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Local effort begins to establish an online marketplace for older artists [Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Pa. :: ]
[June 10, 2014]

Local effort begins to establish an online marketplace for older artists [Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Pa. :: ]

(Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 09--Local artist Deirdre Foley Citro isn't just a former professional artist and art teacher hoping to retire someday - she's an "ageless artisan." Citro has been a part- and full-time artist and has taught art at the elementary, junior high and college level. She also has had her Newgrange Studio at Kevin Lehman's Pottery & Creative Factory on South Prince Street for the past 12 years. Now, her new endeavor is creating an online marketplace for the benefit of older artists and artisans, whom she calls "ageless artisans." Because professional artists like her have committed themselves to their art, Citro says, they don't always have money set aside for retirement.

"Lancaster has really become an arts destination town," Citro says. "But it started a long time ago." Now, those older artists need more financial stability, she says.

Therefore, she set out to create something that would both aim to augment the income of professional artists and foster a community of artists who can learn from each other.

Then she found the perfect way to do it.

Citro learned about a relatively new legal status for companies in the United States, and one just passed by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 2012 - a benefit corporation. The concept is that the business provides a product or service while meeting a significant need in the community.

Earlier this year, when she realized the potential of a company with a dual bottom line of "profit and community," Citro says she thought, "This is perfect. This is just what I want." And as of this past week, Citro says, the official paperwork came through and Autumn Hands now is registered as a benefits corporation.

For the next step in getting the company off the ground, Citro held a fundraising launch Friday at Roaring Brook Market and Cafe, 155 E. King St., as she started her Indiegogo effort to raise $36,000 in the next few months. The money raised will go toward the software and website development, she says.

At the launch party, four artists, including herself, had art available for sale - though Citro says she's heard from about nine artists interested in working on the website so far. After starting with a strong local base in Lancaster County, Citro says, she'd love to see artists join the website from across the country.

The website also will allow users to filter by locale, so people who visit the website can see what's going on in their local art community.

"We want them to say, 'They have beautiful things here and the great thing is that this person lives in my community,' " Citro says.

Citro, who will be 64 this summer, said the primary goal is to help artists over the age of 55 sell their art, but Autumn Hands also will encourage them to partner with someone from a younger generation in order to share their skills and build on the message of having an artistic community. Citro says there will be a part on the website for artists to connect with one another, but she also will be working to promote the idea to members of both older and younger artists as she expands the initiative.

"A lot of my time was spent teaching, and that's why I love this idea of sharing," Citro says.

For Mike Keller, one of the interested artisans whose art was featured on Friday, something like Autumn Hands is a way to introduce him to other potters and share ideas, - but it's also a way to plan his income for retirement.

After just getting into pottery as a profession in the last four or five years, Keller says, he had to take a slight step back from committing as much time to it last year when he got a new job as a project manager business analyst.

Keller, who is passionate about the process of creating his pottery - from creating his own glazes to maintaining the right heat and production quality of the furnace - the online marketplace creates a platform where he doesn't have to worry about the aspects of selling his art outside of the art itself.

Keller says he has a website of his own for his pottery, but he often doesn't have the time to maintain it, so another site that sells and promotes his work would be much easier.

"It's nice to be able to have to have somebody you know that you trust, that you're comfortable with (to help with the marketing)," he says of Citro.

___ (c)2014 Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pa.) Visit the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pa.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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