The ABCs in Reverse: Combining Business and Art

Although delving into an entirely different field remains an option, combining business and art quenches the artist’s need for innovation while making him or her the boss of their art.

Magdalene Ayuk, Staff Writer

Via Maya83, Flickr


Chris Cole is an Economics major at Concordia University and doubles as the creative director of his brand Nouveau Riche Colors (NVRCH) which produces high-end street wear. He did not succumb to the starving artist meme and plunged head first into creation while rallying up a group of supporters who don his unique t-shirts across the city.

He hasn’t yet completed his major, but already his brand is making a colourful splash in Montreal’s trendy circles. Cole is a perfect example of combining business ‘savyness’ with art. Artist marketing consultant Sue Viders (http://www.sueviders.com) is of the opinion that art students become lost souls following graduation if they do not complete a minor in business or take a few business courses.

Indeed, life after graduation can be filled with uncertainty if you didn’t complete a diploma in pharmacy, medicine, nursing, engineering and other such professions that normally would have your entourage cooing over the amount of money you are certain to make. Having artistic tendencies is [part of] my identity. When old high-school classmates fill me in on where they are now-bar school, medicine and the like-, I have no qualms chiming in with: “I am a writer!”


I don’t think my major sets my brand apart. I think it is my curiosity and my ambition.


However, getting an academic rejection to pursue a program at the master’s level in your artistic field of study can really shatter your sense of self. You doubt whether this so called talent of yours was only a figment of your imagination, but then you think if your imagination is working overtime inventing a skill, then you must be pretty darn creative.

As a result, you’re even more confused. Good grades aren’t enough, an impeccable portfolio just doesn’t cut it, three PHDs cosigning on your suitability for the program is just a minor detail and graduation with distinction need not even be mentioned.

The jury deciding your fate is subjective; therefore, anyone who wants to pursue an art-related career should not merely rely on their school art program. The artist must be well equipped with business skills to turn their passion into a career lest they be reduced to mere skin and bones or worse, unhappiness.

Although delving into an entirely different field remains an option, combining business and art quenches the artist’s need for innovation while making him or her the boss of their art. Also, the artist becomes more skilled at finding a full-time employment; as they learn how to market their art, they become more apt to market themselves adequately.

Some artists have no intent of ever selling their art as they are of the opinion that once it becomes a job, it would no longer be fun. To each, its own. I say loving what you do won’t even feel like working, and there is the fun part.

The book “The Business of Making Art” by Daniel Grant (available on Google books) offers important tips on making it. As said in the book, “Being an artist means developing careers on two tracks: The first is finding a paying job, and the second is creating a presence in the art world.” Chris Cole has certainly done both through NVRCH (nvrch.com).

Magdalene: Do you think people with interests in the arts should pursue it at the university level? Should they rather focus on honing their business skills in the academic realm while still focusing on their art?

Chris: I think that everyone’s story is their own. Do what works for you.

Magdalene: What has your business major brought you so far? How does it set your brand a part from the other Montreal artists?

Chris: My major is in Economics. Initially, it taught me a fundamental understanding of how the market place works on a large/small scale. The knowledge that has truly helped me is the knowledge I sought out on my own. I don’t think my major sets my brand apart. I think it is my curiosity and my ambition.

Magdalene: Where did you learn how to film, direct, design?

Chris: I’m self-taught.

Magdalene: Are you planning on continuing your business studies? For example, MBA level?

Chris: I doubt it.

Magdalene: Are you more of a business man or an artist?

Chris: I don’t distinguish the two. They are one in the same.

Magdalene: Do you think you are servicing your community by producing art/establishing your brand?

Chris: I don’t think you can name many thriving business’ that don’t give back to their community on some level. It is the only way to achieve true brand loyalty. My end goal is not to produce art or establish my brand, it is to challenge popular culture through the mediums I chose to work with. For example, the “colours only” shirt we released has gotten a lot of reactions, some positive and some negative. A t-shirt with such a slogan forces people to ask what it means, and that’s where and how we challenge popular culture. The video we released is about love between two women. Any other company would have made that movie very sexually explicit (I won’t name any names) but we decided to go in the opposite direction thus challenging the status quo.

Magdalene: Why is Montreal a good place for young people to start a business?

Chris: It’s diverse.

Magdalene: What are the concrete steps you took to start your brand?

Chris: I learned to trust myself and to follow my vision.

Magdalene: What is your priority right now with NVRCH?

Chris: Challenging popular culture to reflect on itself.

Magdalene: You are self-employed right now. What is the best part about being your own boss? A lot of students have part-time jobs working under supervision, why did you decide to make your own money? Was NVRCH about being financially independent or about sharing your vision to the Montreal community?

Chris: Being my own boss. I make my own money because I want to be the only person in charge of my life. NVRCH is about doing what I’ve always secretly wanted to do but never had the courage to do.

Magdalene: How would you describe Montreal/Canadian consumers? How do you cater to their needs?

Chris: They (Montreal consumers) are very brand conscious, so I cater to their needs by making sure every aspect of my brand ties into the central message/image.

In the end, everyone has their own path to take. Talents should never be put to waste, but nurtured. So, what will you do with yours?

ARB Team
Arbitrage Magazine
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