Eric Culver, one of the co-founders of the online marketplace ArtStartArt, got a degree in art and later went to business school, so starting a business that helps art students sell their works online was a natural use for all of his schooling. “Yes, it’s certainly kind of the culmination of all my both education and professional experiences,” Culver says. “This definitely makes sense, at least on paper.
“It was really born out of my own experience going to art school – actually at UT – over ten years ago. I made a ton of work in art school; when I graduated, I had no idea what to do with it,” Culver says. “I mean, literally, I graduated and it wasn’t clear to me how to sell my work. So that really stuck with me. And that was the case for most of the people that I graduated with.”
ArtStartArt exclusively features the works of current university-level art students, with an aim to help art patrons and consumers find works they might not have stumbled across otherwise. The format also gives student artists a way to learn more about the business side of their chosen profession, and sometimes a lesson in separation.
Miranda Terry, of Texas State University, has already had a lot of success selling her work. “I have had great luck,” she says. “It’s actually really crazy – I’ve sold probably half of the work I’ve made in school, which has been great. Kind of sad, but bittersweet. I would say the first parting was very difficult, but it just gets easier. And it also has prepared me, I guess, for just the future of being an artist and selling your work, and kind of putting your soul into your work. But at the same time when someone wants to spend money on it and they want to live with it, it’s meaningful and it feels really good.”
“I personally had never sold any of my work before I started using ArtStartArt,” says Haley Hill, an art student at UT Austin. “I feel like it’s really difficult to kind of market yourself as an artist and I feel like ArtStartArt is a really solution for people who are trying to learn how to do that.”
Perhaps ironically, Culver doesn’t have as much time to create his own art now that he’s running a business helping others sell their art. “Trying to run this business and having a young son, there’s very little free time that I have,” he says. “But I think about making art a lot, and it’s something that if I kind of have a free window, it’s the thing I try to figure out how to make time to do.”
Working with student artists, though, has reinvigorated Culver’s passion for creating, he says. “I think that’s kind of the thing that continues to get me excited about this business,” he says. “Is that literally every day there are new works that get submitted and you think ‘God, this is wonderful,’ or ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this.’ And it’s from somebody I’ve never heard of or seen of before, so I think it’s extremely exciting.”