Innovation That Matters

Homeless artists can sell work through online startup


ArtLifting sells original artworks, prints and merchandise made by homeless or disabled artists, and gives artists 55 percent of sales.

For homeless people, creating art can be a life-saving outlet, but other than the street corner or underfunded community programs, opportunities to sell their works are rare. One solution we’ve seen is an app that let users tip their favorite buskers via PayPal. ArtLifting is selling homeless artists’ works in a traditional online gallery, which can benefit the artists long-term.


Listed as a ‘B Corporation’ — a for profit social enterprise — ArtLifting sources homeless or disabled artists from across American community programs. Their online shop contains original works, prints and merchandise such as phone cases, allowing the artists to receive a steady income in addition to one-off piece sales. Works are priced from USD 75 up to USD 1700 for originals. Artists receive 55 percent of sales (more than the traditional 50 percent professional artists receive), with their stories told alongside their artworks — users of the webshop can even physically search for their favorite local artists. ArtLifting also targets large corporations to decorate their offices with artworks that directly support homeless people — Microsoft is already a major client.

Founder Liz Powers says that a for-profit business model generated the funds necessary to help struggling artists much faster than a non-profit could: “I didn’t want to rely on grant money to grow. I wanted to grow the pot of money.” Can a similar approach target other traditional non-profit programs?



Download PDF