During the past three years of working with my husband as self-employed artists, I have certainly experienced a number of fine art occupations. From craft fairs to company retreats, we have tried nearly every opportunity that has arisen. Some of them were abysmally depressing failures, some were break-even disappointments, and some were actually satisfyingly successful. In fact, one of our most profitable endeavors has been to teach kid's art classes (As you can see, I've included a few pictures of some of our most recent projects.)
I will freely admit that the idea of teaching art to a room full of excited children was more than a bit intimidating at first. After all, artists are universally known for being awesome at art and quite a bit less awesome at activities such as explaining, teaching, and socializing.
Fortunately, though, the unsavory reality of power bills, flat tires, and a desire to eat something other than Ramen has an uncanny way of convincing one to step out of the much loved comfort zone. Figuring that if we took one step out of our comfort zone, we might as well take a leap, my husband and I decided to begin our teaching careers by hosting a summer camp for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.
After our first class, we quickly began to rethink the sanity of such a decision. We agreed that if we could only survive the summer, we would find a different manner in which to procure a profit. Much to our surprise, however, by the end of the camp, our teaching skills had improved a remarkable amount, and we were not only enjoying our classes but also beginning to make an acceptable income.
Since that first summer camp, we now teach after-school art at two local elementary schools, host a couple of art classes at our studio, and participate in two summer camps aside from our own. Needless to say, it's been a wonderful route for us and has greatly helped to stabilize our business by providing a relatively predictable source of income. So, if you are interested in teaching your own art classes, here are some ideas and tips to help you get started.
Decide who you are going to teach. At first, wetried teaching adult art classes but discovered that their attendance was much less predictable than that of school-aged children. Kids tend to adopt a weekly routine of extracurricular activities during the school year, and we found kid's classes to be a more reliable income.
Decide what you are going to teach. Although our specialty is ceramics, we teach a variety of different types of art in our classes. Our projects range from illustrating a cartoon to making paper mache Halloween masks to building a miniature Christmas village. Using a variety of mediums seems to keep the kids more interested and appeals to a wider audience.
Choose a location. Thankfully, we have a studio where we began and continue to teach our classes. However, if you don't have that luxury, consider a less conventional approach. For example, we teach two of our classes at local schools. In return for using their facilities, we provide free, monthly art classes to some of their students or paint a mural for them at no charge.
Make a plan. At the beginning of each semester, we plan all of the projects that we will create during that semester. Of course, these projects may change slightly as the year progress, but having a general outline enables us to make a list of supplies and order them all at once. Being able to order supplies in bulk usually provides quantity and shipping discounts, which help to decrease class expenses.
Create a fun environment. In our experience, if students are having fun, they obviously want to keep coming to class, and they also tend to learn more and perform better. To help keep a fun atmosphere in our classes, we award random prizes like candy and slappy hands, provide snacks and drinks that the kids can purchase, and listen to upbeat music.
Advertise. As most of us know, you must advertise in order to gain customers, or in this case students. Methods differ depending on your situation. Since we live in a small town, our most effective advertising strategy has been a combination of word-of-mouth and sending flyers to the local schools in our area. We send enough for them to give one to each student, which can sometimes mean that we print around two-thousand pages. However, the cost of paper and ink is quickly recouped by gaining only a handful of students.
Keep track of your finances. From a business standpoint, it's crucially important to keep an accurate record of student payment and class expenses. Remember to take note of when and how much students pay, as well as how much you spend on supplies, power bills, studio rental, insurance, and other class-related expenses.