By Beth Treffeisen
On the corner of Tremont and Clarendon Streets, in the South End, an orange and white 1957 Shasta camper that would normally be seen in a wooded camp site sticks out of the brick backdrop in front of the Boston Center of the Arts – and no, no one is living in it.
Behind this little camper is Lucas Spivey, who has been traveling the country for a year with the Mobile Incubator with a goal of mapping the U.S. culture sector by meeting with businesses and artists across the country. Since July, the 15-foot by 6-feet wide camper has called this little corner in the South End home.
Inside the Mobile Incubator, Spivey gives one-on-one workshops to artists ranging from a designer, architect, freelance writer, musician or painter who is looking to start a business selling culture. The interviews are also streamed online to allow other participants to ask questions as it is happening.
In addition, Spivey has a hotline that anyone can call with business questions. In response, he has asked those same questions to successful artists on a podcast called Culture Hustlers so that anyone can listen in for advice.
“There is a disconnect between people in business and education and those in arts and culture,” said Spivey. “I have both a BFA in art history and a MBA in finance but I’m one of three people I know that have done that. As soon as I graduated I’ve been a consultant ever since.”
Spivey said that just a few people in the arts sector combine with business, which can make it hard for them to find success.
Often times, Spivey said they don’t even know what kinds of question to ask because they don’t know the lingo. A term like ‘return on investment’ can make some artists run in the opposite direction.
“That’s a big problem,” said Spivey. “How do we translate it and speak in their language? How do we attract artists to business, which can be boring or hard?”
Spivey said that he himself had a demoralizing experience when he went to the bank to apply for loan and was denied because he didn’t totally understand the wording. Instead of translating the documents the bank teller told him to beat it until he knew what he was talking about.
Knowing that other artists where going through similar problems, Spivey thought that the best way to attract artists to learn about business is through art. So, he sought out the cute camper that serves as “eye candy” and places it in welcoming public spaces throughout the country.
Ever since, Spivey said artists who have visited him said that they are relieved that someone is finally “speaking in their language.”
Spivey’s most recent workshop involved a Northeastern student who is working to start a company that manufactures outdoor wear. Spivey said he helped the student find a target market and prepare a 30-second elevator speech, along with give advice on how he can secure seed funding to get the business off the ground.
His next sessions will include a writer and a theatre coach.
Funding and support for the project comes from a number of different sources including, the Boston Center for Arts, City of Boston Arts Commission and Eastern Bank.
Until Oct. 22, the Mobile Incubator will be continuing to conduct interviews with business owners, thought leaders, and civic representatives in Boston’s cultural sector in the South End.
The Mobile Incubator will move to a different undisclosed area in Boston until November. Then Spivey will take to the roads again and leave cold Boston behind for the warmer State of Florida.
“For me this is a 20-year project,” said Spivey. “I want to take it to every part of the U.S. to learn how to provide business education in a compelling, interactive way.”
Right now, Spivey said he enjoys being in the South End. He said that residents have been very welcoming and excited to see him here.
“They all have been very curious and chatty,” said Spivey. In regards to the artists who visit him throughout the day he said, “I receive so many smiles all day long. It’s the best feedback I can get all day.”
The camper has open office hours Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. If an artist has a business question they are welcomed to call his hotline at 978-712-8858.