ArtLifting: Empowerment through Opportunity, Rather than with a Handout

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If you ask “What do you need?” or “How can I help you?” to someone who you seek to help, they will likely say that they prefer an opportunity rather than a handout. To solve the world’s most entrenched social challenges, we need to invest in people and their capacity to improve their livelihoods.

The Company

Liz Powers stands by this approach with her B Corp, ArtLifting, an online marketplace that showcases and sells artwork of artists living with homelessness or disabilities. By finding an audience for their art and helping them generate an income, ArtLifting aims to also boost their confidence and self-esteem – ultimately improving their lives.

ArtLifting partners with teaching artists who work in homeless shelters and disability centers to scout potential artists. Then, just like an art broker, ArtLifting curates the artwork and brings it to market. Artists receive 55% of the sale and ArtLifting keeps 44%. The remaining 1%? That’s reinvested in the partner organizations (shelters and disability centers) that deliver art programming to the artists.

Growth has been impressive! Since launching in 2013, ArtLifting has scaled from 4 artists in Boston to 72 artists in 11 states. In addition, ArtLifting now has a corporate program to sell directly to businesses looking to decorate offices with socially responsible art. The company was one of first to receive an investment from the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship Fund.

C0-founder Liz Powers was listed in Forbes 2017 30 Under 30 List.

C0-founder Liz Powers was listed in Forbes 2017 30 Under 30 List.

The Artwork

You can find original art in almost any style and medium. I love the geometric art on acrylic! Original pieces range from $400 to $6,000 and prints sell for $60 to $75. Each piece comes with a short story of the artist, allowing us to know whom we are supporting through each purchase.

More recently, ArtLifting also started selling other merchandise - notebooks, phone cases, and holiday cards – that were also inspired by the artists.

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In a general sense, art is a way for artists to express and support themselves. ArtLifting does that and more. ArtLifting is also empowering underserved artists to develop the confidence they need to afford a home and live a fulfilling life.

ArtLifting’s model poses the question - what other empowerment opportunities can we offer to individuals in need? What skills can be developed or brought to market in order to help them create a sustainable income?

Photos: IG @artlifting

Anairis Hinojosa