Arts & Business in a Rural Community

Lauri Sturdivant, Executive Director of Siskiyou Arts Council





Guest blogger Lauri Sturdivant describes how a rural California county developed a successful arts & business partnership.





Living in a rural community has its challenges for artists and arts organizations.  However, there are many positives.  We know each other.  We know who to call. We are willing to partner with existing organizations and agencies to create successes.  We can get things done.  And, in Siskiyou County, we have been able to link the arts to the business community to provide additional resources and services to for-profits, nonprofits and individuals artists alike.

Siskiyou County artists and arts organizationsSiskiyou County is located in far northern California on the Oregon border, with only 47,000 people spread over 6,347 square miles, about the size of Connecticut. We have 8 stoplights and no Starbucks. We also have fresh air and pure mountain water.  The county is defined as both “rural” and “underserved.” However, we have a thriving arts community.

There are art galleries in most communities; theaters feature local productions as well as visiting chamber orchestras, choirs and ballets. There are many artists’ studios, often located in their homes, and they sell their art locally, in urban areas and on internet sites such as Etsy.  There are many nationally-known artists who call Siskiyou County their home.

Perhaps most surprising to some is the close relationship between artists/arts organizations and the small-business community in Siskiyou County.  In 2001, the Business of Art Program was created by Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI) in partnership with Cascade Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Siskiyou Arts Council (SAC) to provided business assistance and resources for visual artists, musicians, writers and arts-associated businesses.  The Business of Art has continued to build on successes of the past as we work together to increase prosperity and growth.  Now, services for arts businesses/organizations are included in all of JEDI's ongoing programs and workshops.

In 2010, the Siskiyou Arts Council applied for and received a grant from the California Arts Council’s Creating Public Value program to offer a series of Business of Art workshops. We held workshops in locations around the county on everything from taxes, health insurance, and copyrights for musicians to demonstrations on how to photograph artwork for Etsy. Through this partnership, experts on JEDI's staff were able to tailor business development classes to the interests and needs of artists.

Siskiyou County artists and arts organizationsEvery artist is a business, whether they are a painter, writer, musician or performer. The artist can be a large or small business, entrepreneurial or established, self-employed and/or employing local staff.  A Small Business Week article by Brian Morris reports that there are 27+ million small businesses in the Unites States.  Many of these businesses are creating artistic products.  Furthermore, The Arts: A Competitive Advantage for California report released by the California Arts Council states that the arts and culture business generate $5.4 billions annually, support a workforce of more than 160,000 and produce nearly $300 million in state and local taxes in California.

Our rural county has embraced the arts as an economic generator and are committed to continuing to foster artists and arts organizations through the Business of Art and other ongoing services.  SAC has  created a website,, for the purpose of keeping the Business of Art project as a year-round resource, to foster interest in future workshops and to serve as a source reference for artists.

If you have any questions about how we built the Business of Art, please feel free to use the Comments section.



Lauri Sturdivant is the Executive Director of the Siskiyou Arts Council.  Sturdivant has used her extensive knowledge and experience in fundraising, group dynamics and government protocol and personnel/volunteer management to grow the arts council. In addition to her duties as Executive Director, Sturdivant teaches art materials and techniques classes to youth and adults with developmental disabilities and is a junk artist.  To see her work, please visit

Photos: Diane Rapport teaching "Making Money Making Music – Without Giving Up Your Soul"  in Star Radio Studios, Weed; Nikolas Allen teaching "Marketing Your Art For Success - Right Tools, Right Audience, Right Message."  Homepage photo: Liberty Arts Gallery in Yreka, CA.

Urban Artist Gone Rural


Thank you for this infomative post. When I landed in Siskiyou County in 2008 from Minneapolis via San Francisco, I faced a huge culture shock. However, once I experienced the excellent quality of life, beautiful nature, clean air and water, I grew pretty fond of the area.


Discovering that there was an active art community here helped as well. While it's nothing like the scenes in the aforementioned cities, it is still exciting, inspiring and fulfilling enough to maintain an active life of creative expression. Then, when I need a true dose of urban culture, I head back to the Bay Area for a few days.


I enjoyed teaching the "Marketing Your Art" workshop for the Business of Art series, and look forward to continuing the program in 2012.


Nikolas Allen