Art meets commerce at the BCA’s Mills Gallery

Melissa Blackall

Tieton Mosaic’s “Thank You!”

By Cate McQuaid Globe Correspondent 

In art, success often involves entrepreneurship — fund-raising, marketing, a business model. “Culture Hustlers: Artists Minding Their Business,” at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery, focuses on how to get art out into the world. 

Great masters at commercializing art such as Andy Warhol and Takashi Murakami have dexterously flipped the tiddlywink between high art and low, making art that is both accessible and conceptually rigorous. Curator Lucas Spivey doesn’t attempt to scale their conceptual heights. Instead, he highlights creative approaches to small-scale cultural enterprise.


Spivey travels the country in a 1957 Shasta camper, interviewing and advising entrepreneurial creators. The five artists and artist collectives he includes in “Culture Hustlers” make distinctly accessible work: mosaics, metal designs, weavings indigenous to New Mexico, fizzy geometric paintings, and comics-style paintings. 

Melissa Blackall

Derek Erdman’s “Unlearn to Draw Khloe Kardashian.”

The last are by Derek Erdman. His wry and frequently topical images can be transferred to T-shirts or signs; one offers instructions on how to “Unlearn to Draw Khloe Kardashian.” But painting is just one tool on his belt. His website ( peddles notary services, free drawings of Carol Channing, and a mail-order “burger bomb.”  

He’s a painter and a prankster for hire, and the likeliest artist here to make a leap to, say, the art fair circuit, if he hones and deepens his comedy.

Erdman and geometric mural painter Kristin Farr rely on the Internet; Farr has a smartphone app that overlays her snappy patterns on photos. Other artists here have deep community roots.

The typographic glass company Tieton Mosaic started out in 2013, making big signs for the city of Tieton, Wash., under the nonprofit umbrella of Tieton Arts & Humanities. Now it trains apprentices, and it’s transitioning into a benefit corporation, the profits of which will support charitable programs. 


The crafts in “Culture Hustlers” are elegant and functional; the paintings are more fun than substantive. In this show — a primer for artists who never studied business — aesthetics are secondary to savvy.  


At Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, 551 Tremont St., through April 8. 617-426-5000,

Cate McQuaid can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.