B.J. Abrams Builds a Life and Business of Public Service Through Art

B.J. Abrams is living proof that artists can do more than paint. Her Arkansas Arts Beautification Society serves not only as an exhibition gallery, but also as a recording studio, a management office, and a children’s school of the arts.

Abrams started the Conway, Ark.-based enterprise in 1996, and today her work is part of the permanent collection of the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock. The GoPayment Blog recently spoke with Abrams about her business, which has become a vibrant extension of herself.

GoPayment: What inspired you to start the Arkansas Arts Beautification Society?

Abrams: I was trying to develop some artwork of my own. Once I had 200 works in my house, someone said, “Why don’t you open a gallery?” So, I did. I have been running the Arkansas Arts Beautification Society for 16-years now (and in the art business for 30).

Who are your customers?

Most of my customers are young people (ages 16 to 30) breaking into the music industry. Some are already working, and they come to me to hone their skills. Some come to me to work out their skills as songwriters.

I also have artwork hanging in doctors offices here and in clubs in Little Rock. I do photography to help young modeling talent to build their portfolios; I’ve assisted some in getting on the runway in shows during the Little Rock Fashion Week. I also work with special-needs children: I offer them therapy through painting, and some of these kids are good impressionist artists.

What kinds of challenges has your business faced over the years?

It is always the economics. Sales have been slow for a couple of years now. That is another reason why we branched out, because art sales slowed so much. Sometimes we host small concerts for up-and-coming artists to help pay the rent. We have also expanded on the art front by selling hand-painted T-shirts in stores along with some unusual, artistic knick-knacks.

How else do you bring in money?

By being otherwise employed. I am also a licensed nurse. In the past, I would work as a nurse and hire art majors to work in the galleries. Sometimes we set up sidewalk shows. We throw a bunch of paintings in the truck and go to Little Rock and sell them right off the sidewalk. I don’t question what works, I just do it.

Why do you use GoPayment?

I needed an option to collect payments any time, anywhere. I was losing sales at flea markets and during those sidewalk sales. People would say, “I would take this painting if you could take credit cards.” Now I say that I can take it right here! Anywhere I can get cell phone service, I can use GoPayment. This is why I love it. My artist friends who have flea markets love it, too. I like the quick turnaround time on getting money into my bank account.

What have been your most recent business successes?

We’re developing an online magazine. One of my employees is out videotaping local artist Gene Hatfield, who is still painting at nearly 90 years old. We are interviewing him for the magazine.

About David Geer

David Geer recently published in ReadWriteWeb, IBM Data Management, UniversityBusiness, PracticeLink and Data Center Management. Before becoming a technology journalist, David served ISP and telecom customers at CoreComm in Cleveland, Ohio.
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