Mission Statements for Artists

Image of ancient inscriptions on a gold plaque

While you probably don’t need to carve your mission statement in gold, it’s a good idea to write it down and post it someplace where you will be reminded of why your art business exists

One thing most successful businesses have in common is that have a mission that defines why they exist, what they hope to accomplish and how they interact with the world around them. For many companies this mission is distilled down into a statement or series of statements that describes their mission. Many companies have a formal mission statement which they use to guide their overall actions. For other companies their mission statement may be informal and for far too many companies they don’t have a mission statement at all – probably not a great choice!

Creating a mission statement for your art or creative business is one of the most important and perhaps most difficult tasks in developing your business plan. In a sentence or two you describe why your business exists, what you sell and to whom, and should include a bit of your “secret sauce.” In short, your mission statement is what gets you up in the morning! Your mission statement should guide your strategies and everyday actions so that you can achieve your art business goals.

A great place to start – Starbucks

A great place to start at looking at mission statements is to take a look at Starbuck’s mission statement:

Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

At first glance it seems pretty short and simple but as you dig into what is behind this mission statement you will find that it is on point in guiding how they run their business.

Starbuck’s mission statement is backed up by what they call their “principles of how they live every day”. These principles describe how they manage their business in terms of: their coffee, their partners, their customers, their stores, their neighborhood and finally their shareholders. Take a look at what goes into these principles from the Starbucks website: Our Starbucks Mission Statement. Starbucks did a great job of distilling the principles into an effective mission statement and so can you too!

What’s in a mission statement?

A good mission statement will describe the answers to the following basic business planning questions of what your art business is all about. Make sure your mission statement answers these five questions:

  1. What do we do?
  2. Why we do it?
  3. How do we do it?
  4. For whom do we do it?
  5. What benefits do you provide?

Your mission statement can be one sentence or perhaps a few paragraphs, whatever works best for you. Remember that your mission statement should serve to guide your business over a fairly long period of time, typically several years or more. That is not to say that your mission statement won’t change over time. You may need to change your mission statement or risk becoming irrelevant or worse yet out of business. It is a good idea to review your mission statement periodically to make sure that it reflects the direction you want to go.

Some questions to ask yourself before preparing your mission statement:

Before you write your mission statement it will helpful to take an introspective look at your art business. The following questions should get you thinking about what you want to accomplish and how you will go about it.

  • What products or services do you provide?
  • What markets or customer groups do you serve?
  • What is the geographic coverage of your business?
  • What are your principles with regards to your community and other social issues?
  • What are your principles with regards to stakeholders such as customers, employees, others you work with and the owners of the business?
  • Why do customers buy from you?
  • What advantages do you have over your competition?
  • What makes your business the only solution to your customer needs?
  • What is unique about your product or service?
  • How do you want your brand to be perceived?
  • What are the top goals or objectives you have for your business?

Some examples of mission statements:

Here are some examples of mission statements from various companies and organizations over a wide range of industries and I have even thrown in a few from my students. Take a look at them and decide if their statements provide overall guidance to the organization and the various groups which they touch. If you have a company that you are interested in, do some research and find out more about their mission. As you read through the following examples think about how you might word the mission statement for your art business.

  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) “The Museum of Modern Art seeks to create a dialogue between the established and the experimental, the past and the present, in an environment that is responsive to the issues of modern and contemporary art, while being accessible to a public that ranges from scholars to young children.”
  • Google “Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Amazon “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
  • Zappos (Online Shoes and accessories) “To provide the best customer service possible.”
  • Artist “To enhance people’s lives through fun, inspiration, creativity and self-expression! To provide quality, easy to use products and information while leaving minimal impact on the earth. To provide education while making art, excellent customer service and make a difference in people’s lives!”
  • Colorado Creative Industries (Government Agency) “To promote, support and expand the creative industries to drive Colorado’s economy, grow jobs and enhance our quality of life.”
  • Artist  “As an art maker, I aspire to create art of original, emotive and edifying quality, to be exhibited and purchased through gallery representation and online distribution channels”
  • Nike (Shoes & Apparel) “To Bring Inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
  • The New York Times Company “The Company’s core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.”
  • Southwest Airlines “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”
  • Art Gallery “We showcase fine art by young artists from New England colleges in a warm and welcoming gallery. Works are carefully selected that will bring joy to their buyers, appreciate in value, and provide their owners the special satisfaction of supporting talented young artists.”
  • Denver Art Museum “The mission of the museum is to enrich the lives of Colorado and Rocky Mountain residents through the acquisition, preservation, and presentation of art works in both the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, and by supporting these works with exemplary educational and scholarly programs.”
  • National Endowment for the Arts “To advance artistic excellence, innovation, and creativity for the benefit of individuals and communities.”
  • The Coca Cola Company “To refresh the world… To inspire moments of optimism and happiness… To create value and make a difference.”
  • Photographer “Every time we pick up our camera or work with a client, they feel like a star, for they chose us and they should never regret that.”
  • Pixar (Entertainment) “Pixar’s objective is to combine proprietary technology and world-class creative talent to develop computer-animated feature films with memorable characters and heartwarming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages.”
  • The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County “By efficiently and effectively raising funds and making grants, working to strengthen our broad array of arts resources and offerings, and promoting the arts, The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County is creating an environment in which the arts flourish and enrich the quality of life in Forsyth and surrounding counties.”
  • Furniture Maker “We create heirloom quality furniture to be cherished for generations. We create a working environment full of respect and integrity to retain good designers and fabricators. We will seek out new opportunities for continued growth through superior customer service, improved manufacturing, materials and procedures.
  • Rhode Island School of Design “The mission of Rhode Island School of Design, through its college and museum, is to educate its students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation.”
  • Oprah Winfrey Network “To create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles.”
  • Artist “To continually produce art objects infused with a spirit of excitement and will present these objects in an entertaining context. Products will be handled with a high standard of professionalism, as a respect to clients. More than mere objects, an experience will be provided by establishing meaningful connections with galleries, local organizations, and collectors.
  • Dick Blick Art Materials “Providing our customers with the best service, best selection, best price, and best quality in the industry. Creating a working climate that calls forth the best in every employee. Fully capitalizing on emerging technologies and opportunities for growth. Supporting the arts and arts education in every way we can.”
    Bentley (Motorcars) “We are Bentley Motors – the definitive British luxury car company, dedicated to developing and crafting the world’s most desirable high performance cars.”
  • Landscape Designer “We believe in cutting edge landscape design solutions that are simple, sustainable and affordable.”
  • ELLE Magazine (Fashion Magazine) “ELLE pledges to make women chic and smart, guide their self-expression, and encourage their personal power.”
  • Music Writer & Publisher “To provide a collaborative and informational space for Denver residents to learn more about, stay informed on, and take part in their local music scene.”
  • Whole Foods (Natural Foods Grocer) “We are a mission-driven company that aims to set the standards of excellence for food retailers. We are building a business in which high standards permeate all aspects of our company. Quality is a state of mind at Whole Foods Market. Our motto, Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet — emphasizes that our vision reaches far beyond just being a food retailer. Our success in fulfilling our vision is measured by customer satisfaction, Team Member excellence and happiness, return on capital investment, improvement in the state of the environment, and local and larger community support…”
  • Target “Our mission is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise. To support our mission, we are guided by our commitments to great value, the community, diversity and the environment.”
  • The Walt Disney Company (Entertainment) ”The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”
  • Photographer / Film Maker “To foster a more creatively geared society through articles, photo stories, and documentary films on the extraordinary in the ordinary and the unique people who are striving towards universal peace for all people.”

The bottom line(s)…

Your mission statement should serve as an overall guide for how you run your art business and how your business interacts with the world around it. Now that you have a good idea of what goes into a mission statement it’s time to write your own. Get out a piece of paper and give it a try. It may take a bit of effort to get it just right but keep working at it and don’t forget to bounce your ideas with those around you. After you have written your mission statement it’s a good idea to post it somewhere in your studio or office where you will be reminded of – and don’t forget to share it with those around you who interact with your art business.

If you would like to learn more about preparing your own business plan, building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto