Our Cash Confessional series, in partnership with Bank of America, takes a real and personal look inside the finances of different Charlotteans. No matter your situation, get helpful tips for a brighter financial future with Better Money Habits.
Interested in sharing your own personal finance story for our Cash Confessionals? Reach out to Katie Peralta at email@example.com.
Even if you don’t know Kyle Mosher‘s name, you’ve probably seen his artwork. He painted the I in the Black Lives Matter street mural Uptown. He’s painted colorful, graffiti-style murals on walls all over town, from Uptown to Optimist Park to Plaza Midwood. He’s the current artist-in-residence at the Three30Five apartment complex in South End.
Mosher, 34, was born in Canada and grew up in New Hampshire, playing hockey competitively until college, when injuries and a desire to pursue art drove him to quit both school and his sport. Mosher spoke with the Agenda about monetizing art, the impact of the pandemic, and some of the big money lessons he’s learned over the years.
(The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Have you always wanted to make art for a living?
I played sports for most of my life — hockey was in my DNA. But I had a creative bug. I remember being able to draw better than the average person, but I didn’t have the training behind it. For me, art wasn’t considered a viable career option.
What do you mean by that?
I grew up in a blue collar, conservative part of New England. You get a trade job or if you’re really lucky, you get a tech job. My dad was a car dealer.
So how did you ultimately get into art professionally?
I quit hockey and school at 21 after a bunch of injuries. I knew I wouldn’t make it in a 9-5 setting. So I started to think: How do I take what I love — creativity, thinking outside the box — and monetize it? On my own dime I took a community college drawing class, and later enrolled in and graduated from New Hampshire Institute of Art.
What brought you down to Charlotte?
My mom lived here, and I found a doctor here for my shoulder surgery. I ended up not doing the surgery but I fell in love with the city.
Would you consider Charlotte an “art city,” or a place that supports local artists?
Yes. When people think “art city,” they think San Francisco or New York. But Charlotte is a city with a lot of opportunity, with an economy cushioned by the banking industry. Young professionals here have disposable income and they’re able to spend money on art. Then the development side of things, businesses want to take chances on residencies and murals.
You’re seeing a lot of incredible artists in Charlotte. There’s a lot of money to support them. Dammit Wesley, Matt Hooker, Matt Moore … they’re flipping what it means to be an artist, and the city is embracing that.
What is your secret to making a living off doing art?
When I graduated art school, I spent a summer reaching out to galleries and licensing companies. I only heard back from two. But those two were the first two licensing deals I got. That opened the door to licensing to me. You’re so involved in the process of creating, but there’s no formal education how to monetize it. It’s trial by fire.
The business model of art is outdated. Nontraditional revenue streams are a big thing artists need to understand. Being an artist doesn’t mean living in a cabin and having your art sold when you’re dead. Just like musicians took back the power with streaming, artists are taking back the power via Instagram, and are connecting directly with customers and dealers.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Yes. When I was younger, I used to work at Abercrombie and I would find rare stuff and sell it on eBay. I transitioned from Abercrombie to streetwear — sneakers and anything else I could get my hands on. That was back in 2004, so really early e-commerce. I taught myself coding and how to build a website.
How would you describe your art?
It’s the intersection of commercial art and fine art. I’m classically trained in areas like painting, sculpting, and drawing. I also love streetwear fashion and music culture. I wanted to merge those two things together.
How did you become an artist in residence?
RAM Realty approached me about painting two murals at the Three30Five apartments, and they’d said there’d be an opportunity to do more. Around then I had a six-year relationship coming to an end, and my car had blown an engine. I was sleeping in an attic with no AC, and I’d had some money stolen. I was in this really bad position.
So I put together a PowerPoint pitch offering to do the other two murals onsite. As part of my plan, I would do a social media takeover, document onsite, live on site, have my studio here. They agreed to it. This opportunity has helped me get my mental and physical life back together.
[Related Agenda story: New South End apartment complex is giving away 6 months of free rent to an artist]
How has the pandemic affected your business?
I lost two big contracts at the start. I lost a few other opportunities here and there. But I feel really blessed that I put all of the work and laid the foundation for my career during the last big recession. I grew from that.
The biggest thing is mental and connecting with people. A lot of that has been lost. Talking over the phone and Zoom, you lose the connection with people. That’s what I miss, connecting to people.
If you could give one piece of advice to 22-year-old Kyle what would it be?
I would tell myself to keep trusting your gut and keep going. I always dreamed big and it felt like most of my life those dreams were stifled. It always felt like a negative, that I wanted to dream big. I was always made to feel small for thinking like that.
What is your No. 1 piece of financial advice?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I lived in poverty and overdrew my account. I sold art to a collector who bought art with a stolen credit card. I’ve fucked up everything you can fuck up financially. But I needed to make mistakes because I learned from them.
Want to read more about personal finance? Find our Cash Confessional series here.