By Elena Kravtsoff, Esq.*
This year, Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (WALA) held its annual autumn Creative Entrepreneurship Series from October 2nd to November 6th. Each week volunteer attorneys lectured on topics relevant to artists who are interested in commercializing their work: business formation, funding and leases, contracts and licensing, tax strategies, negotiation skills, and intellectual property, specifically copyrights and trademarks.
Vance “Head-Roc” Levy, WALA’s Arts Ambassador, and Maggie Gladstone, the organization’s Legal Services Director, explain that WALA saw the need for “a comprehensive ‘toolbox’ series of workshops” to add to the organization’s popular monthly general workshops, and so they implemented the Creative Entrepreneurship Series, which is now in its fourth year. Mr. Levy and Ms. Gladstone say that the series allows entrepreneurial creatives to “[e]xplore the basics of forming a business for [their] creative endeavors, from deciding whether to incorporate as a non-profit or for-profit entity, to understanding copyrights and trademarks, to contract and negotiation skills, and finally to taxes and leases.”
This year, Cynthia Gayton, founder of the Arlington-based law firm Gayton Law, presented the workshop on contracts and licensing. Ms. Gayton is a long time WALA volunteer attorney who got involved with the organization in 1996 at the recommendation of her intellectual property professor. She started by writing articles and case summaries for WALA’s newsletter, which evolved into presenting seminars. Ms. Gayton says that she has enjoyed the “different arts-related venues for the seminars,” and, that since she started presenting, she has found “the audience  better equipped/knowledgeable about the legal issues they face.”
Brian Frankel of Washington D.C.’s Brian Frankel Law Firm, who was recently elected to the WALA Board of Directors, presented a workshop on funding and leases. Mr. Frankel says that the Creative Entrepreneurship Series “is a valuable and well attended part of the D.C. creative scene.” Mr. Frankel reports that he chose to present because he is able to speak with participants about a wide range of issues that he is interested in and because he “greatly enjoy[s] the questions and directions of conversation.” Mr. Frankel says that going in, he expected “good conversation, respectful and passionate members, diverse backgrounds, diverse interests.” His objective was to help clarify some issues for the attendees “so they could focus more on creating.”
Mr. Frankel says that he has seen the organization and promotion leading up to the events improve and points out greater attendance by law students who are trying to get a sense of the interdisciplinarity of the arts and law by coming to the workshops. Like Ms. Gayton, Mr. Frankel notes that the workshop attendees come more prepared and well informed, “which makes for a richer conversation on the nuanced issues of how law may apply.”
Benjamin Takis, the founder of the D.C.-based firm Tax-Exempt Solutions, and a semi-professional musician, presented the “Tax Strategies” workshop this fall. Mr. Takis has been involved with WALA since 2009 and explains that by presenting he attempts “to take some of the mystery out of tax law and business formation.” Mr. Takis says that he is always happy to present at workshops for WALA and that he enjoys “hearing about the different businesses artists in D.C. are starting.”
Rue Capri Brown, a freelance designer, attended several of workshops for the first time this year. Ms. Brown says that she has heard about WALA for decades but has not attended any workshops until now. Ms. Brown reports that she found the workshops interesting and relevant, and that she felt that the workshop series “was a great way of reconnecting” her with “important legal issues” that she has neglected in her business. Ms. Brown says that the presenting attorneys were “top notch” and that she looks forward to attending future workshops. Musician Yoko K. reports that she attended WALA workshops about five years ago before coming to this year’s series. She points out that compared to five years ago, more attorneys who are interested in learning about artists’ needs are coming to the workshops to listen in. Yoko K. says that she enjoyed the all of the presenters’ enthusiasm and found the series very encouraging as she embarks on her creative venture.
Next year’s Creative Entrepreneurship Series is currently in the works, as is WALA’s general workshop schedule. Anyone who is interested in attending WALA’s educational events should visit www.waladc.org/events in order to stay up to date.
About the Author: Elena Kravtsoff is an attorney based in Washington, DC. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: This article is intended as general information, not legal advice, and is no substitute for seeking representation.