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Business of Art

April 15th, Tax Day, is a day filled with anxiety and frustration. It can be particularly difficult if you're an artist whose work doesn't fit into neat little boxes. But thankfully there is a way for artists to file confidently and with understanding. For the past four years at The Lark, Elaine Grogan Luttrull has been teaching playwrights just that at her tremendously helpful Business of Art workshop. As an apprentice, I had the opportunity to sit in on the courses offered by Elaine's program and learn all about 1099s and which expenses are deductible. Business of Art is broken up into two schedules - a two day workshop and one day of advanced sessions. Here is my personal experience of the Financial Bootcamp:

THE WORKSHOP

DAY 1: Getting a feel for things (and each other)
The first day focused on easy to grasp financial concepts and learning more about what each individual was seeking from the course. Most people were playwrights, but everyone was from different walks of life. We got to know each other and listened to Elaine's presentation, then broke into groups to figure out expenses for fictional life occurrences. We also got Play-Doh.
LESSON OF THE DAY: Finances can be applied to any area of life, including the arts! It may seem difficult to grasp at first, but, if you take the time, you can figure out how they work together.

DAY 2: Snowmagedon couldn't stop us!
In the midst of one of the biggest blizzards in New York's history, the ever resourceful Elaine taught the course online and through a conference call. Just goes to show the dedication of this program and those involved! We went over tax jargon and talked through real life situations. Elaine is always willing to discuss a question or work through any particularly confusing issue. Being at our respective homes, we did miss the fun arts and crafts supplies from the first day, but we plowed on!
LESSON OF THE DAY: The numbers and forms may seem intimidating, but once they're explained to you in simple terms, you can totally master your 1099's.

ADVANCED SESSIONS

DAY 3 Afternoon: Surviving Schedule C: Hands-On Tax Practice for Playwrights
Everything I didn't know I absorbed was put to use in this course; a practical application of an example 1099. Elaine used a fun example to talk us through the tax form and go through step by step the process of filling it out. 
LESSON OF THE COURSE: If it has a legitimate business purpose, you can justify just about anything on your taxes (just not clothes!).

DAY 3 Evening: Excel for Playwrights
Excel is an exceptional tool for organization, and there's no reason for artists to be afraid of it. Elaine breaks everything down so easily, gives manageable tasks, and was able to help both Mac and PC users. For this course, I recommend bringing your own laptop if you have one. Often it's easier to navigate on your own computer, plus you'll have the completed excel already saved when the course is finished!
LESSON OF THE COURSE: If you love organization, excel is truly your friend. My favorite trick was learning to calculate all of my expenses without going through each expense on a calculator!

My Assessment
This program is more than worth your time. Elaine empowers artists with the ability to take their taxes and finances into their own hands and file with knowledge of what they're doing. If you've taken the series before, be sure to keep a look out for what Elaine has planned next; Advanced Sessions often change each rotation, so there might be a new topic on the horizon. Don't delay! Look out for the next Business of Art weekend in June!

For more lessons from Elaine and Business of Art, check out her blog post or visit her website, minervafinancialarts.com.

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