ArtLifting, an online art marketplace for homeless, disabled and other disadvantaged people to sell their artwork, recently raised a $1.1 million seed round from Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, angel investor Joanne Wilson, author and entrepreneur Eric Ries, social impact accelerator Tumml and others.
“It’s exciting to see entrepreneurs focusing on strengths in our communities to create change,” Mycoskie said in a statement. “This is the perfect intersection of profit + purpose!”
Currently, ArtLifting has 50 artists from eight U.S. cities on the platform. Ed Johnson, pictured above, is one of the people currently selling art on ArtLifting. Johnson became homeless after Hurricane Katrina and had previously suffered from substance abuse, but is now sober.
“Art helps me stay sober,” Johnson said. “It’s relaxing, fun, and good therapy. It makes me feel good. I have to be inspired to feel good. I am doing something right and something positive now. It makes a big difference.”
ArtLifting enables people to browse by artist, type of art and city. For every sale, 55% of the profit goes back to the artist. In addition to selling to everyday consumers, ArtLifting also sells to corporations like Staples and Microsoft. With the funding, ArtLifting hopes to continue to grow its artist base and further scale as a public benefit corporation.
Of the original 48 people selling their art on ArtLifting, five have received housing and are no longer homeless, and 10 of the artists have been selected to exhibit their artwork at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
ArtLifting’s founding members include Powers, her brother Spencer, Kelly McKenna and Stephanie Wright. Powers started ArtLifting after running art programs in women’s homeless shelters in Boston for nine years. During that time, she realized that these women had an abundance of talent, but no way to share their work and talent with the world.
“Too often my clients were used to people focusing on the negative,” Powers told TechCrunch. “The fact that they didn’t happen to have housing. Or are in a wheelchair. They didn’t want pity. They didn’t want a handout. They simply wanted the chance to share their talent. Our goal with ArtLifting is to create a movement celebrating strengths. And it works. It is amazing to see the domino effect on individuals’ lives when someone finally focuses on their strengths. It provides energy. And hope.”