What if you could uplift a marginalized community, bring financial independence to those facing homelessness and disability, and share remarkable art with people around the globe?
I’d like to introduce you to an organization I have had the pleasure of seeing grow over the past few years: ArtLifting. Their mission to empower homeless and disabled artists by providing them with a marketplace to sell and showcase their art is deeply changing lives and our notion of how all kinds of people can find meaningful work in the world.
They are pioneers, mixing great business ideas with great missions to improve our world, and reframing what “success” looks like; not just in terms of finances, but in terms of their positive impact!
This is how ArtLifting is giving a voice to the work of marginalized artists, and showing us all how recognizing hidden talents can help more people unlock their potential. Here’s the story:
Back in 2014, I was sitting in my dorm room looking through a list of summer internships when I got an email from Liz Powers, one of the resident advisors in my dorm. It was an inquiry for students with an interest in art and social enterprise and an understanding of social media to be a social media intern. Really only qualifying for one of those things at the time, an interest in art, I sent an email back to Liz telling her that I would be interested in the internship. So, we arranged to meet for coffee, and I got to hear about ArtLifting for the first time.
This was a meeting that changed the trajectory of what I thought it meant to be an entrepreneur. Their story is one that entirely reframes what the future of business can look like.
That morning, Liz told me about her work in the homeless shelters in Boston. How she worked with artists in art therapy groups that had incredible talent but no way to share their work with the world. How she and her brother were creating an online marketplace where these artists could not just be paid for their work but also have opportunities for mobility and life-changing stable income.
Liz’s idea was brilliant; take the work of talented artists with portfolios lost to the back closets of homeless shelters, and give these artists a way to sell their work on a global scale. These sales would help artists gain financial stability and independence.
To give you a taste of what that conversation was like, and start off this story, here’s a great piece from UPROXX featuring ArtLifting and a few of the many artists this company has had an impact on since that cup of coffee.
“Liz, I don’t want a handout I want an opportunity.”
At it’s best, great business ideas are about using your skills and talents to make life better for others. When we have the skillsets to amplify great voices, great talents, great ideas, why not find ways to create a win/win for people?
ArtLifting was my first experience with this kind of idea. Sure, I’d heard about companies doing one-for-one work before, like TOMS shoes, but here was somebody I knew, building a business that could and now has, changed lives.
So often we think of the thought leaders that come up with these ideas as innovators far beyond any one of us. But Liz’s work took her first-hand experiences with a problem and found a way to sustainably address them. It made me think, what problems do I experience that I could have an impact on? It’s a question any one of us could ask ourselves.
ArtLifting shines a spotlight on what’s possible if we work toward’s redefining social enterprise.
Not just doing good work for other people, but working alongside other people.
To date, ArtLifting has partnered with names like Google, Staples, Starbucks, Microsoft, Barnes and Noble, and Harvard University. They bring the work of their remarkable portfolio of artists to all corners of the globe.
Hearing the stories of how ArtLifting has had an impact on these artists lives is moving. To think about the ripple effect that ArtLifting has had is truly remarkable!
This next piece features some of ArtLifting’s artists as they tell their stories of gaining a career, a sense of purpose, and dignity through their partnerships with Artlifting.
Though I was probably never a great social media intern, working with ArtLifting in the few months that I did was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It showed me not only what artists in stigmatized communities are capable of, but also that great ideas are about lifting others up with you.
These foundational ideas of creating businesses that empower, give back, and solve real problems while making the best use of the world’s remarkable creators are fundamental to the way I have shaped my life building Ever Widening Circles and it’s growth into education and beyond.
As we have worked to grow the mission of Ever Widening Circles, these seeds, planted by ArtLifting, have empowered us to see a problem facing the world and not stand by while it is fixed. Instead, use our skills to listen to and spotlight of those working hardest to fix them.
What would a world look like where more people could find stability in their hidden talents?
What if we worked towards supporting, being employed by, and starting these sorts of businesses? How could we reshape our marketplaces and spending habits? How could we empower more people to find dignity in the work they do?
Liz Powers gave an incredible TEDx Talk at the [email protected] event. It’s the kind of talk that has the power to reframe your approach to the world around you, seeing possibility everywhere. Take a look.
You can support ArtLifting artist by visiting their website, and check out new work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! Make sure you give them a follow for more incredible stories about their artists and as a reminder that there are businesses out there working hard to lift us all up!
What talents are out there?
There’s no doubt that we are living in an era of economic change. And while we can always confront that reality with fear and wishing for the jobs of the past, there is more security in looking forward and assessing how we can look to leverage our talents in the jobs of tomorrow.
The world will need the skillsets of creatives next to coders and craftsmen.
And there are already shifts happening in industries like agriculture that are moving in these directions. Businesses that are looking for new and creative uses for talents that could have otherwise been left unused.
There is a shift happening in the businesses of the future. The important question to ask is: how can we work to support it?
If you can choose to support businesses doing good in the world with their work, buy from them. ArtLifting is, thankfully, is a part of a much wider network of entrepreneurs working hard in the world. One great place to start is by supporting certified B Corps (you can find a directory of them here), businesses that source their materials Fair Trade, or are dedicated to a triple bottom line in some way.
Our purchases are our vote, they will change the way the world works. ArtLifting is already changing the lives of its artists. Giving real people real jobs and a sense of belonging that is changing the world in its own way,
If you’d like to explore more organizations, individuals, and businesses to support check out our new #ConspiracyofGoodness category! There, you’ll find the many people working towards a brighter shared future for us all, and how you can support them!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
Have a favorite business that’s working for good in the world?
Learn about the #ConspiracyofGoodness happening around the world by clicking the button below:
- UPROXX. “ArtLifting: A New Movement In The Art World.” YouTube, UPROXX, 18 Sept. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkL1XbHKpV4. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Send It Studios. “Artlifting.” Vimeo, Send It Studios, 12 Feb. 2019, vimeo.com/234056323. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Powers, Liz. “Everybody Is Useful | Liz Powers | [email protected]” YouTube, TEDx Talks, 16 Dec. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=MZNZmiqZuoA. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019. ↩