Artisan Cooperatives


Cooperatives offer distinctive benefits to artists of all types. By working together, they can gain marketing advantages, reap quantity discounts on supplies through joint purchasing, share studio space and equipment, and maintain control over the distribution of their work. Performing artists use the cooperative model to increase their artistic freedom and power over performances.


Artisan cooperatives are member-owned, democratic organizations governed based on one member, one vote. Members typically elect a board of directors that makes significant policy decisions and hire a manager or staff to oversee day-to-day operations. Some artisans operate their cooperative as a collective where all members function as the Board of directors and make decisions using a consensus model.

Most artisan cooperatives form for joint marketing purposes. Coop members can earn more from sales by marketing their products jointly because they do not have to pay a dealer or middle person. Artists can sell through the internet or share retail or studio space that they may not obtain on their own. They can share expensive tools, kilns, or other equipment by purchasing them together. When artists use similar supplies and materials, they can use the cooperative for joint purchasing and save money through bulk or quantity purchases. If they wish to, members can offer technical assistance, collegiality, and constructive critique to one another.

The most common type of arts and crafts cooperative is a retail store. This model allows artisan members to maintain their independence and unique creativity and expression while reducing the time-consuming aspects of selling and promoting their art through joint marketing. The store provides members with display space to sell and market their products. Artisans can pool their resources and hire a store manager to devote more time to their craft or take turns with the various tasks.

Some arts and crafts cooperatives operate as performance troupes. These performing arts cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by the performers, directors, stagehands, and other staff of the corps. Performing arts cooperatives offer member artists more artistic freedom and control over performances than is usually available in more traditional stage companies and dance troupes.