Interview with Heather Pontonio
Art Program Director @ the Tremaine Foundation
Heather Pontonio is the art program director of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. She manages the Foundation’s national biennial Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award and the Marketplace Empowerment for Artists programs. Prior to joining the Tremaine Foundation, Heather was the associate vice president of grants at the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In this podcast, Orangenius Founder and CEO, Grace Cho speaks with Heather Pontonio, the art program director of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. The organization’s mission to tackle educational issues facing a variety of sectors is driven by a desire to make a national impact, and that mission has been fiercely adhered to within its arts initiative. The Tremaine Foundation began funding university programs roughly 15 years ago, with the goal of creating coursework that teaches business skills to artists. For example, a typical business for artists course funded by the organization might educate artists on how to price their work, considering the cost of materials, time involved, and demand within the market. They’ve also encouraged educators to think outside the bounds of educational institutions, offering practical, real-world advice that artists can put into practice as they set out on their own entrepreneurial ventures. The Tremain Foundation is also a major funder for programs such as NYFA, Creative Capital, and Springboard for the Arts, which offer professional support to those working within the arts economy via job postings and educational resources.
Pontonio additionally highlights Artists Thrive, a formative assessment tool she hopes will shift the landscape for artists to thrive in the creative economy. It presents an opportunity for artists to evaluate their careers from a holistic perspective, determine their strengths and weaknesses, and identify opportunities for entering the job market. Pontonio notes that the gig economy has created more opportunities for artists than ever, despite the fact that artists have been working as solopreneurs and freelancers for decades. Likewise, with the landscape shifting toward more flexibility and creativity within corporate work, Pontonio says artists are primed to enter the gig workforce and are a logical choice for companies looking to add creativity to their culture.
Artists are particularly resilient, Pontonio says because nature of their work is to problem solve and create with minimal resources and support. They are naturally inclined to maneuver and pivot where a situation requires creative applications in order to move forward. Though they do demand more flexibility within their work environment, Pontonio notes that artists are often the hardest workers on a company’s roster, because they are often passionate and meticulous about their work. Businesses that wish to hire artists should consider how they might accommodate their own culture and work environment to support creative minds, particularly within a market that’s increasingly demanding more and more flexibility from employers.
With over 25 years of experience in the financial services, media and entertainment, and private equity industries, Grace has transformed global business units at GE Capital, NBCU, and Nielsen. Skilled at taking conceptual initiatives and turning them into $100 million businesses, Grace founded startup Orangenius to assist independent, working artists in building their own creative empires. In between leading a team of creatives and strategic development of art industry partnerships, Grace can be found cooking for friends or dabbing a paintbrush.