A Conversation with Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg, founders and directors of Current Projects
How was Current Project founded?
Brent: We met originally collaborating with a larger group of artists after we came back to Milwaukee from graduate school. When we first started collaborating, there was a lot going in in Milwaukee; performance art, installation, one night events. So we joined in and peeled off in a way to create our own work. After a couple years we got a studio together in Riverwest.
How has collaborating impacted your work?
Shauna: It has been very influential working with other artists, and we reached a point where we were doing projects that required others help. If you start thinking larger scale, or complicated, reach out to other people, has been enriching experience and great for networking, in art and craft community.
What are the some of the misconceptions or barriers around making a living in this field of work?
B: We were taught to make art but not taught how to make a living in art school. I started renovating homes in Riverwest. I gravitated towards carpenters, and kept specializing over the years, which developed into the business we have now which centers in woodworking with a background as artists.
The bulk of our income comes from the fabrication client work that funds our art practice. The more interesting projects are where they all being to mix elements of art, design, and craft, not as much taking ownership as a Budsberg / McCaw project, but creating an interesting experience for the people who will interact with it. It’s become less about promoting ourselves as a brand as creating interesting outcomes that are valuable for people who experience it.
Do you have advice for other artists looking to create a business?
S: We recently met artists who relocated to Milwaukee and we started talking about SCORE - it's always every creative person dream to do that full time, so many people moonlight and have to do that on weekend - Brent has been doing it for years, and I'm about to start full time.
B: We need advisors and collaborators for business side of things and give us advice on business move. We feel confidence in ability to make creative things, we needed help to guide that into a profitable and sustainable business.
How has your involvement with score and how that informed business decisions?
B: We got to a point where we realized we were trying to create a business that in some ways that had been existing for a while, and wanted to formalize it. We didn’t have entrepreneurs in families so found we didn't have a lot of mentors to look to for guidance, Shana talked to a photographer friend who had worked with SCORE. I went to a few workshops that were helpful. We also have been working with a mentor with SCORE and he has been great, someone who has experience we can bounce ideas off of, provide resources, understand business world, and guide our decision making.
One of the big things working with SCORE has been creating better work flows and methods for accounting and thinking about metrics we should look at to create goals for profitability. In the time we have been working with score we have seen that position us in a much better place as we are seeing gains from each project.