Side Streets festivals and events, partnerships are often formed. In fact, T’ai, who has done shows with the organization, stated that through Side Street, “You built your artistic network in a space that feels fruitful.” It is this collective passion for the arts that Rehberg believes has kept Side Street alive all these years.

Both Bastian and Rehberg discussed the pains of establishing successful arts nonprofit organizations. They both agreed that it takes some time to get off the ground, but that patience and passion are what kept them grounded. If you wish to get involved with either Communication or Side Street Studio Arts, contact professor Gina T’ai.

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