businesslife | The art of business

Story by Jessica Williamson

Fall 2023

The goal of many artists is to build a career grown from their passion for the craft, but it’s not always clear where to start and how to sustain a profitable income stream. With careful planning, research and dedication, many Airdrie entrepreneurs have created a thriving business around their favourite activities.

From dance and music studios to fine art and film, our city is filled with great examples of the arts fueling a creative economy.

Tara Pickford is the founder and CEO of Ambition Performing Arts Inc., which provides quality programming in dance, music and drama to children in Airdrie.

In her 20 years in business, Pickford has served more than 8,000 families and donated more than $200,000 back into the community to support youth in Airdrie.

Her advice to other arts business owners is to offer inspiring and safe places for families to get creative. Pickford strives to ensure families feel supported and encouraged, helping to honour their investment in the business. “We need to hold ourselves to a gold standard where we take care and concern that our art choices are age-appropriate and family-friendly,” says Pickford.

“The arts are so much more important than just dance steps, musical notes or lines in a script; they are a springboard for some and a life preserver for others.”

Anthony Burbidge, owner, teacher and director with Airdrie Music Lessons, was recently nominated for an Alberta Business Award of Distinction in the Small Business Category, presented by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

Burbidge says his focus from the beginning has been on providing what the community needs, not just what he wants as an artist. “I view the arts as an essential part of a larger educational web that can develop highly skilled, creative thinkers who will be crucial to tomorrow’s workforce and the development of our society,” says Burbidge. “Because the city is growing, … we can use the arts to develop the next generation of Airdrie residents, give current residents inspiring local activities and entertainment, and put the city on the map as a destination for arts and culture.”

If that’s not inspiring enough, there’s data to prove artists are seeing success across the country.

In fact, Canadian artists are more likely to be entrepreneurs than the general Canadian population. According to the 2016 Canadian census, 52 per cent of artists are self-employed compared to 12 per cent of the overall workforce.

If you want to discover whether your passion could be a viable business opportunity, the City of Airdrie and Airdrie Entrepreneur Common offer a variety of support programs to help you plan, start and grow a thriving business.

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Jessica Williamson is an economic development officer with the City of Airdrie