We are very proud to introduce a new interview series that focuses on hardworking women in the music and entertainment industry. For our first interview, we had the opportunity to speak with Heidi Luerra, the founder of RAW: Natural Born Artists. Heidi shared RAW’s vision and purpose with us, and gave us a look into what RAW does for artists across the nation. Read what she had to say below.
In your own words, tell us briefly about what RAW is. When and how did you get the idea for RAW? What goals did you set out to accomplish?
RAW is an indie arts organization for artists by artists. We showcase artists both online and offline through our website RAWartists.org and our bi-monthly RAW showcases in 65 cities across the U.S, Canada, UK and Australia. Our events feature indie artists within the first 10 years of their career. We are open to 9 different genres: film, fashion, music, art, performing art, hair, makeup, photography and accessories. The idea for RAW came about because I felt like there was a general gaping hole between starting out and reaching your career goals as an independent artist. I know this plight well because I was a young fashion designer who didn’t have an outlet to market myself. I also had friends that were artists or musicians in the same predicament- so I took matters into my own hands and tried my best to create a platform that would allow all artists to come together. It was really an accident, at first I was trying to just create a platform and place for artists to showcase themselves- never did I think it would grow with so much interest across the globe. I wanted to be able to provide help in an indie artists journey, and it grew to where it is today. Now, I have the very ambitious goal of being the greatest arts organization in the world.
What does a showcase entail? What was your first showcase like and what did you learn from the experience?
A showcase consists of film screenings, fashion shows, live music, hair and makeup features, accessories vendors and a pop-up art gallery made up of original artwork and photography. We like to call it a circus of creativity. The first showcase I ever had was presenting my clothing line and about 12 other artists lines, artwork and music. It was a rush and a ton of work- we didn’t know what to expect but 750 people showed up, so it was a success.I learned from that experience just how powerful it is to bring people together, and mostly that we are stronger together than we are apart.
When you meet a new artist, what are they most often looking to get out of their experience with RAW?
Most artists want new eyeballs and ears on their work. They want a greater exposure and the opportunity to create new fans. Every artist is different, but from what our surveys read this is their biggest goal.
How can a musician or artist participate in RAW’s events? What is the process for selecting these artists/musicians?
The process works first with the artist registering online through our website (www.RAWartists.org) they enter in their information, music, pictures and video and it goes into a submissions folder on our website. The showcase director that oversees that event goes through each submission and decides yay or nay. If the artist is chosen to participate they set up a phone call with that artist. This is called the Selected Artist Interview. We ask them about their work, music, collection etc and if they seem serious about the opportunity and committed we place them in a showcase event.
RAW does an amazing job with showcasing various genres of art. How did you get the idea to showcase not only popular art such as music and film, but also makeup and hairstylists?
I guess I have a tendency to root for the underdog. Hair, Makeup and Accessories are usually just components on the side that often get overlooked. Hair and makeup are such amazing art forms I think they deserve to be celebrated and showcased in their own right as well.
What is most rewarding about working for RAW?
The most rewarding part is probably receiving positive feedback from our artists. When they tell us that RAW has changed their life, brought them their biggest career opportunities or lead them to success. That is the reason we do what we do- and I’m so happy just to be a part of the journey. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day issues and obstacles and sometimes forget why we are going through all this hard work and overtime- but an artist’s appreciation brings you back to why we started this in the first place.
What has been your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest obstacle has probably been trying to successfully explain who we are and what we do. There is an education process that comes along with RAW. It’s really tough to have an “elevator pitch” about it because it’s so complex. We also have no other company or organization to compare ourselves to. I think little by little we are being understood- but it takes time.
With so many divisions of creative art, and galleries in numerous cities around the country, how big of a staff do you require to be able to run RAW?
It’s a large team for sure. We have about 17 employees in our office (8 of which are travelling showcase directors) and about 30 independent contractors across the globe. It’s a alot of hard work and dedication- but it’s a labor of love.
Anything else you would like to add?
Artists who are interested in learning more can visit our website: www.RAWartists.org