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UW announces Arts Business Competition finalists; pitch event April 26

Sahada Buckley, Ollie DiPietro, Augusta Brulla.

UW-Madison has announced its finalists for its annual “Shark Tank” style Arts Business Competition. 

Three student finalists will showcase their projects for the opportunity to win $2,000, $1,000 or $500. Projects will be judged on creativity, innovation, success potential and added value to the arts. Prizes are meant to further each finalist further artistic entrepreneurial ventures.

“In this 13th year of the Arts Business Competition, we were again impressed by the number and variety of applications from undergraduate and graduate students campus wide. The thing that all three of our 2023 finalists have in common is that they’re connecting artists and audiences and creating opportunities to build community between the two. We’re looking forward to their presentations,” said Sarah Marty, Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, in a press release, “The ABC is an important UW experiential program because it provides funding for student entrepreneurs to make a difference in their communities through arts-based practices and projects.”

Projects from the three finalists include commercial ventures, art projects and community events. Two undergraduates will receive Emerging Artists awards that demonstrate strong potential for future success.

The event will be held at 3 pm April 26 at the H.F. DeLuca Discovery Building. Registration is required to attend. The event will be livestreamed.


Augusta Brulla — Dane County Artist Directory

Augusta Brulla’s project is an online directory of local artists meant to connect people with local Madison visual artists to fill their artistic needs. The project is still in beta and is slated to launch fully in June or July.

The project is something Brulla has thought about for years working as an art consultant — going back to grad school gave her the opportunity to bring her idea into fruition.

“Trying to search for artists locally can be a challenge, and I’m familiar with that and there’s still many artists that I keep finding and I’m like ‘how did I not know of this person. I’ve been in Madison my whole life,’” Brulla said.

Ollie DiPietro and Ashley Shaw — The Big Gay Market

The duo partnered up to put on a one-of-a-kind opportunity for LGBTQIA+ artists to showcase and sell their works. The Big Gay Market was inspired by the two’s reliance on their art as their primary source of income. DiPietro sells merchandise on their website The Nifty Giftys Shop. Shaw sells merchandise on her Etsy page ShawPawPrints.

The two wanted to find an opportunity to create a space for queer artists to make money, themselves included, they struggled with a name.

“What if we just call it The Big Gay Market,” Shaw said to DiPietro. The name was found. The market had its first Madison event at the Madison Rugby Club in March — they plan to host the next event in July.

Trace Johnson and Sahada Buckley — Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival

Both music major graduate students, Johnson and Buckley found inspiration from their experiences with chamber music. The music festival was held in Buckley’s hometown of Fairhope, Ala. where she didn’t get to experience chamber music as much as she does now. She wanted to bring that experience to her hometown and teamed up with Johnson to make that happen.

Emerging Artist Awards: 

Isabella Heller de Messer — CraftingGreen

Messer is an undergrad student at UW-Madison studying business. She grew up making art and found that her current studies lacked the artist experience she grew up with and decided to pursue a certificate in 3D Studio Design with an emphasis on ceramics.

 Her project CraftingGreen aimed to promote creativity and sustainability — two topics Messer is passionate about. CraftingGreen has held one of its three planned workshops. The workshops are targeted at immigrant and refugee students across Milwaukee and Madison. The first of the workshops had participants making ceramic pinch pots for plants.

 “I’ve had an ongoing relationship with Parkside School of the Arts and I specifically volunteered with the ESL program and many of the students are refugee and immigrant students,” Messer said. “I just noticed a small discrepancy of small things I would take for granted everyday. I guess growing up, it was never a question if I was gonna have art supplies like paint brushes or canvases. Many of these students didn’t have basic things that I was taking for granted so I just wanted to share my passion for art with them and provide a space for them.”

Jack Ohly — OhlyProps

Ohly’s passion for movies drives his entrepreneurial venture in creating replica movie props. OhlyProps, his shop for replica movie props, takes orders through his Instagram OhlyProps to bring people’s dream movie items to life.

“I’m really a movie lover at heart and I remember being at a young age, in sixth grade or seventh grade, watching a movie like Star Wars and seeing the lightsaber and saying ‘I want that’ or ‘I want to make that,’” Ohly said. “I think bringing the joy in people’s lives in having something physical they’ve seen on screen that can translate to their imagination to tell a story through a physical item is something I’m really passionate about and I really love bringing that type of joy into people’s lives.”