We had the good fortune of connecting with Lucas Tepman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lucas, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Art at its core has the mission to unravel societal truths. It has the power to preserve how it felt to exist in a particular place at a particular time and is often a vehicle for social change giving voice to the socially disenfranchised. Throughout history, art has suffered censorship but at times found its way of emerging beyond the censorship leading important transformations in our societies. As societies become more complex, censorship changes, but censorship remains in the art industry.
The censorship of our era is on display, as evidenced by the lack of diversity and inclusivity in the art industry. In the art industry, a community embodied by gatekeepers in galleries and major museums is restraining society’s ability to benefit from the diversity of voices. A fragmented community of minorities and women cannot express their vision in the current art world. Only 10% of art students are able to find work as artists after graduation. Over 85% of artists featured in the most important art establishments of the U.S. are white, while 87% are men.
It is not surprising to see then that the newer generations, Gen Z, and Millennials are not involved with art as much as they would like to. From 1982 to 2012, the largest declines in museum visitation rates occurred among younger Americans (ages 18 to 44), where the rates fell more than 17%. Newer generations don’t see themselves and their views represented in the traditional art world. The lack of representativeness fosters segmentation in our societies and prevents young non-white and non-males from succeeding in the art industry.
Given the fragmentation of the artistic community exacerbated by gatekeepers in galleries and major museums, local emerging artists are increasingly giving up on their dream of creating successful artistic careers as their possibilities to show their art, on average once a year, give them few possibilities to sustain a career, build connections, and develop their professional skills. Exhibiting through galleries is highly exclusive and restricted to those already connected with curators or award-winning artists. E-commerce possibilities do not foster artists towards a successful career. As artists and communities keep looking for alternative ways to relate with art, there is a need for a new channel to develop. In a very unprofessional and unscaled manner, we can see emerging artists exhibiting their work at unconventional venues such as coffee stores. Currently, for artists, hawking art to local cafes or street markets is a time consuming, haphazard process that may only generate a few sales for hundreds of hours of work. These sorts of venues are not currently being used as art spaces supporting community connections, instead they are buying commodified art with the only intention of decorating their spaces. Even if they are willing to support a local emerging artist, they don’t currently understand the process, the added value, and rely on artist walk-ins which are sporadic and may not align with their aesthetic criteria.
The fragmentation in the art industry comes from two sides. Our local art is not connected to their communities due to the lack of representation of the vast majority of artists in traditional exhibition channels. On the other hand, local art is disconnected from communal spaces, spaces with recurring communal meetings such as coffee stores, hotels, restaurants, bars, private homes, and even corporate offices. Our thesis is that the fragmentation of the artistic community with its audience stems from the lack of integration of stakeholders that are relevant in our societies but do not have an opportunity to connect.
At MUSA, we believe art should be as diverse and dynamic as our cities, creatively produced and democratically displayed by our neighbors, without intermediaries deciding what speaks to our community. This is why we are creating a new scalable channel for emerging artists (from visual arts all the way to performance) to achieve a sustainable career by creating more opportunities to gain a monthly income, exposure and sales, develop professional skills, and create meaningful connections. In this pursuit, we provide unconventional venues the creation of a strong cultural branding by supporting local art.
MUSA centralizes a fragmented community that can’t find each other providing a comprehensive solution worthwhile for all stakeholders, addressing all of the major pain points: insurance options, ready to-sign contracts, digital payment technology, customizable art-display/hanging system, pricing suggestions, review systems, customized art suggestions, and support for artist’s best practices presenting and selling their work.
We are currently working in the Bay Area, expanding throughout California, New York, and Portland and are looking forward to expanding opportunities for artists, venues, and communities.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I got my undergrad in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires. After working in management consulting, public affairs consulting, and serving for over two years at the National Ministry of Industry of Argentina, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to complete my studies in the Masters of Development Practice at UC Berkeley. During my time at Cal, I worked for the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), acted as a Principal for the Haas Social Investment Fund, and launched MUSA. MUSA was selected in three different incubators, Skydeck, Free Ventures, and AMP.
But the origin of Musa is a love story. In my case, it is my wife Florencia. At the time, she was an art student at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and has been working on this project for a year and a half. Knowing that she hadn’t been able to show her art and her birthday was approaching I thought that with my business and negotiation skills, including my charisma, I could get her an exhibit easily.
It was IMPOSSIBLE. I approached every gallery, cafe, hotel, etc. around Berkeley and Oakland and didn’t even come close. I looked for online resources, social communities to help me, nothing was available. I then reached out to her artist friends, only to realize that they had no clue and that they struggled with the same issue.
That’s when I realized the magnitude of the problem. After doing research, I discovered that as an upcoming artist you only have a 10% chance of working as an artist and from multiple interviews with artists I realized that upcoming artists do not have a channel to show their work, leading to a 90% chance of abandoning their dream.
This is when we decided to start MUSA.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We would like to thank UC Berkeley, Free Ventures, Skydeck, and AMP for supporting us!