-By Spottie Ottie
Prelo White is a native Brooklynite with an eye for the arts and a mission to provide Brooklyn artists not only a platform for their expression but the tools and resources to sustain themselves in a world that is often dismissive of street art and local artists. In Prelo’s own words, she believes that you deserve to be more than another starving artist. In 2012 her drive to support creatives birthed Brooklyn Artistry, a one-time artist collective that helped artists develop their craft and sell their work through curated shows and events. After a brief hiatus in 2015 the collective relaunched in 2018, continuing to provide resources that artists need to become professionals while developing additional revenue streams through a production company and retail sales. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Prelo and discuss more about her journey into the arts and her experiences as the Founder and Creative Director of Brooklyn Artistry.
As a young person growing up in Brooklyn, what was your relationship with the arts? How did it all begin?
Art was the outlet. If it wasn’t visual, it definitely would have been music but all in all art was going to be the shit that elevated me. Starting out, I wanted to be like my grandmother. She was an illustrator. The first time I drew Slylock Foxx, a cartoon strip that used to be in the Daily News’ Sunday funnies, I knew I wanted to be a visual artist but it was when I got introduced to The Boondocks’ strip was when being a cartoonist was what I thought I wanted to do with my life.
Was there a defining moment that propelled you to create Brooklyn Artistry?
Absolutely! Before I got the official epiphany, I always knew I wanted to do something for underground artists. One day I met someone who helped me shape my vision into something tangible. In 2009 I came up with the idea that I wanted to start a collective, which, to me, was a group of artists working together to elevate the brand they represented — in my case it was Brooklyn Artistry. When we officially started in 2012 it was pretty structured. We had memberships and levels for the artist that joined the collective that helped us understand how to delegate tasks. The idea was to help artists where they needed it the most so if they needed to learn how to create bios, CVs, or needed resources, I’d personally help with that. If they needed to be in shows to build their reputation, I’d curate solo shows to help them.
In 2015 I took a hiatus. I was going through something and decided to take some time to myself. “Some time” turned into two years, which was great for me but terrible for Brooklyn Artistry. Artists were continuously asking me when I was going to re-launch the company. That’s when I started working on the new business model. We don’t represent individual artists any more but we do offer resources and consultations through our workshops. As of now we’re focusing on being a digital platform that highlights emerging multidisciplinary artists through art exhibitions, cultural events, and creative opportunities. In order to do this I’ve been reintroducing the company to a few businesses, artists, and art enthusiasts. It’s been going pretty well.
What were some of the most difficult aspects of being a start up and how did you overcome these obstacles?
Well it used to be money. As organized as we were, as a collective we weren’t making any money. My vision has always been about getting artists awareness. The artists, however, were selling art and getting a little bit of money but Brooklyn Artistry didn’t make much from our commissions as representatives. Now that I think about it we basically ran it like a non-profit so we weren’t getting much from that. Now, it’s completely different and definitely runs like the for profit business that it is. I’ve changed the business model and have started multiple revenue streams (The BACo Store, Prelo White Productions) with low overhead costs to aid Brooklyn Artistry produce a regular cash flow.
Our newest set back as a re-launched brand is the Coronavirus. When the virus hit, Brooklyn Artistry lost all three of its residencies, 80% of its clientele, and had to cancel all of its scheduled events, including recurring and major. Our content streaming service and projects under Prelo White Productions came to a standstill and The BACo Store lost eight of its partnerships. We were fucked, to say the least. But we still have our online classes, workshops, and instructional lectures. The best thing to come out of this was a rush on a project that I’ve been stalling on called the Brooklyn Artistry Learning Center. It’s a platform where a group of creatives put up How To videos and customers can buy the downloads. It’s literally saving Brooklyn Artistry’s life, helping artists make money, and keeping a cash flow going. We also solidified 3 new partnerships and are releasing a new project for The BACo Store. All of this will release this month.
What was the most impactful collaboration Brooklyn Artistry had, be it personally or from a business perspective.
We’ve had countless collaborations, partnerships, and residencies. All of them have been impactful. I have a memory for each one and about every artist I’ve worked with. What I’ve been most proud of is seeing artists who started out with us grow into the professionals they are today.
As a native Brooklynite and business owner how do you feel about navigating the new and ever gentrifying landscape in Brooklyn?
I’ve adapted and that’s saying something cause I’m a hardcore Brooklynite. But I’ve learned to hold on to the little bit of culture that we have left, support my local small businesses, and only partner with those who appreciate the neighborhood they’ve moved into.
What do you believe was the most successful moment in Brooklyn Artistry’s life and what are some of the goals you have for the future of the organization?
The most successful moment in Brooklyn Artistry was when we relaunched in 2018. Since then we’ve expanded with three other sub projects that are doing pretty well; The BACo Store, Prelo White Productions, and BACo Events. We’re currently working on rebranding our workshops into the Brooklyn Artistry Learning Center.
What advice would you give to artists about making money?
When making money a creator, you have to be with the times. Before you worry about the money you want, you need to evaluate your craft. Do the research and ask yourself “does this make money elsewhere”, “how are other people making money by doing this”, and of course “what can I do to make it better”? Don’t get into a field that’s depleting or has a niche catered to small crowds. Make sure your product or service is able to expand and is able to grab the attention of large groups. Be different and the most important rule is: have different revenue streams! I can not stress this enough. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have multiple strategies, test your theory, and be consistent in your campaign.
Think like a business person as much as you are a creator. If you’re not business-minded, find someone who is to aid you. To make money you’ll need both creativity and to be a strategist.
What is the legacy that you want Brooklyn Artistry to have in Brooklyn and beyond?
I have and will continue to want creators to have a place to get all the resources they need to become professional artists.