Montana Arts Council

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Artists are, by nature, inventors, engineers, explorers, and discoverers.  Artists see possibility everywhere. Monetizing talent, however, is a daunting task for an artist. At the Montana Arts Council, we recognize that creating a sustainable life in the arts is complicated, that there is no singular approach to building a creative enterprise, that it doesn’t happen quickly, and that success has its roots in relationship-building. With a mission to help artists build a sustainable life in the arts, we provide a program to Montana artists called the Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP).  MAP provides practical coursework covering 35 pragmatic, professional practice tools of art and business following a general outline of discovering, showing, telling, and funding “the story.” 

Apply Online Now View Sample Application

The Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP) is an art-centered business development program taught by working artists and open to all visual artists:

  • Providing over 40 hours of college-level instruction
  • Reviewing 35 practical business tools
  • Demystifying the world of business
  • Affirming the title of “Artist” as a credible profession

At the program’s heart is the philosophy that a sustainable career in the arts is attainable by:

  • Advancing one’s proficiency in a chosen medium,
  • Understanding and proactively engaging in the arts community,
  • Confidently articulating one’s story and purpose as an artist and
  • Strategically seeking patrons for one’s work.

Artists in the program (2009-2016) report increased net sales of 654% with a 60% increase in out-of-state sales on average since participating in the program, proving that the program works. The Montana Artrepreneur Program has earned national acclaim and has already impacted the careers of 500 artists across Montana.

The four to six-month program comprises 40 hours of instruction—typically configured as four two-day weekend workshops—and up to 5 two-hour interim sessions. Offered in various locations across the state each year, the beginning and end times of each cohort differ per location.

Participation in MAP requires a commitment to attend all workshops and for artists to financially invest their arts business. The moderate fee of $500 covers a portion of the cost per participant.

In the fall of 2024, MAC will host MAP cohorts of 8-12 artists for programs to be held in five locations across central Montana. Artists are encouraged to apply now via the application portal, open through June 1, 2024. For more information or to discuss your application in process, please contact Monica Grable, MAC’s Arts Education Director, at or by phone at (406) 444-6522.

Meet MAP's Coaches

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Sample Application

  • Applications are filed online using the Applicant Portal
  • You will be required to set up an account and login
  • Once you have started your application, you can save it and return anytime
  • Please see the Sample Application to see what information is required
  • For questions, please contact 

Important Research Available on Economic Impacts of Artists

Researcher and evaluator Surale Phillips completed an in-depth study on economic impacts of artists participating in MAC’s Montana Artrepreneur Program during the years 2009-2016. Executive Summary | Detailed Report | Artists Stories | Previous Versions: Executive Summary (2009-2014) | Detailed Report (2009-2014)

MAP provides each artist validation for doing the art that brings them the greatest joy and the reminder that they must commit to seeking their authentic voice in their medium. We ask artists to lean all the way in to their potential, reaching beyond what they’re simply capable of doing and to really access their unique genius. It’s not enough to just be “artsy.” Once they develop their unique body of work, we teach them to authentically articulate the story of their art—the “why” of what they do. Artists find relief knowing that they don’t need to develop a sales schtick or become someone else to sell art. 

We recognize that the matter of money is further complicated by decades of philosophical wrangling between artists who believe that selling art equals selling out, that true art can have no declared monetary value and by a culture enamored with, and thus helping to perpetuate, the mythos of the “starving artist.” MAP provides affirmation of choosing the title of “Artist” as a credible profession and further works toward perpetuating a dialog which includes artists as small business owners.

MAP artists have examined their passion for art through coursework that encourages artistic growth and demystifies business from the perspective of discovering the story, showing the story, telling the story and funding the story. They have developed specific strategies to achieve carefully and sensibly planned goals and objectives. They’ve taken the bold stand for possibility and have committed to the promise of art as profession. Upon finishing the course and completing the tools, many artists claim that a sustainable life in the arts feels “doable” and that rather than reaching the end of a process, they feel they have encountered the beginning of the life they had previously only imagined. Many artists call the experience “transforming.” 

MAP artists have more than just talent; they have passion—passion enough to commit their energies to developing the necessary tools to create a sustainable life in the arts. They have passion enough to lean all the way in to their potential, to identify the work that truly brings them alive, and to do that work every day in a world that tells them to get a “real job.” They are BRAVE! And they’ve learned from other artists—people who “get it, and get them”—that developing and sustaining an art business is doable. These artists recognize and personify the fact that the arts mean business in the great state of Montana.   

We also know the value of the shared experience. Because artists are natural problem-solvers and creative engineers, there is no better place than MAP to share ideas. At 400+ artists and growing, our network is substantial and media-diverse; our artists can find support for most any challenge, whether business- or studio-related. We strive to facilitate a festive atmosphere of mutual helpfulness, leaving everyone knowing that they are connected to a larger whole and the belief that “it’s doable.” MAP was designed on a founding principle of transformational learning and offers artists, not just practical tools with which to build a solid business, but peer-to-peer mentoring to examine and personalize goals and objectives, and the experience of community to balance and sustain the process. 

Participating in MAP requires a commitment to attend monthly workshops over the course of approximately four to six months and to financially invest in one’s business of art, as well as a $500 fee and an application process.   

The Montana Arts Council is committed to ensuring that the MAP program is affordable and accessible to Montana artists. Becoming part of MAP and building a business, however, requires an investment of time and money for expenses including but not limited to travel, promotional materials, inventory expansion, and market development. These costs are the artist’s responsibility will vary from person to person. Artists are encouraged to build their businesses according to the budget and timeline that works specifically for them and for their lifestyle, understanding that long-term sustainability is the ultimate goal. The particular long-term, diversified strategy that each artist crafts for their future will likely vary from their fellow artists as much as the artwork that they each produce.  

The course is offered as group learning opportunities, called cohorts, throughout the state in several locations each year. Applications can be submitted anytime. Program interest drives cohort location decisions, and the sooner we know who’s in, the better, so if you’re interested in MAP or know someone who is, please apply soon. MAP cohorts consist of six to ten artists each and applications are accepted until each group is full for the course year.

MAP has earned national acclaim, impacting more than 400 artists across Montana to date. In May 2014, Decision Support Partners, Inc. was contracted by the Montana Arts Council to develop a survey to gather data from Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP) participants from 2009 through 2016. The survey was intended to help the Montana Arts Council better understand the impact of the program on participating artists and to help inform the future of the program. 

MAP artist survey respondents reported being:

  • More confident in their business management skills (81%)
  • More specific and clear on their art business financial goals (75%) 
  • Actively making art and pursuing their art businesses (56%) 
  • In progress toward their art business financial goals (72%) 
  • More satisfied with their art business (69%) 

MAP artist survey respondents generated economic activity in the areas of:

  • Employed/contracted new or more people for art business (29%) 
  • Made capital investments in art business (58%) 
  • Increased state and local business spending (65%) 
  • Increased customer base (83%) 
  • Increased inventory for sale (89%) 
  • Increased investment in art business (83%) 
  • Increased sales locations and prices for product lines (74%) 
  • Increased out of state sales and percentage of sales from outside of Montana (64%) 
  • Rented new space for art business (19%) 

As a result of the Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP) participating artists in the survey sample have: 

  • Generated $906,730 in net art sales, a 654% increase in net art sales on average since participating in the program.
  • Generated upwards of $3.7 million in gross art sales, which is a 183% increase since participating in the program.
  • Reported, on average, that in years following program participation, 60% of artists increased sales of their art outside of the state of Montana. The average amount of out-of-state sales increased by 38% on average, from years prior to the program to years after participating in the program.
  • Reported that in 2016, 30% of their gross personal income of $1.94 million was derived from their art sales ($576,554).
  • Reported cumulative gross personal income from 2013 through 2016 of $6,047,680 of which $1,598,763 (26%) was derived from their art business.
  • Invested 33% of their gross personal income from 2013-2016 ($6,047,680) in their art businesses, $1,995,480 of which 59% ($1,183,312) was spent in the state of Montana. Artists who invested in their art businesses spent an average of $27,335 from 2013 through 2016.

...proving that the program works.

The Artrepreneur's Toolbox

  1. Log of Studio Hours (at least 120 hours total) 
  2. Annotated list of area heritage and cultural resources 
  3. Landscape journal for creative ideas and marketplace branding 
  4. Product line list with both retail and wholesale prices 
  5. System for record keeping and organization 
  6. Written mission, values, and vision statements for the artist’s business 
  7. Three goals and three objectives to reach each goal 
  8. Artist Statements (three versions required:  one typewritten page, one-two paragraphs, and 25-30 words) 
  9. Customer Profile 
  10. A small window or table display of the artist’s work 
  11. Diagram and photos of the artist’s booth for use at a show 
  12. Documentation of five hours spent with an art mentor 
  13. 6 professional quality product photographs of artwork 
  14. 2 professional quality process photographs (the artist at work) 
  15. A logo for use in the artist’s business of art 
  16. A business card for use in the artist’s business of art 
  17. A brochure for use in the artist’s business of art 
  18. Hangtags to use on the artist’s work 
  19. A sample of packaging for use in sales, customer transport, and shipping of the work
  20. A sample of business transaction materials (eg. invoices, statements, receipts, and order blanks) 
  21. 2-minute video presentation 
  22. Research of four shows (one local, two regional, and one national) 
  23. Research of credit card/PayPal capability 
  24. Proof of participation in an area show 
  25. Ten hours of internship with a creative sector business 
  26. Press Release 
  27. Press Kit 
  28. A Quality Portfolio 
  29. A website 
  30. E-portfolio 
  31. Resume and cover letter for use with a gallery 
  32. Studio Budget for the coming year 
  33. Mini-proposal for funding a project in line with the artist’s goals 
  34. Plan outlining the artist’s strategies for marketing 
  35. Business plan to use in building a business of art 


What is MAP Certification?

Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP) helps visual artists develop a sustainable business in art both by learning more about the art of entrepreneurship and by obtaining a Certification of Market Readiness. MAP is based on the idea that learning should be accessible, affordable, flexible, collaborative, and useful. It is not just a theoretical exercise, but the opportunity to actually develop the tools needed to build a sustainable business by:

  • Offering training specifically geared to visual artists.
  • Offering special topic professional development workshops.
  • Encouraging a variety of informal learning opportunities such as mentorships and peer- to-peer learning.
  • Encouraging self-directed learning and studio-based work towards completion of Market-Ready Certification.
  • Nurturing the growth of Montana’s networks of artists.
  • Providing Market-Ready Certification upon successful completion of all items in the Artepreneur’s Toolbox©.

What are the benefits of MAP Certification?

MAP has been designed to help build a network of artists ready to compete in the larger marketplace. We know, from having surveyed artists in the program, that MAP Certified artists have a higher likelihood of success in business. In a survey conducted by Decision Support Partners, Inc., MAP participants from through 2016 who had not yet certified reported a 654% increase in net art sales and a 183% increase in gross art sales on average since participating in the program. 

What does Market-Ready Certification involve?

Certification is available to artists who have participated in a MAP cohort, have an inventory of artwork ready to sell, and have collected the physical proof of the each of the 35 items in the Artrepreneur’s Toolbox©. Once a MAP artist feels ready to be evaluated, they will need to:

  • contact the Montana Artrepreneur program Director or their coach for more specific directions to prepare certification review,
  • have a coach or another MAP Certified Artist do an informal pre-review of their materials prior to submission,
  • present a completed toolbox: file container with 35 folders (one for each tool) each labeled with the name of the tool contained within the file, and
  • submit one sample of your work that illustrates the quality of what you create.
How and when is Certification decided?

Certification is a review process conducted by jurors and coaches. Jurors evaluate work according to program standards. Those standards are reviewed by coaches and program staff to maintain relevance and purpose. Because teaching tools and business standards

constantly evolve, an individual’s course experience may have offered very slight variations to the expectations in place at the time the artist chooses to submit their tools for certification review. Careful planning is recommended to ensure a successful outcome.

Toolboxes are reviewed for certification once yearly, generally in late spring, by two to three MAP coaches according to a point system. Artists can pass; receive a “conditional pass," meaning that they are given a provision to make recommended adjustments to their materials by a certain date; fail; or pass with “distinction," meaning the jurors could find no room for improvement.

The next deadline for submission of a completed toolbox will be in the spring of 2023. 

Trudy Skari Artwork
Trudy Skari
Certified 2018
Mary Jean Martin Artwork
Mary Jean Martin
Certified 2018
Kevin Silkwood Artwork
Kevin Silkwood
Certified 2018

The Montana Artrepreneur Program is presented in partnership with Made in Montana, a program of the Montana Department of Commerce. Past programs have been funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and the LINC Foundation.


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