Red Barn Arts Center

Located in Wellsboro (Tioga County in north central Pennsylvania), Red Barn Arts Center offers workshops in plein air painting, printmaking, and fine crafts taught out of a converted barn (c. 1850).  Watch the promo video here: https://vimeo.com/69238888.  It brings nationally and internationally recognized artists to the region to teach these workshops and attracts both tourists and local artists looking for an arts-driven vacation or creative experience.   The Center takes advantage of the natural landscape in combination with a growing local arts tourism initiative (currently driven by music festivals) to offer a new benefit to individuals seeking to vacation and study painting and crafts.

Work Undertaken

During the first phase of the Center, supported in part by the Corzo Center’s Creative Incubator, we converted a 19th Century barn into a studio fit for classes, piloted a first season of workshops (Summer 2012) and developed and offered a full sequence of classes and workshops for Spring, Summer, and Fall 2013.   We launched the Center’s website and its e-commerce site; undertook an extensive marketing campaign (developed with some help from Mansfield University’s Communication Department); and approached wineries to broaden the Center’s outreach and extend its winter programming, which will include four half-day workshops in ceramics, watercolor, and book arts to be offered at the Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford.   We have been able to get coverage about the Center in nearly all the local and regional papers within a two hour drive, as well as established a relationship with the Endless Mountain Music Festival.

We also completed a number of critical legal documents – a lease for the property we are using, agreements between the Center and participating artists – and are developing an agreement to be used by registrants, partnership agreements with local groups we work with, and a clearer definition of our roles and responsibilities as founders of the enterprise.

Lessons learned

  • Good help is hard to find.On more than one occasion people that we hired to do work for us ended up doing less than they promised or they delivered something far later than promised and it was done incorrectly.The line between staying on top of people vs. letting them just do their job is often difficult to see but we realize it’s just better to err on the side of more involvement.
  • In the world of emails and texts it is becoming harder and harder for people to make time to talk on the phone or meet in person.We found this to be true with many, many people we dealt with.But in the end our face-to-face meetings were the ones that resulted in the most direct action.
  • There are so many things about the book-keeping side of running a business we didn’t know, that we didn’t even know the questions to ask: accounting, taxes, employee forms, etc., etc. We learned we needed to hire people to help us with this and that we need to take a few courses in accounting.
  • Plan everything farther in advance than seems necessary.
  • Ads are expensive but articles are free and far more effective.
  • Keep referring to and building on the business plan.We’ve been counseled to do this a few times during this process of building a business, but it’s still easy to get distracted with other ideas.The business plan we initially drew up was a good one we’ve been learning to keep this in mind when we make decisions.

Next Steps:

  • We will be targeting more wineries (and similar alternate spaces) for our workshops as well as adding workshops to the Penns Woods location.
  • We are hosting a Plein Air festival in Wellsboro, PA in conjunction with Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce and the Tioga County Visitors Center on September, 21st.Last year The Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce started a wine festival held in stores and outdoor locations on Main Street-it was very successful and this year the RBAC will be promoting various painters and artists as part of this event.The head of the Chamber of Commerce is very enthusiastic about our involvement.
  • At the Wellsboro location we will be adding an event in the Fall of 2014 called5 Hours of Art! In order to build name recognition and to promote local arts and artists.
  • Attend town meetings to learn more about possible partnership opportunities.
  • Additional legal documents we are working on include a cancelation policy for students, a formal contract agreement with wineries, and our membership agreement.