For craftsmen like Luis Aragon and his 8-year-old son Lance, art runs in the family. But the knowledge to run a successful art business can be hard to come by in an area where resources are limited.

That’s why Aragon signed up himself and his son to participate in the 2024 Business of Art Bootcamp at The University of New Mexico-Gallup from April 19-20. The Business of Art Bootcamp was a two-day event full of workshops and panel discussions aimed at providing artists with the professional tools and skills they need to kickstart or improve their art business.

“The main reason I’m doing this is because my son is a third-generation silversmith,” Aragon said. “So, all the skill, the craft, the tools, the spirituality and mentality that has been transferred onto him is all there. The business aspect of it, something that can make it go smoother for him in his career, is what we came to learn.”

Aragon said the event also helped his son to get a jumpstart on gaining experience networking with people face to face and being in a college setting, building a foundation of confidence in case he decides to attend college in the future.

Aragon described the bootcamp as informative with a warm and open setting. His favorite part was speaking with jewelry artist Pat Pruitt and hearing his blunt way of speaking about the business side of the art world.

Guest artists inspire bootcamp participants

Pruitt joined musician Delbert Anderson, painter and illustrator Beverly Blacksheep, and jewelry artist Jess Tolbert for a panel discussion about “Avenues on How to Sell Your Work,” moderated by UNM-Gallup lecturer and jewelry artist Kristi Wilson.

The panel was the finale for the bootcamp and left a lasting mark on Aragon and other participants.

“The art thing is something we have in us,” Aragon said. “Whether you have it or you don’t, you could maybe develop it. But it was great hearing him (Pruitt) say you can learn all this other stuff and this is how that starts — by learning it, learning the business and learning to do it in a professional manner.”

UNM-Gallup student Alysia Vidal and her mother Ruth Vidal, from Gallup, also attended the bootcamp together. Alysia is currently working toward an associate degree in general studies, but she’s looking into studying art further.

“I thought it was incredible,” Alysia said of the bootcamp. “It was very informative, and a lot of the information from these artists was very helpful. It was inspiring.”

Ruth Vidal said she’s not an artist herself, but she took a jewelry making class at UNM-Gallup back in 2020. However, it was interrupted that fateful March when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the campus.

Still, Ruth said she felt inspired by the final panel discussion and hopes to revisit the jewelry making class someday.

“It’s inspiring what they’re doing and also how they’re giving back,” Ruth said of the panelists. “They don’t have to be here in Gallup on a Saturday. They’ve all achieved such a great level of success, and for them to still come to Gallup to our little event here was great. We appreciate it so much.”

Bootcamp offers expert-led workshops and panels

The bootcamp also featured Gallup fiber artist Eric-Paul Riege, a UNM graduate who kickstarted his college journey at the Gallup branch campus. Riege talked about his transition from student to professional artist and led participants on a “slow walk” to promote boredom and inspiration.

Kayleigh Begay, another UNM-Gallup graduate who now attends UNM in Albuquerque, facilitated a hands-on workshop about “Photographing & Documenting Your Artwork.”

Zuni artist Marlo Kiyite, printmaker Duhon James and photographer Rapheal Begay participated in a panel discussion on “Making a Living as an Artist,” aka “The Gallup Hustle,” moderated by gallupARTS Executive Director Rose Eason.

Santa Fe jewelry artist Brian Fleetwood led a workshop on “Writing an Artist Statement & Resume.”

And representatives from WESST, a small business assistance organization, facilitated a workshop on “Starting an Art Business Checklist.”

The Business of Art Bootcamp was made possible thanks to a Creative Industries Grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

“This area of New Mexico and the region have such a huge creative community that is under-served and possibly is not aware of the tools or professional help they can get,” event coordinator and UNM-Gallup instructor Dana Aldis said. “That’s where the Bootcamp comes in.”

With the grant funding, UNM-Gallup was able to offer the bootcamp at no cost to participants with lunch provided on both days. UNM-Gallup was also able to give participants who registered early with a $50 gas card to help cover their travel costs.