More than Charity: Liz Powers and Artlifting

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Sometimes to tell one person’s story we have to begin with another. In 2012, Scott Benner had begun experiencing severe headaches and unexpected moments of intense confusion. He soon found out he was diagnosed with Homer’s Syndrome. Soon after that he found himself without a job, an income or a home after 30 years of steady employment. Scott was propelled abruptly in a dark and unexpected place in life like far too many of our nations’ homeless and mentally challenged.

In 2014, Scott met with Liz Powers and both their lives would change. The year before, Liz had started an organization called ArtLifting, which showcases and sells the artwork of the homeless. As a student at Harvard, she enjoyed making art herself and spent four years doing volunteer casework.

Liz has worked with homeless individuals for the last decade. She realized that there was a wealth of talent in these individuals that was going untapped. She and her business consultant brother Spencer decided to cofound ArtLifting to create a marketplace to showcase this hidden talent. They were soon accepted to start up accelerators like MassChallenge and the Harvard Innovation Lab.

20-liz-and-spencerSoon they had a great business plan laid out and no shortage of talented artists to partner with, Artlifting became a digital marketplace for artists to connect with interested buyers and they hosted some live gallery events as well. Talented artists with few means before could finally have a place to showcase their paintings, prints and products. Today, ArtLifting continues to thrive, helping the homeless make their own income and gain self-confidence.

They work just like a normal art gallery, which has a profit share. As a benefit corporation, the artist receives 55% from the sale of their work, with 1% going to a fund that provides art supplies to shelter art groups, with the remaining of 44% going to ArtLifting so it can continue to expand and achieve its goals. Artists are able to find housing and help in managing an income.

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This is more than charity. This is a working business model that closely resembles the practices of most “traditional” galleries. They have grown from 4 artists to 72. With connections to shelters across America, they have artists from 11 states and 15 major cities across America. They have three sales distribution channels, being e-commerce, licensing and corporate sales. Prices for prints range from $75.00 to thousands of dollars. Clients have included some major corporations and organizations.

05-allenchamberland_quincymarket“Our goals are to keep on expanding our impact nationally and also to keep expanding corporate sales. We’ve sold to forty corporate clients across the country including Microsoft, Google, and Bain. Those deals make a huge impact on our artists’ lives. Our overall goal is to create a movement focusing on strengths.”

Back to Scott Benner. He’s doing much better these days, having found some peace and an income from doing something he is very talented at. His work is good. Really good. His main medium is a fine line pen and ink and he cares deeply about his work, having spent over 1,000 hours on one piece. This talent was always there, but it took a Liz Powers to help the rest of us see it.

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Don’t just take our word for it. To see and buy the artwork of Scott and some of the many talented artists like him, check out artlifting.com

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