Networking effectively is a crucial component to any entrepreneur’s success. However, networking is something that many artists struggle to do well. According to the website for online creative community The Art Career Project, “Art is often a solitary activity, so networking does not come naturally to many artists. However, networking helps artists make contacts that can lead to sales, gigs and local exposure.”
Making new contacts is something that visual artist, writer, speaker, and consultant Beth Inglish lives to do.
“I help people move from struggling to their highest level of success,” Beth tells Launch Engine.
Around 2010, Beth was doing a lot of writing about visual arts in Middle Tennessee. She was surprised to see a region that was so full of creative talent, yet still operating without much connectivity between those artists. During this period, Beth regularly attended art shows and hosted conversations with Nashville’s artists. This regular engagement with the artistic community spurred Beth to action so as to help her newfound friends and colleagues. Thus, in 2012, she founded the Nashville Creative Group (NCG) to bring artists closer together.
“It’s really just a platform for artists to connect and share resources,” Beth explains. “Because no one was doing that in Nashville. There was no way for artists to communicate online… And so I just was like, ‘Well, I’ll do something about that.’”
Being sociable about town, Beth had developed a community around her personal Facebook profile. This community became a powerful tool for her.
“I thought, ‘Well, this would be great if everyone had access to this. And so that’s kind of when I started transitioning over into building a group. And then [I] just sort of took all my network— [I] started with my network—and then just grew it from there,” she recalls.
According to Beth, many artists lacked the tools and know-how to affect bigger issues, as too many of them were operating as solo entities. Many creatives assumed that someone else was already doing this, or someone would do this… eventually. She says that there are plenty of one-off art events that aren’t consistently held, and working artists may not have the time to take on such a huge undertaking.
Since Beth was engaging many of these artists on a one-on-one level, she saw the need for artists to have a place to communicate. Though informal, the NCG gives artists of different stripes a place to express concerns, ask questions, and see the work of their colleagues.
Beth recalls, “For me, building community was really important because it’s how I found my sense of place here in Nashville…”
The NCG’s size has grown over the years to upwards of 9300 members. It welcomes artists and creators regardless of medium, skill level, or even location—since Beth removed limitations as to who can join back in 2020.
Since the group was formed, Beth has hosted over 100 free, in-person events for artists. Beth says that some of the people who regularly attended events were able to learn from the programming and get more out of their art careers.
The benefits of something like NCG have been noticed—and copied—by people living outside of Nashville. The NCG has spawned a number of other hyper-local creative groups, such as the Murfreesboro Creative Group. These organizations don’t merely syndicate NCG’s content. They are their own artistic ecosystems that connect individuals in a particular area in the same way the NCG does.
Beth is a believer in helping artists find professional success through healthy emotional expression. In October 2021, as part of Nashville’s month-long “Artober” arts celebration, she launched the “Create & Feel Art Competition.”
“It’s all about giving artists a chance to be brave and use their voice… and express themselves in a way that’s a transfer of [their] emotional energy… ” Beth explains.
The contest idea came about after Beth entered into a partnership with award-winning researcher Johnathan Cromwell. Cromwell is a faculty member of the University of San Francisco, and he wanted to examine how emotions and creativity intersect.
Beth says, “The competition is just a way to gather data….” She adds that in setting up the contest, she also wants people to see the benefit of channeling raw feelings. Based on her own research into the subject, there aren’t a whole lot of studies on emotions and creativity.
“It’s really exciting for me. Because this is sort of like my life’s work coming to a head to get some actual, measurable data—so that I can continue doing this work,” she says, referring to her research.
This competition comes to the NCG courtesy of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville and NowPlayingNashville. Because she wanted to offer some sort of a prize to the winner, Beth reached out to ask about using the organization’s “Artist of the Week” sign in downtown Nashville to feature the art of the contest’s winner. The winner will also receive a spotlight on the NowPlayingNashville site, promotion of their art in NCG, and a $100 cash prize.
The judges for this competition include Chicago artist and curator Sergio Gomez, Seattle artist and life coach Jeff Leisawitz, and John Partipilo, an award-winning Nashville photojournalist.
One might think that artists wouldn’t have a problem expressing their emotion through their preferred medium. However, Beth explains that because some of these emotions related to an artist’s self-expression are linked to traumatic experiences, artists may not want to share them. Still, as a trauma survivor herself, Beth knows the negative consequences of keeping feelings bottled up.
“I’ve used art making as a way to express myself and release emotions that were in my body from the trauma…” she explains. Beth notes that there can be many benefits to taking this risk. She says, “This is why people do art therapy.”
In fact, Beth’s conversations with people attending NCG meetings revealed that many were working through traumatic experiences. These experiences, she observed, were creeping into other parts of these artists’ lives.
Seeing the transformative power of releasing emotions, Beth anticipates the contest with excitement as she wants both to help others through artistic expression and to support scientific research as it relates to art.
The submission deadline for the “Create and Feel” competition is October 31. Winners will be announced November 20. In lieu of a submission fee, artists are required to complete a survey.
For further information about the Nashville Creative Group, be sure to visit the group’s Facebook site, as well as the website of Beth Inglish. Details about the Create & Feel Art Competition can be found here.