A holistic view of the arts

Susan Schear conducting a workshop

In the 20 years since founding ARTISIN, Susan Schear has worked with clients nationwide. She has found that artists and arts groups everywhere face similar challenges, from insufficient funding, to lack of community support, to an absence of skills critical to ensuring stability and success. Her interactions with her clients have helped shape not only the scope and depth of services ARTISIN offers, but also her holistic view of the arts and their place in the community. Here is some of what she had to say in a recent conversation:

detail of classical painting by Charles Ryder illustrating authenticity

On authenticity

There is sometimes a disconnect between espousing your values and actually living them. It’s not enough for me to just provide professional guidance and consultation to my clients. If I believe in supporting the arts then I have to live that as well. Of course I’ll try to go see my clients’ shows and performances, but I also make the effort to patronize other artists and arts groups who are not my clients. I know how much time and effort these people put into their work, and what it means to them. This applies not just to performing and visual artists, but to craftsmen and artisans as well.

informal portraits of students illustrating community

On community

One of the things I do for my clients is help them get connected, both within the arts community and to the community at large. Art is sometimes a solo enterprise but its benefits are felt by the entire community. I believe strongly that everyone benefits — both those who create the art and those who enjoy it — when artists and arts organizations are strategically connected to other sectors of the community. We do it through public/private partnerships, sponsorships, collaborations with local businesses and institutions…all of these things help sustain the arts that enrich everyone’s lives.

dancers rehearsing, illustrating working with clients

ice cream cone vendor, illustrating working with clients

On working with clients

I want to be an effective advocate for my clients, and one of the most important ways to do this is to listen very carefully. If my client is an organization, I listen not just to the management, but to the staff and the board as well, and to the customers who pay to see their work. I work hard to establish trust with my clients. You have to show respect to the clients and to the other stakeholders and community participants if you expect to bring them on board.

At ARTISIN, we take a holistic approach to working with our clients. All aspects of their professional practice are connected even if they don’t see it at first. Often it happens in the listening process that I discover a problem that the client didn’t know they had. So it’s important to be flexible and tailor your services to what the client really needs, rather than what they think they need.

I tend to become involved with my clients and find myself helping them with issues that are not in the scope of the project. The downside is, I give myself more work. The upside is, many of them end up becoming good friends.

Spanish art students conducting a happening in an art gallery, illustrating collaboration

On collaborations

People often hesitate to work in collaboration with others because they’re afraid that someone will ‘steal’ their ideas. You can’t be stopped by that fear. Creativity is nurtured by bringing different ideas and styles together. Allay that fear by becoming allies working towards a common goal. Creative collaborations can yield spectacular and rewarding results. You have to be charitable. You have to be willing to take the risk.


Portrait of Susan Schear by Amelia Panico

Portrait of Susan Koblin Schear by Amelia Panico

Susan Koblin Schear, President

Susan Koblin Schear founded ARTISIN, LLC in 1995 to offer comprehensive, process-oriented and holistically-based planning and business development, management and implementation services to the arts and cultural sector. She introduced a2a® / Artist-to-Artist™, a program from ARTISIN, designed to help artists, arts-related/creative-sector businesses, and artists in hybrid careers develop the business side of their creative practices. Structured as a series of professionally-guided peer groups, a2a® guides participants in goal-setting, accountability, creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial skill-building.

Susan’s values are steeped in the arts, business and community. She draws on her many years of corporate experience when consulting with arts and cultural organizations and artists, as she believes they need to be leaders within their communities and strategically connect to other sectors. She advocates that mutually beneficial outcomes are realized when encouraging collaboration between arts and business, and other sectors, and brings this passion to her work within diverse, continually evolving and changing communities. She has been engaged in long-term creative placemaking initiatives, and has also been extremely successful at engaging communities through her work with organizations on their development and implementation of strategic, marketing, and business plans, as well as membership campaigns, board development and program-related work.

Her visionary strengths and grassroots approach allow her to be particularly resourceful to artists, arts related businesses and hybrid careers. She has the unique ability to develop strong relationships, “translate&rdquo” business / entrepreneurial skills and practices for artists in order for them to understand and feel comfortable with business ownership and responsibilities, keep her “finger on the pulse” of the external environment, “connect the dots” that are often not obvious; and, “see” missed opportunities for the many artists with whom she has been engaged. She is able to quickly develop trust to assist artists in moving forward by understanding their needs and then helping them to set and realize their goals, particularly during difficult times.

Susan is trained as an Interim Executive Director (IED). She is recognized as a dedicated, assertive and seasoned leader, consultant, educator, and communicator possessing strong interpersonal and relationship-building skills. She is a dynamic, resourceful, entrepreneurial, business professional and a tireless advocate, ensuring arts and culture are always “at the table” in every conversation, thus facilitating collaborations, leadership and community development through the arts.

As an established speaker, moderator, facilitator and trainer, she designs and presents innovative, customized, professional development workshops and seminars throughout the country. She formerly served as the National Professional-Development Workshop Consultant for the College Art Association, funded by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, leading and guiding the planning, creation, and implementation of professional-development workshops at selected universities and alternative spaces broadly distributed throughout the country. She is a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute’s Graduate Arts and Cultural Management Program.

Susan serves as an active board member of Craft in America and also serves on several advisory committees, including ArtPride’s Program & Services Committee and the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking. She has recently been invited to serve as a Community Advisory Board Member for WBGO, 88.3 FM in Newark NJ. She is a former board member of CERF+, Urban Glass and GlassRoots. For all of these efforts over the years, she has received many awards and honors, which include her past selection as a Fellow of Lead New Jersey, Class of 2014.