When speaking on the subject of Arts Advocacy, oftentimes the advocacy efforts stop shy of the Artists themselves. That's why Artist Advocates and co-conspirators like Kate MacKinnon are so valuable and essential to an arts advocacy ecosystem.
A biologist and chemist with a deep love and appreciation for the arts that stretches back to her early childhood, Kate operates KF Mac Consulting - a business consultation firm geared directly at serving Artists and the Arts Community. She observed a need among a deeply underserved artist community in Jacksonville in particular - a need for structured business strategy, branding, marketing, and implementation. This was her inspiration for forming her consultation firm and offering those very services at insanely reasonable costs.
Advocates and co-conspirators like her see a need and fill it with the beneficiary in mind first. If you've ever had the pleasure of encountering Kate, you know what a giving and passionate spirit she has. If not, read on and get to know the Force of Giving that is Kate MacKinnon.
We really appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions for the blog this week - we know you're a very busy woman. Please tell our readers about yourself!
My name is Kate Frey MacKinnon, and I am a Business Consultant for Artists in Jacksonville, nationally, and internationally through my company KF Mac Consulting. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love art. I was lucky enough to have a brilliant mother who took me to art exhibits, plays, and classical music concerts before I could even walk. As I got a little older, she was able to tell me about the lives of the artists, and what the art was about. At the age of 8, I saw the Picasso show at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and I remember being fascinated by it all. While I drew as a child and all through High School, I was also interested in the sciences. I have a Bachelor’s in Biology, and I spent 8.5 years of grad school in Chemistry. I would later get an MBA in Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the university where I worked as a Lab Coordinator for the Chemistry and Biology departments. Before I graduated with my MBA, my husband, photographer Clinton Eastman, and I started up a Wedding and Family Portrait Photography business in California, where we lived at the time. After taking a “Consulting to Small Business” Class, I was also asked to work on a number of consulting projects.
How long have you been working as a Business Consultant for Artists and what motivated you to start serving the arts community in this way?
While I have worked as a small business and start-up consultant for over 10 years now, I specifically turned to artists two years ago. My shift to concentrating on artists came to me after I deeply listened to artists speak about their struggles with the business side of their work. These were the same questions my small business owners asked, and I figured being friends with so many artists in town, that I could use my expertise to help them get more money in their pockets. The second and major motivator for turning to artists as clients is that Jacksonville is in an art Renaissance, right now. We have so many incredibly talented artists here, but not necessarily all of the ancillary platforms that support the success of artists that there are in other cities. I wanted to be a part of that team that helps our artists grow and thrive.
Specifically what kind of consultation do you offer as part of your services and for what length of time do you typically keep Artists as clients?
I specialize in Strategic Planning for artists whereby I sit down with them, look at their body of work, figure out where and what they are doing right now both creatively and business-wise, and where they would like to be, specifically. It is an interactive partnership. I get to know their goals, what they would like to be doing, and we work together on how to get their practices aligned with their goals, whether it be sales, improvement in marketing, types of projects, getting into shows or galleries, or making connections. I typically start with a whole series of questions to find out where they are professionally, what the strengths and weakness are in the business, and where the consistencies and inconsistencies lie within their business practices. Then, I do a whole bunch of listening. We formulate plans together, and I often take on anything that needs to be researched. There is no one plan that works for every artist, and every plan is tailored specifically to what the artist needs or is going through, professionally. While I am happy to do single sessions for artists who need objective and professional business advice, I also have clients who have me on retainer. I think anytime one has a client on a consistent basis, the better one can have a deeper relationship in building the success with the artist.
Your consultation fee (per your website) is fairly affordable. Do you find that most artists you work with are able to afford your services for the amount of time they need them?
Yes - I purposefully made my rates very affordable, so that business consulting for artists wasn’t out of reach for the very people who need it the most. I had an artist that I admire and deeply respect stop me three-quarters of the way through a session to remark - “Kate, you don’t charge nearly enough for what you do!” That was an enormous compliment. Our artists here are top notch (I mean incredible!), but many are not getting compensated as they should be for the quality of work they produce. I think most artists are so used to trying to navigate it all alone that they forget there are affordable business services that can help them in their careers. The artists who gravitate to my business are the ones who already understand a bit of business, or who have been in successful careers, and who know that they need an “outsider’s perspective,” so yes, they find the rates reasonable, and one that they can consult with me on a consistent basis.
Do you accept any alternative forms of compensation for your services (i.e. work trade, bartering, etc.)
I would accept trade in kind, but I haven’t, yet. My main goal is to get the artists the appropriate money for their work using new avenues to get their pieces sold. Artists are asked way too often to do things for free or for trade, and I’d rather buy their pieces at the asking price, rather than as a trade. I help them get their business chops working, so that they can sell a piece for the price it deserves. I also think that having that boundary between the cost of my services and being a buyer of their work is probably best as two different transactions.
In your opinion, in what ways can the general population as well as the business sector best support the arts?
As a former scientist, I can say that we *must* collectively decide to make arts a priority in this community. Science and art are the same coin - just two different sides. In order to have breakthroughs in science, scientists have to be able to think creatively. In order to have success in art, one must also think analytically. There’s a reason that universities have a college of Arts and Sciences. We need each other. Everything in the physical world operates by the laws of Physics, Biology, or Chemistry. It is art that enriches us as human beings. Art and the learning of art is crucial to us as species. So, we absolutely have to make art a priority. I think we also need to work on connecting investors to art properties for artist live/work spaces with supporting commerce (restaurant/coffee shops/galleries) that are affordable for artists. But, that also has business programs and services that can help artists be successful. The Broward county Small Business Development Center has a program tailored for artists. I’d love to see that here. I have a contact with whom I’d like to make that happen.
How impactful or valuable do you feel your or other services like yours are to Artists and the Arts Community?
There’s a tiny town in Kentucky - pop. 5,000 or so (there’s something similar in a tiny town in Texas). They’ve set up their town to be an art’s haven, and buyers come from all over the world, swelling these tiny towns to 20,000 people in
visitation. We - artists, those of us who love art, those who buy art, those who consult to artists - all want to do what we can to help to make the amazing artists here be supported. We have massive gaps. I help artists bridge the gap in how they can make the money that they deserve and the buyers that we have, but are elusive. We know the talent in this town, now, we have to make it a collective priority, and help set up all of the structural necessities whereby our artists can thrive here, rather than having to move to Atlanta, LA, NYC, Chicago, London, etc.
What have you learned about yourself through your giving and your work?
Artists are some of the kindest people you will ever meet, once you break through their introversion and self-doubt. One of my most favorite artists in town, before we got to know one another very well, would ask me my favorite food, which happens to be conch fritters. Being from the Caribbean and having family down in Miami, he’d get conch, and he fried me up some of the best fritters I’ve ever tasted. It was such an amazingly sweet thing to do. What I learned was, somehow, giving even a little back to this incredible community of artists comes back 10-20-30 fold. I also on occasion volunteer at The Ritz Museum and the museum administrator, Adonnica Toler, is one of the most amazing people I know. She is incredible! I have learned so much through her by helping out with the “Through Our Eyes: 2018 Journey to South Africa” exhibition. I guess what I have really learned is that there are so many that are so kind, and that support of the arts community affords me deep and wonderful relationships with folks of incredible talent.
What are the greatest challenges you face as an arts professional living and working in Northeast Florida?
We have an incredible community of artists who are Black/African American in Jacksonville, and allies who know what is going on. This is a big strength, but the racism is still very palpable and evident. Our arts community is also very politically involved, which is amazing! So, I think that the barrier of racism is a huge one. As a co-conspirator in the arts community, we need to make sure that voices of marginalized communities are amplified and heard. A concentration on diversity not only makes us a stronger community together, but it also raises the level of excellence in art. We need to be honest and address barriers that others face in their art careers, and make sure that opportunities are afforded to all, no matter the color of their skin, their gender identification, or their belief systems. We are mightier when we all work together. Excelsior!
How do you define success in what you do?
At the most fundamental level, success is when I am able to help the artist achieve what he or she has set out to do. The artists, themselves, are the arbiter of whether or not I am successful. I try to go to as many art shows as I can. I talk to gallery owners, buyers, collectors, and those who support artists to make sure I am listening to the pulse of the arts community, as well as keeping up what is going on in the arts community from week to week. In the big picture view, I want to help be one of the people who assists in setting up the scaffolding and infrastructure needed in this town to support the arts. We are on a precipice of being an arts destination. We make the choice to complain about what we don’t have, or we can work for what we want to be. I choose the latter, but it takes the inclusion of our diverse voices together being heard and getting goals accomplished in order to make this happen. Our talent here is world class. Now, we just need to ensure that the rest of the world knows this, too.
We'd like to thank Kate for her participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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