By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers


That’s Lara Cornell’s key word. 

Lara is a Minneapolis author, artist, and business strategist who supports creative individuals build and maintain sustainable business models. 

From her own botanical paintings to the coaching she provides artists and artisans, Lara challenges her community to consider the long-term impact of their work. Impact includes eco-impact, social justice, equality, biodiversity, and economic questions. Lara disrupts the myth of the starving artist in order to empower creatives to found sustainable, economically-sound businesses that make the world a little more fair. 

“I feel super fortunate to say that I love everything about what I’m doing now. I get to have a community of creatives that I love and respect that do amazing work. I get to be a part of that journey,” shared Lara. “I feel really fortunate to be a part of what they’re doing, especially because the structure I use and the coaching I do is heavily based on impact—the impact they have on the world.”

A Minnesota native, she was born in Northfield, has lived and traveled all over the world and now lives and works in Minneapolis. Her global eye informs her artwork and coaching within the thriving Minnesota art community. “I love Art-A-Whirl, even in the years that I don’t participate. Our family goes frequently to the Franconia Sculpture Park. We love the wide open spaces of Franconia; no two visits are the same. I’m lucky to live near MIA. I love losing myself walking through its galleries. I also grew up attending the Renaissance Festival. I love watching the demonstrations.”

Lara’s foundational relationship with art exploded when she studied abroad in Belgium. “I’ve always been obsessed with France and traveling. I realized while working with an international travel company that my international travels and time spent abroad were formative for me,” explained Lara. “It was those trips to Europe, starting in in 1993, that’s when I got to see things that were made centuries ago—the cathedrals and the castles. There were master craftspeople with tremendous skill who made those things. They were still standing! It just blew my mind.” 

Defining herself as an artist, an art advocate, and a change maker for the creative community has been a gradual process. “It’s interesting as we get older, as we get to the mid-life area, you start to think about who you really are. You think about your childhood and things you were doing for 40 years that you didn’t realize that you’ve been doing. You see what is actually of you and what is what you’ve been told you are,” explained Lara. “There’s a level of maturity to be able to look at that process and see it for what it is. You’ve been around long enough to recognize that this isn’t what I love, this isn’t who I really am. I’m really more this person. You can look back and think, I’ve actually always been this person.”

Lara thought of herself as a creative long before she recognized that she was, in fact, an artist. “When I moved into painting, it was never intended to be a business. It was intended to be a reprieve from executive burnout.” She started painting with the idea of hanging her works in her own home. It very quickly became a business. Without a clear focus, Lara calls her initial art business “a patchwork quilt.”

The rapid growth of her painting business led her to establish a social impact venue space in Uptown Minneapolis. Anahata Collaborative allowed Lara to get involved not only with the Twin Cities’ art community, but also small businesses without an art focus. Creating the venue challenged Lara to define and refine a business plan. “With all business plans, you never just write it and have it be set. You can’t walk away from it. It was constantly being rewritten, revamped, changed. That allowed me to really understand how to apply the business skills to an artisan or artist maker business.” This process illustrated the shortcomings of the unfocused patchwork quilt and challenged her to embrace the notion of legacy. 

Lara sought a new medium to strengthen the art community after closing the venue in 2020 through individual business empowerment. She founded the Artisan Academie and the Sustainable Artist Guild. She now works with artists, artisans and makers all over the world. Her business strategist role allows her to work directly as a coach with artisans at any stage of their journey—from the hobbyist who has just begun to explore art fairs to the seasoned artisan who yearns to focus their brand and align it with their values.

In this journey, Lara has written two #1 international best selling books, “The Maker’s Mark: Make a Living and an Impact with Your Artisan Business” and “The Sustainable Maker: Better Strategies for Streamlined Success within a Creative World”.  A long-time bibliophile, Lara felt humbled and invigorated by the process of writing her own books. “Artists go through this all the time. I had to fight against the imposter syndrome. Why am I writing this? Somebody must already know this and have said it better. I’ve seen this in myself coming up and my painting. There were a lot of life lessons that I learned in writing the book that I just had to get over.”

The lessons continue even after publishing. “Another thing that many artists struggle with, myself included, is now there’s this element of being seen. Now your stuff is out there. Not just in Minneapolis—it’s globally out there,” said Lara. “You have to start showing up. I learned it through my art business and I learned it again through writing the book. The visibility piece is a big element in my coaching. We have to move a little bit out of our comfort zones.”

Lara is a local change maker who wants artists to thrive in community and find fulfillment in their chosen craft. She’s found her happy place among creatives and supporting them in their own journeys. “For me it’s just I have so much passion for that kind of community. To be around those creative people where an idea is one of many ideas. There’s no right or wrong; there’s exploration that’s encouraged; there’s trying new things that’s encouraged,” said Lara. “With expert makers there is of course this level of expertise, but it doesn’t discourage the person who is learning to try new things and see what they can make with their hands. I think there’s also this understood knowledge among makers, among people who make things with their hands, that this act of making things also is their well-being, their lifestyle. There’s a peace to it with the creating. There’s more than just creating the thing—it’s what it does to them as a person.”

Visit to download a free digital copy of Lara’s books, to discover her art, and learn more about her coaching in the Artisan Academie or become part of the Sustainable Artisan Guild.

Follow @laracornellart on Facebook and Instagram for Lara’s latest inspiration and projects. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram for more change makers who make Minnesota an amazing place to be!

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